Annemiek van Vleuten (Movistar Team) produced a masterclass in stage racing on Saturday to take a vice-like grip of the yellow jersey ahead of the final day of the Tour de France Femmes.
The 39-year-old put the hammer down on the first climb of the day, the Petit Ballon, alongside Demi Vollering (Team SD Worx), and then soared away from her rival a kilometre from the top of the second climb of the day, the Col du Platzerwase.
The Movistar rider had a three-minute advantage as she crested the third climb of the day, the Grand Ballon, and finished the day 3’26” ahead of Vollering, who she now holds a 3’14” advantage over in the general classification ahead of Sunday’s final stage.
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Orla Chennaoui, Dani Christmas, Adam Blythe and Dani Rowe dissected a ride for the ages in the latest episode of The Breakaway.
“She's in a league of her own,” began Rowe.
“To ride with that aggression from the off is just something else. And we've all been debating why she is so good.
“She just puts so much into her training. Yeah, she's an alien. And that's what Elisa Longo Borghini called her last year.”
Adam Blythe praised her total commitment.
“She's just so committed to what she does, like cycling is her life,” began Blythe. "She's a class above everyone else.
"I struggle to understand how she's that much better than everyone else, not because of how good she is, but [because] the gap between first and second is just so massive. You just think, what is everyone else not doing to be that good?”
Van Vleuten came into the sport aged 26, and Rowe added that it was a mixture of natural talent and long-term endurance training that sets her apart.
“I think it's a mixture between that raw talent, and the way she trains: she puts herself at altitude at every possible moment. She trains with the men. The endurance that she's got and she's been building on year on year, I think is why she can ride like that.”
Christmas added that it was not just a simple case of other riders simply replicating Van Vleuten’s training regime.
"If most of the women's peloton were to attempt the average Van Vleuten training week, they would break almost immediately just because of the sheer volume that she does,” began Christmas.
"You're not able to just jump in and do that. It's something that you have to build year-on-year.
“And let's not forget, as women, the endurance capacity of these athletes gets better as they get older.”

Highlights: Van Vleuten rips field apart to soar into yellow

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Stream the Tour de France Femmes live and on-demand on discovery+. You can also watch all the action live on eurosport.co.uk.
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