By Jonny Long published
April Tacey took her second win at the women's virtual Tour de France, the 19-year-old Brit sprinting past Anna Henderson (Sunweb) and Lauren Stephens (Tibco-Silicon Valley Bank) on the line.
Stephens team-mate Leah Dixon then took fourth while Chloe Dygert (Twenty20) rounded out the top five.
Drops now sit less than 50 points behind Tibco - Silicon Valley Bank in second place in the general classification, with Jos Lowden having worked hard to solidify the team's lead in the polka dot jersey competition throughout stage four.
The Casse-Pattes stage, which translates to 'leg-breaking', was the fourth of six, with next weekend's final two stages culminating on the Champs-Élysées in Paris.
How it happened
Two 23km laps make up stage four's 46km course, with the bigger of the two category three climb placed just before the finish.
Jos Lowden and April Tacey were the first two across the line of the first category three climb as they looked to defend the polka dot jersey from Ceratizit WNT.
Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio (CCC-Liv) was one of 10 riders dropped early, before Sarah Gigante (Tibco - Silicon Valley Bank) and team-mate Lauren Stephens led the favourites for the stage up the second climb of the circuit, Chloe Dygert pictured gurning away in her pain cave.
The race began to split apart up towards the summit, with Lowden first over line, followed by Romy Kasper (Parkhotel-Valkenburg) and then Dixon.
Chloe Dygert was the next surprise rider to be dropped from the group, with only 12 riders left on the front. But with the pace slowing slightly, the American would get back in alongside a number of others just past the halfway stage.
The front group containing the favourites had pulled out a 45-second gap, meaning these 17 riders would likely contest the win, with 18km remaining.
Tibco-Silicon Valley Bank looked to hold the advantage heading towards the business end of the race, as Stephens, Dixon and Gigante all remained in the front group.
Stephens led Dixon across the line of the intermediate sprint point without much bother, the riders biding their time before the two climbs and sprint finish to come.
Lowden once again took maximum points under the Pont du Garde at the first of the two category three climbs, further solidifying Drops' lead in the Queen of the Moutain competition.
Onto the final climb, the pack was tightly bunched as the gradient increased. Sarah Gigante then started to test her rivals, stretching her legs at the front, stringing out the group behind, with team-mate Stephens sitting on her wheel.
Gigante then went again, pushing out 330w as she escaped off the front of the group towards the summit. Stephens and Dixon were the next two behind, odd tactics even for the virtual world.
This allowed Jos Lowden to use a feather power-up and take maximum points at the top of the climb, an exemplary performance on stage four from the Brit.
Heading into the final 4km it was all downhill until the sprint for the line, a number of riders catching their breath with a super-tuck, the group having split just after the climb but coming back together with 2km to go.
Sunweb's Anna Henderson led under the flamme rouge, Lowden in her wheel while Dygert sat on the back.
Leah Dixon was the first to open up her sprint with an aero power-up, but April Tacey once again timed her sprint to perfection, coming past her compatriot and stealing a march on her rivals once again, sneaking through the gap to pip Henderson and Stephens on the line.
Women's virtual Tour de France, stage four: Casse-Pattes
1. April Tacey (GBr) Drops, in 1-04-47
2. Anna Henderson (GBr) Sunweb
3. Lauren Stephens (USA) Tibco-Silicon Valley Bank, both at same time
4. Leah Dixon (GBr) Tibco-Silicon Valley Bank, at one second
5. Chloe Dygert (USA) Twenty20
6. R Kasper (Ger) PHY,
7. Lisa Brennauer (Ger) Ceratizit WNT
8. Liane Lippert (Ger) Sunweb, all at one second
9. Jos Lowden (GBr) Drops, at 2s
10. E Bujak (Slo) Alé, at 2s
General classification after stage four
1. Tibco-Silicon Valley Bank (USA) - 277 points
2. Drops (GBr) - 219 pts
3. Canyon-SRAM (Ger) - 206 pts
4. Twenty20 (USA) - 189 pts
5. CCC Liv (Pol) - 148 pts
6. Sunweb (Ger) - 121 pts
7. Ceratizit WNT (Ger) - 110 pts
8. Boels Dolmans (Ned) - 82 pts
9. FDJ Nouvelle - Aquitaine Futuroscope (Fra) - 82 pts
10. Rally Cycling (USA) - 77 pts
Hi. I'm Cycling Weekly's Weekend Editor. I like writing offbeat features and eating too much bread when working out on the road at bike races.
Before joining Cycling Weekly I worked at The Tab and I've also written for Vice, Time Out, and worked freelance for The Telegraph (I know, but I needed the money at the time so let me live).
I also worked for ITV Cycling between 2011-2018 on their Tour de France and Vuelta a España coverage. Sometimes I'd be helping the producers make the programme and other times I'd be getting the lunches. Just in case you were wondering - Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen had the same ham sandwich every day, it was great.
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