Jumbo-Visma’s Marianne Vos extended her lead in the yellow jersey as she sprinted to victory in Rosheim in Friday’s stage six of Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift.
Vos ploughed to the line in a perfect position tucked in behind Trek Segafredo’s Ellen Van Dijk and Elisa Longo Borghini until around 100m to go, before she launched her final push to the line to collect her second stage win of the inaugural tour.
Marta Bastianelli of Team UAE ADQ finished second with Lotte Kopecky (Team SD Worx), who was stuck in a train behind settling for third, all on the same time.
Vos extends her lead by 10 seconds, with Silvia Persico of Team Valcar-Travel & Service and Canyon-SRAM’s Kasia Niewiadoma following 30 seconds behind, respectively with two stages remaining.
“It was quite a difficult race, we had a good situation with Anna Henderson in the breakaway, it was a big breakaway and a strong chase as well," Vos said. "The Côte de Boersch two times caused some action and it was stretched out and difficult descent and then at the front the rest of the girls, they kept me in the front and kept me constantly out of the wind.
“In the final they did a perfect job to keep me front and the speed high until the last corners then I was in a good position, but i felt I was [being attacked] from the back so I hoped I could keep it until the line.
“I was in the wheel of Ellen van Dijk and when [Elisa] Balsamo came on the left with Elisa Longo Borghini, the other Elisa, went on the left and me on the right and we had the same speed, I couldn’t excel more but I hoped it was enough.”
Asked if she dreamed of holding the yellow jersey for five stages, and winning two, Vos said: “Well no, actually, I just tried to be at the highest level I could bring and of course I am very happy.”
Vos, 35, spent the majority of the day tucked away in the peloton protecting her general classification lead from Niewiadoma and Persico - who would have seen the warm and dry 129km stage from Saint-Dié-des-Vosges to a flat finish in Rosheim as a ripe opportunity to snatch the jersey or at least chip away at the gap.
“I should have gone out to the right a bit more to block her, I think we did a good lead out but if Marianne wins, Marianne wins," Vos' teammate Van Dijk said. "It was important to stay out in front and chase hard with someone out in front and it was hard with the final climb. We were one of few teams who could do a lead out.”
An early lead group got away for the first half, before the four categorised climbs ensued beginning with Col d'Urbeis, where Audrey Cordon-Ragot and Longo Borghini led a large breakaway group of 14 riders who grew a gap up to two minutes before being closed down by 10km to go the final climb.
With 5km to go, the strung out peloton across the descent arranged themselves for a sprint finish to decide stage six, and Jumbo-Visma to cement the yellow jersey.
How it unfolded
Persico’s team Valcar-Travel & Service came out of the starting blocks controlling the early part of the day’s stage, however they were a rider short as Eleonora Gasparrini did not start. Their lead fell apart with Trek-Segafredo assuming dominance towards the business end of the day.
The first breakaway came with 77km to go, as Cordon-Ragot and Longo Borghini led a 14-rider pack including Tiffany Cromwell, Anna Henderson, and Joss Lowden as they approached the second category climb Côte de Klingenthal with their lead growing to two minutes by the time 60km to go arrived.
Lowden, first through the third categorised climb Côte de Grendelbruch took the queen of the mountain points to go second behind Femke Gerritse (Parkhotel Valkenburg), who took the polka dot jersey on Thursday’s stage 5.
With 40km to go the peloton, which included Vos, picked up the pace to cut the breakaway’s lead to just over one minute as the intermediate sprint approached. Vos is so far ahead in the green jersey classification, the lead remained largely unchanged with Russia’s Tamara Dronova collecting the 25 points on offer.
As the race weaved around a twisty, technical descent before the final climb with around 25km to go, the breakaway’s lead was cut to less than 50 seconds despite Grace Brown’s best efforts to accelerate the pace. Kopecky, Wiebes and Alena Amialiusik (Canyon-SRAM) were caught up in a crash on the descent, dropping back to a gap as large as two minutes 52 seconds with 22km to go. Kopecky had a remarkable recovery that saw her claw back to the peloton ahead of the shootout for the line, where she claimed third - her joint highest position with stage 1.
As the race ticked down with 15km left and the final climb up the Côte de Boersch, the gap to the chunky lead group slipped from around 25 seconds down to nine before they were swallowed as Van Dijk, Balsamo, Longo Borghini and Vos’ lead-out rider Henderson drilled the pace to set their leaders for the finale.
Meanwhile FDJ’s Marie Le Net made a bold solo attack. But with just under 10km and an uphill battle to go it alone to the line, she was caught after 5km as only a descent separated the riders from the flat, sweeping finish in Rosheim.
Fast approaching the flamme rouge, Van Dijk and Balsamo led the strung out peloton with Vos and Kopecky tucked in behind, but Vos had done enough to take take a second stage win and a fifth day in the yellow jersey.
The race continues with two mountain stages on Saturday’s stage 7, which ascends Col du Platzerwasel before finishing atop of Grand Ballon, and Sunday’s finale up the iconic La Super Planche des Belles Filles.
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Niamh is an editor/writer for ESPN in the UK and has written previously for BBC Sport and Eurosport.
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