Krista Doebel-Hickok (EF Education-TIBCO-SVB) won back-to-back stages at the CIC Tour Féminin International des Pyrénées with a show of power on the mountaintop finish of the Col du Soulor.
She held off a late charge by Ricarda Bauernfeind (Canyon-SRAM), who finished second. Eri Yonamine (Human Powered Health) took third place on the stiff ascent of double-digit gradients near the top. The other two riders to stay together on the final climb took the next two spots, Greta Marturano (Top Girls Fassa Bortolo) and Yuliia Biriukova (Arkéa Pro Cycling), fourth and fifth, respectively.
Doebel-Hickok retained the leader’s jersey and continued to lead in the points and mountain competitions. Her victory on Saturday was set up by incredible pacemaking on the final two climbs by teammate Emma Langley, who finished seventh and earned most combative rider accolades. Doebel-Hickok now leads Yonamine by 1:04 before Sunday's final stage around Lourdes, with Bauernfeind third overall at 1:38.
“I never had a doubt that we would defend the jersey if I did my job on the climb,” Krista said. “Emma hauled me up every climb. Mentally, I told myself, all you’ve got to do is hold that wheel, that’s your teammate’s wheel, she’s guiding you up the climb. I think that totally intimidated the other teams. Nobody was going to try attacking.”
The third segment of the four-stage race CIC Tour Féminin International des Pyrénées began with 87 riders taking on a mountainous 107.2 km from Pierrefitte-Nestalas with 2,242 metres of elevation gain, including the Bordères and Soulor passes.
A quartet of categorised climbs were packed into the second half of the stage, with the fourth and final the mountaintop finish at Col du Soulor.
A breakaway of three riders was reduced to two by the base of the the third climb, Margot Pompanon (St Michel - Auber93) dropping away and leaving Maaike Coljé (Massi - Tactic Women Team) to share the workload with Silvia Zanardi (Bepink) at the front, the gap 25 seconds. EF Education-TIBCO-SVB drove the chase behind with much of the work by Clara Honsinger and Langley.
The Cols des Bordères, 8.5km with an average of 5.8% and pitches to 15%, was the territory where Langley drove a high pace and decimated what was left of the peloton, as a group of 20 with the yellow jersey became just 10 riders, four of the top five GC riders remaining together, Doebel-Hickok, Yonamine, Marturano, and Bauernfeind.
Towing five other riders near the crest of the penultimate climb, Langley’s day seemed to be done for teammate and race leader Doebel-Hickok, but she rejoined the front group on the descent.
On the final 6.9km to the finish, the stars-and-stripes jersey of Langley was back to pacesetting for Doebel-Hickok for most of the climb, dropping away with under 2.5km to go. Doebel-Hickok then took over at the front, second-placed Yonamine firmly attached to her wheel.
The race leader attacked in the final kilometre and it was the best young rider Bauernfeind who followed and the duo battled to the top of the mountain.
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