With a late attack on the uphill finish Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig (FDJ Suez Futuroscope) outsprinted Marianne Vos (Jumbo-Visma) to take victory on stage three of the Tour de France Femmes Avec Zwift.
She had to fight for it all day, but Vos managed to retain her overall lead in the yellow jersey with a 16 second lead.
“It just feel like such a good comeback after, a have to say, a f*****g sh&t day yesterday. Losing Marta and crashing and having to come back. I loved how the team kept the fighting spirit and we knew that today was a super good day and if I had the legs then I could try and go for the win but to actually do it and be a Tour de France stage winner and in this [Danish national champion] jersey, I just doesn’t get any better,” commented a sobbing Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig in the post-race interview.
A select group of riders containing all the favourites had broken away on the punchy terrain of stage three. As the group entered the final kilometre, Uttrup Ludwig launched a huge attack to power away from Vos and Kasia Niewiadoma (Canyon//SRAM) to secure a stunning stage win for the Danish Champion.
The hills of the champagne region of France were always expected to bring drama in the overall classification, and the Côte de Mutigny caused a select group of leaders to form. Demi Vollering (SD Worx) led the group over the summit only to then crash on a tight bend at the top.
Chaos would follow as Elisa Longo-Borghini (Trek-Segafredo) pushed on hoping to whittle the group down further before the finish in Épernay.
The yellow jersey of Vos was briefly distanced from the head of the race, but after a huge turn from Niewiadoma, the group of the race leader would be brought back into the action. On the bonus climb of Mont Bernon, Longo-Borghini would attack again along with Niewiadoma and the acceleration from the duo surprisingly briefly distanced Annemiek Van Vleuten (Movistar).
As they continued towards the climb to the finish, the leading group began to look at each other just waiting to see who would make the first move. It would be Niewiadoma who would be the first to attack with Vos straight onto her back wheel.
It began to look like Vos might make it two wins in two days, but then Uttrup Ludwig launched a huge attack that not even the yellow jersey herself could answer.
The Danish champion opened up a large gap to cross the line in first with Vos in second and Moolman-Pasio (SD Worx) in third.
HOW IT HAPPENED
On the second stage of the first ever Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift, Marianne Vos (Jumbo-Visma) took the stage win and the leader's yellow jersey along with it. Vos was part of an early break and sprinted to victory from the leading group to take her overall career wins to 242.
On the menu for the riders was a lumpy 133 kilometres from Reims to Épernay in the Champagne region of France.
As the stage three action got underway, multiple riders attempted to establish an early breakaway. As the riders hit the first categorised climb of the day, the Côte de Trépail, even Vos herself attempted to force an early move, although she was quickly swept up by the chasing peloton.
With 77 kilometres left to race, Femke Markus (Parkhotel Valkenberg) and Pauline Allin (Arkea-Samsic) had formed a breakaway and were approaching the second climb of the day. Although the duo were soon reeled back in by the peloton thanks to the work of Ellen Van Dijk (Trek-Segafredo).
The steep Côte de Vertus arrived at 55 kilometres and the peloton were jostling for position as they began the climb. Stronger riders were coming to the fore on the 9% gradient including Annemiek Van Vleuten (Movistar). Gerritse was first over the summit and along with Elise Chabbey (Canyon//SRAM) pushed on as they crested the climb, with Audrey Cordon Ragot (Trek-Segafredo) hot in pursuit. Lizzie Holden (Le Col-Wahoo) was beginning to organise the chase behind the attackers.
Next on the agenda was the category four Côte du Mesnil-sur-Oger and as the climb began, the pace in the main field quickly brought the attackers back into their midst. BikeExchange-Jayco and Jumbo-Visma were leading the charge up the climb and riders were being spat out of the back of the peloton as the tempo lifted.
The summit of the climb came with 45 kilometres to go, and it was Gerritse and Chabbey once again who led the race over the top. Alena Amialiusik (Canyon//Sram) pushed on, encouraging other riders to chase.
