Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio (CCC-Liv) took a magnificent win on the computer-generated Mont Ventoux queen stage of the virtual Tour de France.
The South African hit out up the mythical French climb alongside Tibco – Silicon Valley Bank’s Sarah Gigante, before dispensing with her younger rival in the final few kilometres to solo to victory.
While Gigante, wearing the yellow jersey, had to settle for second, her effort solidified Tibco’s lead in the overall classification, the American team’s entire four-woman squad taking the rest of the places in the top five, as Lauren Stephens, Leah Dixon and Kristen Faulkner finished nearly two minutes back.
Their effort also helped overhaul Drops’ lead in the polka dot jersey competition, which the British squad have fought hard for throughout the race.
Tomorrow’s final stage six should see Tibco – Silicon Valley Bank crowned overall winners of the virtual Tour de France on the Champs-Élysées.
How it happened
‘La Reine’, or the queen stage of the virtual Tour de France tackles a third category climb before heading up Mont Ventoux, finishing at a virtual Chalet Reynard. After an opening few kilometres of flat, the road heads uphill and doesn’t stop until the finish, with an average gradient of 4.9 per cent for the entire stage.
With 10km raced, FDJ’s Brodie Chapman hit out, heading towards the third category climb on her own as she pulled out a gap of 17 seconds.
After the Australian had taken maximum points at the QOM point, Drops’ Finja Smekal accelerated to cross the line second, looking to protect her team’s lead in that competition, her team-mate Jos Lowden followed her over in third.
Dani Christmas (Lotto-Soudal) then made her move, catching and passing Chapman, putting out 275w as she grimaced at home on her turbo.
As the gradient ratcheted up to 14 per cent with 9km to go, Christmas came back to the peloton early, the front group beginning to thin out as Kirsten Wild (Ceratizit-WNT) was dropped.
Kristen Faulkner (Tibco – Silicon Valley Bank) was leading the tempo up the climb, with all the main contenders still up at the business end of proceedings.
Faulkner’s team-mate Leah Dixon then took to the front with 7km to go, looking focused as they led the overall classification, Sarah Gigante’s avatar decked out in yellow.
Pauliena Rooijakkers (CCC-Liv) then got out of the saddle, pushing out 300w as she tested the legs of her rivals. This thinned the group down to around 12 riders with 6.5km remaining, with all four of Tibco – Silicon Valley’s riders still present.
Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio then took to the front, before Dani Christmas hit out once more, then Sarah Gigante went straight over the top, taking Moolman-Pasio with her, causing everyone behind to chase back on.
Gigante attacked again with little over 5km to go, Moolman-Pasio chasing once more, exploding the group, out of the saddles and putting out 300w, pulling 10 seconds clear of the rest of the field.
Their gap was soon out to 20 seconds as they shared turns on the front, with Lowden heading up the chase behind.
Gigante and Moolman-Pasio were out of sight up the road, as Faulkner shepherded the group poursuivant group, nearly a minute behind with under 4km remaining.
Gigante used an invisibility power-up and had to chase back on to Moolman-Pasio’s wheel, before the South African road race and time trial champion put in another dig with 2km to go, cracking her young Australian opponent.
Within 500m the gap between Moolman-Pasio and Gigante was out to 14 seconds, the 34-year-old looking good for the victory.
1km to go and her advantage was 19 seconds, looking composed out of the saddle, passing a giant inflatable Der Teufel with 500m left but saving her smiles for the finish line, which she sailed across, having taken a dominant victory.
Virtual Tour de France, stage five: La Reine (22.9km)
1. Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio (RSA) CCC-Liv, in 57-10
2. Sarah Gigante (Aus) Tibco – Silicon Valley Bank, at 23 seconds
3. Lauren Stephens (USA) Tibco – Silicon Valley Bank, at 1-51
4. Leah Dixon (GBr) Tibco – Silicon Valley Bank, at same time
5. Kristen Faulkner (USA) Tibco – Silicon Valley Bank, at 1-54
6. Dani Christmas (GBr) Lotto-Soudal, at 1-55
7. Jos Lowden (GBr) Drops, at same time
8. Ella Harris (NZl) Canyon-SRAM, at 1-57
9. Floortje Mackaij (Ned) Sunweb, at 2-00
10. Pauliena Rooijakkers (Ned) CCC-Liv, at 2-01
General classification after stage five
1. Tibco – Silicon Valley Bank (USA) – 409 points
2. Drops (GBr) – 252 pts
3. Canyon-SRAM (GER) – 247 pts
4. Twenty20 (USA) – 215 pts
5. CCC-Liv (Pol) – 215pts