Lorena Wiebes (Team DSM) out-sprinted Marianne Vos (Jumbo-Visma) to win Sunday's opening stage of the Tour de Frances Femmes avec Zwift, which took riders 82km on a Parisian circuit from the Eiffel Tower to the Champs-Élysées.
A strong solo move by Gladys Verhulst (Le Col-Wahoo) was caught inside the final kilometers to set up a high-speed bunch kick. Anna Henderson (Jumbo-Visma) led the peloton into the last 300 metres before her teammate Vos launched on the right side of the road, with Wiebes going on the left.
The riders seemed evenly matched for the first few moments, but Wiebes began to pull away as the line approached. By the time the 23-year-old Dutchwoman arrived at the finish, she had a full bike length over her compatriot. Behind, Lotte Kopecky (SD Worx) topped Rachele Barbieri (Liv Racing Xstra) to take third on the day.
"The team did an amazing job. As a whole team we worked for this moment, also all the people at the headquarters, I'm really happy with this win," Wiebes said after her victory. "It was a chaotic sprint and a long sprint, but I expected that. I expected that Marianne would do a long sprint, but it's nice to win."
With her stage 1 triumph, Wiebes becomes the first overall leader of the race.
"It's amazing to have the yellow jersey," Wiebes said. "I'm really, really happy. The whole team deserves this after the amazing season we have had, and we are ready for the next ones."
How it unfolded
The new iteration of the women's Tour de France rolled out under sunny, hot conditions in the French capital, and after a few minutes of detente, attacks started to fly and would hardly stop until the final sprint.
After the pack reeled in the first several attempts to form a break, Emily Newsom (EF Education-TIBCO-SVB) and Mischa Bredewold (Parkhotel Valkenburg) managed to spend about 10km on the attack, but they too were closed down ahead of the day's first intermediate sprint. Jumbo-Visma led the way into the sprint, where Vos and Wiebes battled for the first time on the day, with Vos winning the clash for points.
Pauline Allin (Arkéa Pro Cycling Team) established the next breakaway on her own, and the peloton initially gave her some breathing room before starting to close down the move as the second intermediate sprint approached. Henrietta Christie (Human Powered Health) briefly joined her at the front, but both riders were then caught ahead of the sprint. This time, it was Kopecky who hit the line first, with both Wiebes and Vos opting not to contest the sprint.
After more short-lived attacks, Verhulst established her solo move with around 15km to go. With DSM leading the peloton behind, Verhulst opened an advantage of half a minute. A touch of wheels in the pack then saw Alana Castrique (Cofidis) and Cristina Majerus (SD Worx) crash, with Castrique falling particularly hard. Medical staff attended to her in the road, and she would not finish the stage.
A few minutes later, as the pace quickened with the sprinters' teams moving to close down Verhulst, there was another crash in the pack. This time it was Amanda Spratt (BikeExchange-Jayco) and Laura Süßemilch (Plantur-Pura) going down. Fortunately, both riders were able to remount.
The peloton started to close down Verhulst's gap rapidly inside the last 5km, with Jumbo-Visma, Trek-Segafredo, and DSM putting in the lion's share of the work at the front. Verhulst was caught inside the last 3km, and from there it was up to the fast finishers and their teammates.
DSM, Trek-Segafredo, and Jumbo-Visma jockeyed for position on the finishing straight. With DSM riders and then her Jumbo-Visma teammate Vos behind her, Henderson pulled the pack into the final few hundred meters, and then Vos made her move. Wiebes, however, responded quickly, and a few moments later she surged clear of Vos to secure the victory and the first yellow jersey.
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Dane has been a sports writer and editor for many years, and makes a return to Cyclingnews as a contributor in 2022. He has a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Virginia.
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