In the undulating final 30 kilometres, Letizia Borghisi (EF Education-Tibco-SVB) attacked and was gradually getting across to the sole leader. The race was due to cross the finish in Épernay before going back around on a second lap. Borghisi would be joined by Mischa Bredewold (Parkhotel Valkenburg) and Maria Giulia Confalini (Ceratizit-WNT Pro cycling) as they continued in pursuit of Amialiusik.
As Amialiusik began the first climb to the finish, the brutal gradients became clear. The Canyon//SRAM rider led the race over the first lap of the finish line, Elisa Balsamo (Trek-Segafredo) was leading the charge behind her. Amialiusik then took maximum points at the intermediate sprint in Épernay with Bredewold in second.
After a rapid descent, the crucial Côte de Mutigny was fast-approaching. The 12.2% gradient on the 900 metre long climb was inevitably going to do the damage. At 16 kilometres, the climb began and Amialiusik would soon be caught. The climb was beginning to thin out the peloton and Van Vleuten, Demi Vollering (SD Worx) and Vos were in the thick of the action. Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio (SD Worx) was the first to sense an opportunity as she attacked from the group of favourites, although her move appeared to be in order to set up Vollering who attacked over the top to lead the group over the summit.
Vollering was driving the group on, and slightly misjudged a bend in the road causing her to crash. Van Vleuten and Elisa Longo Borghini (Trek-Segafredo) continued to press on, Vos had been distanced amidst the chaos. A huge effort from Kasia Niewiadoma (Canyon//SRAM) in the Vos group ensured the yellow jersey would re-join the leaders as they neared the stage finale.
With just five kilometres left to go, there was brief calm before the storm in the leading group. The riders were onto the bonus Mont Vernon climb, and Niewiadoma and Longo Borghini were locked in a duel for the bonus seconds. The increase in pace from Longo-Borghini would surprisingly distance Giro Donne winner Van Vleuten.
Knowing the Movistar rider was distanced, Longo Borghini, Niewiadoma and Vos pushed the group on as they approached the climb to the finish. Van Vleuten kept a cool head and was able to catch back up with the head of the race.
As the leaders went under the final kilometre, Niewiadoma would be the first to launch a move with Vos moving straight onto her. The duo began to distance the rest of the group until Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig (FDJ Suez Futuroscope) launched a powerful sprint in a late attack to sail past Vos and Niewiadoma to land a resounding victory for the Danish Champion.
Vos finished in second to keep hold of her yellow jersey with Moolman-Pasio in third.
TOUR DE FRANCE FEMMES AVEC ZWIFT 2022, STAGE THREE RESULTS
1. Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig (Den) FDJ Suez Futuroscope, in 3-22-54
2. Marianne Vos (Ned) Jumbo-Visma, at 2s
3. Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio (SA) SD-Worx,
4. Silvia Persico (Ita) Valcar-Travel &Service,
5. Elisa Longo Borghini (Ita) Trek-Segafredo,
6. Kasia Niewiadoma (Pol) Canyon//SRAM, all at same time
7. Margarita Garcia (Spa) UAE Team ADQ, at 6s
7. Julie De Wilde (Bel) Plantur-Pura, at same time
8. Demi Vollering (Ned) SD-Worx, at 8s
9. Juliette Labous (Fra) Team DSM, at 11s
10. Annmiek Van Vleuten (Ned) Movistar, at 20s
GENERAL CLASSIFICATION AFTER STAGE THREE
1. Marianne Vos (Ned) Jumbo-Visma, in 8-30-36
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 (SA) SD-Worx, at 51s
6. Margarita Garcia (Spa) UAE Team ADQ, at 55s
7. Demi Vollering (Ned) SD-Worx, at 57s
8. Juliette Labous (Fra) Team DSM, at 1-05
9. Annemiek Van Vleuten (Ned) Movistar, at 1-14
10. Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig (Den) FDJ Suez Futuroscope, at 1-48
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