Marlen Reusser (SD Worx) solo attacked with 25km remaining of the fourth stage of the Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift to take a stunning victory to Bar-Sur-Aube.
Across a difficult stage, which featured five classified climbs and four gruelling gravel sections, Reusser proved her credentials by holding on at the front of the race, before launching an attack no other rider managed to answer.
Alena Amialiusik (Canyon-Sram), Evita Muzic (FDJ-SUEZ-Futuroscope) and Veronica Ewers (EF Education-TIBCO-SVB) all tried their best to down Reusser by attacking from the in the final 15km, but their attempts were ultimately not enough. The Swiss rider's lead with 7km left stood at 50 seconds, creating a tough task for them to catch up.
Reusser crossed the summit of the Côte de Val Perdu with a lead of 1-10 over the chasers, and 1-30 over the peloton, which seemed comfortable with the status of the race. A short descent followed, and Reusser continued to power on the pedals towards the finish line for a stunning Tour de France Femmes victory.
The chasing group came next, and Amialiusik launched her sprint first. However, it didn't prove enough, as Muzic stole past her to take second place on the stage.
Marianne Vos (Jumbo-Visma) will continue to wear the yellow jersey for stage five. The Dutchwoman crossed the line 1-40 behind Reusser, but her performances over the previous stages allowed her a buffer in the general classification.
How it happened
Marianne Vos (Jumbo-Visma) came into stage four wearing the yellow jersey, ahead of what presented a very difficult day from Troyes to Bar-Sur-Aube.
Five classified climbs featured on the stage, with multiple other hills to contend with, too. The inclusion of gravel also presented a different task for the riders to deal with, though it was something Annemiek van Vleuten (Movistar) questioned ahead of the day, suggesting gravel shouldn't feature on Grand Tours.
The 126.8km stage started fairly relaxed, with the first half presenting a flat parcours before the lumpy hills came in the second portion of the race. Marta Lach (Ceratizit-WNT Pro Cycling), Martina Alzini (Cofidis) and Thalita de Jong (Liv Racing Xstra) made a slight attempt an attack, but were quickly caught as the peloton remained in tact until 24 riders properly attacked after 25km.
While none of the riders in the breakaway were in contention on GC, they were quickly closed down by the bunch. Valentine Fortin (Cofidis) then went for a solo attack 90km out, but was caught 10km later.
Ahead of the intermediate sprint to Bar-sur-Seine, Coralie Demay (St Michel-Auber93), Valerie Demey (Liv Racing Xstra) and Laura Asencio (Ceratizit-WNT Pro Cycling) attacked as a trio, and they soon worked up the first considerable distance to the peloton of the day. Demey won the intermediate sprint, before reaching the category three climb of Côte de Celles-sur-Ource - a 1.1km ascent at 8%.
Over the summit, Asencio attacked. Demay soon caught up, though, and then dropped her compatriot on one of multiple gravel sections of the stage. The peloton seemed comfortable with the pace and distance of the breakaway ahead, as the riders rode along at a moderate pace.
All three riders were caught by the peloton over the next 10km, unable to maintain their advantage over the uneven terrain. Multiple riders soon suffered flat tires, including stage three winner Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig (FDJ-SUEZ-Futuroscope). The Dane had to fight hard to get back into the peloton, which contained Vos and her Jumbo-Visma teammates.
Into the final 25km, the riders still had two categorised climbs left to complete and a gravel section still remained. Up the penultimate climb, Marlen Reusser (SD Worx) attacked, eager to increase the tempo as she crossed the summit 30 seconds ahead of the peloton.
However, this created splits in the bunch, with Katarzyna Niewiadoma (Canyon-Sram) attempting to string the group out as they reached the gravel once again. Indeed, Elisa Balsamo (Trek-Segafredo), Van Vleuten and Mavi García (UAE Team ADQ) all suffered punctures as they reached the difficult service.
As García went to change bikes with a teammate, though, Alex Manly (BikeExchange-Jayco) crashed, sent sprawling to the ground as she attempted to get through the middle of the exchange.
Meanwhile, Reusser sat 25 seconds ahead into the final 16km of the race, having completed the final gravel section. The Swiss rider had committed to a solo attack by now, but Niewiadoma, Vos and Silvia Persico (Valcar-Travel & Service) were in hot pursuit, the trio pulling each other along in an attempt to drop the heavily reduced peloton. Reusser's lead stood at 55 seconds to the peloton into the final 10km, though, with one categorised climb and another sharp ascent to traverse.
Further back, Mavi García's team car clipped her back wheel, the vehicle following slightly too closely, causing the Spaniard to fall heavily. Fortunately, she managed to get back on her bike, but not without the scars to prove it.
Alena Amialiusik (Canyon-Sram) soon attacked from the bunch, growing the time gap over the GC contenders to 20 seconds. Evita Muzic (FDJ-SUEZ-Futuroscope) climbed across to Amialiusik, and the pair worked together to try and reel Reusser back in. Veronica Ewers (EF Education-TIBCO-SVB) also showed her strength as she bridged across with 9km remaining, creating a group of three chasing riders.
As she started the final classified climb, with 6km remaining, Reusser's lead had grown to a minute over the three chasing riders, and 1-30 over the peloton. She continued to power up the hill, the advantage she had constantly rising. After reaching the summit of the Côte de Val Perdu, a quick descent awaited, followed by a short section of flat road.
Reusser rode down the hill in her tucked position, sprinting to the finish line to triumph with a stinging solo attack. She even had time for a little smile into the final couple of hundred metres, when it had become clear there was no chance of being caught.
Amialiusik opened up her sprint first for second, but Muzic just got past her towards the line. Ewers finished fourth, while Vos came home in fifth.
Results Tour de France Femmes 2022, Stage Four
1. Marlen Reusser (Swi) SD Worx, in 3-16-30
2. Évita Muzic (Fra) FDJ-Suez-Futuroscope, at 1-24
3. Alena Amialiusik (Rus) Canyon-Sram, at same time
4. Veronia Ewers (USA) EF Education-TIBCO-SVB
5. Marianne Vos (Ned) Jumbo-Visma, at 1-40
6. Lotte Kopecky (Bel) SD Worx, at same time
7. Silvia Persico (Ita) Valcar-Travel & Service
8. Ruby Roseman-Gannon (Aus) BikeExchange-Jayco
9. Elisa Longo Borghini (Ita) Trek-Segafredo
10. Demi Vollering (Ned) SD Worx
General classification after stage four
1. Marianne Vos (Ned) Jumbo-Visma, in 11-48-46
2. Silvia Persico (Ita) Valcar-Travel & Service, at 16s
3. Katarzyna Niewiadoma (Pol) Canyon-Sram, at same time
4. Elisa Longo Borghini (Ita) Trek-Segafredo, at 21s
5. Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio (RSA) SD-Worx, at 51s
6. Demi Vollering (Ned) SD-Worx, at 57s
7. Juliette Labous (Fra) Team DSM, at 1-05
8. Annemiek Van Vleuten (Ned) Movistar, at 1-14
9. Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig (Den) FDJ Suez Futuroscope, at 1-48
10. Elise Chabbey (Swi) Canyon-Sram, at 2-20
Thank you for reading 20 articles this month* Join now for unlimited access
Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1
*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription
Join now for unlimited access
Try first month for just £1 / $1 / €1