Through foothills of the Vosges Mountains and rolling vineyards of Alsace, stage six of the Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift ended in another victory for Marianne Vos.
The lumpy terrain was expected to be the first of three days for the general classification, but the race played out differently, a large breakaway getting up the road, those teams who missed out forced to chase or accept defeat.
Among that front group former British time trial champion Anna Henderson is one of Vos’s team mates, affording Jumbo-Visma the privilege of not chasing. The 23 year-old even put in a few attacks of her own but when they were caught she tried to help in the lead out.
“It was good, I’ve felt pretty bad all week, but I feel like everyone’s come down to my level now,” Henderson joked after exchanging embraces with team mates, including the yellow jersey clad Vos.
“I was dangling off the back of the group and I thought I could come through and maybe take one last pull but Karlijn [Swinkels] and Riejanne [Markus] did such a good job to position her, and once Marianne’s in the zone in the last kilometre you can’t really do much to help, so I bailed out.
“We wanted to keep yellow but we came here to win stages and that’s what she does.”
A good sprinter after a long day, Henderson might have had an opportunity to sprint for the win herself, but ultimately the benefited when other squads chased the break down.
“It was just to make things hard because we knew that behind Marianne is super strong in the climbs, and if you’re up the road then you can take the stage win, but of course Marianne does Marianne things.”
So what is it like to work for Marianne Vos?
“It’s pretty easy to be honest because she wins.”
Despite being a hilly day the race ended in a bunch sprint, which was not expected in the Jumbo-Visma team.
“We were expecting a breakaway or a sprint form a small group for Marianne,” explained Dutch road champion Riejanne Markus. “But UAE was not in the break and Valcar was not there, and I think they wanted to go for Persico [second on GC] so they chased and it turned into a good situation for us.”
Markus is an accomplished rider in her own right, not only is she national champion but she is a talented time trialist and decent climber. However, despite the race moving into the Vosges Mountains proper for the final two stages, six women teams make it difficult to protect her and go for stages.
“It’s really nice if you have someone like Marianne in the team, you know that every day you can go for the win and that’s a nice motivation. We need to go full gas every day for it but it’s also very nice and very motivating.”
Vos has held both the overall leader’s maillot jaune and the green points jersey since she won her first stage on day two, and some have speculated she can win the race overall. Markus thinks otherwise.
“No, I think that the upcoming days are too tough for me for Marianne as well. Normally it would be nice [to try in the mountains] but after this hard work for six days it would be quite impossible to expect something for the upcoming days.
"I think the green jersey should be a nice goal for the next days so I think will stay with her."
Sacrifice is easy when you’re winning.
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Owen Rogers is an experienced journalist, covering professional cycling and specialising in women's road racing. He has followed races such as the Women's Tour and Giro d'Italia Donne, live-tweeting from Women's WorldTour events as well as providing race reports, interviews, analysis and news stories. He has also worked for race teams, to provide post race reports and communications.
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