Images: Justin Britton
There are casualties in many stage races, whether it be from crashes, injury or illness, and this Tour de France Femmes has been no different. With 17 retirements so far the attrition rate is pretty high, but there's no denying that the loss of Lorena Wiebes seemed to marked a tipping point, insofar as the power balance of the race was concerned.
With most teams expecting a sprint day, it would have made sense for the race to be a long, defensive day, with sprint teams controlling the pace and a breakaway not given much breathing room. Yet, this is not what happened.
There's a sense that a new belief has taken hold among the women's peloton; with the almost-win of Julie van de Velde, and the actual win of Yara Kastelijn, a team not tipped by many to make waves in the race have worn the QOM jersey for 3 days out of 5, and have a stage win to boot. Sure, SD Worx may carry the yellow jersey, and have eyes on the bigger prize, but in terms of the day-to-day action, the floodgates have opened.
And with the loss of the biggest hitter in the women's World Tour prior to a stage where she was arguably a nailed-on certainty to win, the shape of the race changed entirely, and all the elements that make women's racing so great were once again on display. Attacks from kilometre zero (apparently), total unpredictability, and ultimately, a second solo breakaway win in as many days, as Ricarda Bauernfeind took her first pro win, in her year as a pro, showing the kind of self-belief that wins races in the wake of some more strange tactics within the chasing group.
What message do the last couple of days send to the remaining riders in the race? Back yourself. Because you literally never know what can happen. There were last minute twists in the tale as a group of riders were declared to be outside the time limit and disqualified from the race, only to be reinstated when it was discovered they had been held up by a train with just 2km remaining, yet still forced to sprint for the line in order to make it home on time. And speaking of time, Demi Vollering was penalised for drafting, losing 20 seconds which sets up the GC for an even more barnstorming finale as SD Worx have a little more work to do than previously thought.
Get set for an explosive finale to this race, folks. Brilliant, isn't it?
PRÉPAREZ VOS MUSETTES!
def: prepare your musettes!
Looking ahead to tomorrow.
Speedy stage preview
Stage 6 - Albi - Blagnac - 122.1km (Flat)
The final stage before a decisive weekend in the Pyrenees, after another missed opportunity for the sprint teams the flatter parcours will likely result in a bunch sprint.
Never say never however, when it comes to this Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift, as it could go either way - with the loss of Wiebes to the race, SD Worx focus has clearly switched to Demi Vollering's GC bid, and as described above, the doors have well and truly been blown off, vis-a-vis the natural order of things.
PREDICTION: After yesterday's topsy-turvy affair, when a climber won solo on a day that was meant to be a sprint, it's pretty difficult to predict what might happen today. It's flatter than yesterday though and I predict Team DSM-firmenich will be very keen to put right the perceived wrongs of stage 4 and give Charlotte Kool the chance to go for glory. I'm not sure there's enough difficulty within the parcours to prevent a bunch sprint so I'm backing Kool to take her stage win, on what is basically her final opportunity.
APRÈS L'EFFORT, LE RÉCONFORT
def: after the effort, the comfort
Taking a look back at the day's action.
Stage 5: in Review
by Peter Barnes
This stage was from Onet-le-Chateau to Albi for a distance of 126.1km. One shock was that Lorena Wiebes had to withdraw from the race due to illness. She, along with Ottestad and Rissveds (Uno-X and Coop-Hitec respectively) were non-starters today.
The high pace of the start led to a group of 11 riders going clear including e-cycling world champion, Loes Adegeest (FDJ-Suez) and contributor to previous dispatches, Mischa Bredewold.
With 53km to race the breakaway was caught, however not before a mechanical issue for Demi Vollering. In returning to the bunch, her team car allowed her to draft behind which later resulted in a 20 second penalty for Vollering.
The next major move was made by Ricarda Bauernfeind (Canyon//SRAM), who was joined briefly by Claire Steels (Israel-Premier Tech Roland). Behind them Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio got herself some bonus seconds at the sprint, which will help her overall but bonifications shouldn’t be decisive.
