It’s not unheard of for fairly routine sprint days to end with general classification changes, but stage two of the Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift was unexpectedly chaotic.
SD Worx were one team to try their luck in early crosswinds, but it was not quite in the right direction, but the threat of splits caused nervousness in the bunch. With a large peloton and a wide spectrum of abilities from hardened professionals to some riders who are at best semi professional chaos ensued.
One source who preferred to remain anonymous told Cycling Weekly the level of skill in the bunch was too wide for a race as significant as the Tour de France, pointing out that some riders had never ridden in the WorldTour peloton before.
Twenty-four teams and 144 riders is a larger peloton than in many races, but this year’s Tour of Flanders had the same size peloton.
While Marianne Vos won the stage, the main beneficiary among the GC riders was Elisa Longo Borghini. Her Trek-Segafredo team had anticipated where the wind might do most damage and attacked after the intermediate sprint at the top of the short, steep final climb creating a group of six.
“We thought it was a good place to attack because there were some crosswinds and we wanted to gain time on GC,” explained the Italian who had teammate and world champion Elisa Balsamo with her. They achieved their aim, along with with Kasia Niewiadoma (Canyon-SRAM), Longo Borghini put 29 seconds into SD Worx’s Demi Vollering and a surprise 34 into Annemiek van Vleuten (Movistar).
Such an advantage might be small but it gives both of them a buffer with the mountains coming on the final two stages this weekend.
“I can pace myself really strong on the climbs but maybe I cant follow the pure climbers, so maybe I need to gain some time somewhere,” Longo Borghini continued. “It’s like saving a little bit of money so then I have something to spare, but the pure climbers are probably 10 kilos less than me.”
The biggest losers of the day were FDJ-SUEZ-Futuroscope. Marta Cavalli, their Italian climber who finished second to Van Vleuten in the recent Giro Donne crashed and failed to finish, heading to hospital for scans
The team’s leader, Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig lost 1:38 after going down too, and their other climbing threat, former French champion Evita Muzic crashed in the final three kilometres and was eventually credited with finishing 34 seconds down.
“We know the rules before the race, and it’s the first Tour de France but not the last. There are six more stages but now I want to be sure my riders are okay, but I’m sure of one thing, we do not lose the battle,” said team manager Stephen Delcourt with a mixture of defiance and deep disappointment.
Vollering was sanguine about the loss of time. “I think it will not make too much difference,” she told Cycling Weekly. “I mean the last two days are really long climbs so I hope we can do very well there on long climbs, and maybe we can make it right or somewhere else before.
“I expected that it would be hectic today and I saw there was a lot of wind so I thought it would be a hard race but this that happened? No, I didn’t expect that.”
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