Bauernfeind forged clear of her companion and made her bid for glory with 34km to go. What started as a 20 second gap to the bunch grew 90 seconds which for a rider as talented as Ricarda is very hard to bring back.
Then came a confusing element, tactically speaking. Reusser was pacing the peloton as a team mate of the yellow jersey and of a major GC contender. However with under 5km to race, Reusser was clear with Liane Lippert, seemingly in attack mode.
That Marlen didn’t pace the group and give her leaders the chance to sprint for bonus seconds and reinforce the team advantage seems very odd indeed.
The gap to Bauernfeind held firm and she took a stage win that cemented the clear promise that she has. Behind, Reusser beat Lippert for second and Kopecky led the bunch home in fourth. It seems SD Worx are a team that potentially don’t do things that make tactical sense to onlookers but they still come out mostly on top.
noun: the refuelling
Features to enhance your Tour experience, and refresh your mind after a long day's cycling viewing.
by Lena Koch
While Annemiek van Vleuten was the first winner of an ASO organized Tour de France Femmes and deserves every ounce of our respect, the very first woman to win the Tour de France was someone else.
In 1955 the race still bore the name “La Grande Boucle féminine internationale” and it’s winner was a Manxwoman.
Millie Robinson came to racing relatively late in life, aged 25, after a stint of serving in the British army. Six years later she moved to England to race even more and became British champion both on the road and in the time trial.
During the same year Millie won the first ever Tour de France. However, her success wasn't over with the Tour. She set a new hour record in Milan in 1958 with 39,718 kilometres.
The first ever Tour wasn’t that different from today’s iteration. Much closer to a one week race than the men’s three weeks Tour. Astonishingly, the first Tour de France for women was created when women’s racing was still a hotly debated topic in France; the first national championships for women took place in 1951 and the world championships still seemed eons away.
The French press - notably the L’Equipe - even accused the founder of the “La Grande Boucle féminine internationale” of making a mockery out of women. Due to a mixture of disparaging press, sexist crowds that catcalled and whistled instead of cheering and an organizer who chose to see every fault within the racers instead of patriarchal society, no second iteration of the Tour was raced in 1956 and L’Equipe smugly wrote: “Common sense has won. They should be content with the existing competitions and cycle tourism, which is much more in line with their muscular capabilities.”
Stat du Jour
by Sam Mould
So it was another “flat stage” today. Despite the fact that over the course of the stage they had 1,732m of climbing. The stage had an average gradient of -0.35%.
Todays stage finished in Albi which is the home of Basilique Cathédrale Sainte-Cécile d’Albi (Albi Cathedral) which is claimed to be that worlds largest brick building standing 78m tall. Which is approximately 46 individual riders tall.
Today's highest categorised climb was Castelfadèze despite been 300m lower than the highest point of the stage. Castelfadèze stands 300 Ricarda Bauernfeinds tall.
Ricarda Bauernfeind also becomes the youngest rider ever to win a stage of the Tour de France Femmes at the ripe old age of 23 years 117 days old.
def: The bits and bobs, the shiny things, the small treasures that would otherwise go unnoticed.
League of Nations
Four nations have a stranglehold on this year's national standings, with today's winner Ricarda Bauernfeind adding another point to the tally for Germany.
With just 6 riders on the start line, Germany are only the 8th most populous nation at the race, so proportionally speaking, they're doing extremely well with two stage wins so far.
Of course, Belgium continue to dominate with the continued stay in yellow and green of Lotte Kopecky. They have one over on the Netherlands and it looks likely to stay that way regardless of the overall outcome with just 3 stages remaining - could it potentially foreshadow the result of this year's World Championships, in just two weeks' time in Glasgow?
Tweets of the Day
No-one does (budget) ice baths like Lidl-Trek.
And following through on our theme of inspiring the next generation, this is a heartwarming video.