- Dutchwoman seals yellow jersey with solo victory on final stage
- Vollering best of the rest again to take second overall, Niewiadoma third
Hello and welcome to Cyclingnews' live coverage of the final stage of the 2022 Tour de France Femmes
It's the last day of this revived women's Tour de France, with a grand finale atop La Planche des Belles Filles.
Quite how grand this finale is remains to be seen. There's still perhaps a collective hangover from yesterday, when Annemiek van Vleuten left everyone punch-drunk on the first mountain stage of the race. The Movistar rider was pretty much in a race of her own, and, with a similarly demanding parcours today, there's arguably little suspense left when it comes to the final destination of the yellow jersey.
Will Van Vleuten run away with it again? Will others be able to fight for the stage win? Could Demi Vollering produce an upset that would rock the sport? Join us as we find out.
The riders are signing on for the start of the stage, which is coming up in just a few minutes' time.
Van Vleuten heads to the podium as the last rider to sign on. She's in the yellow jersey after her victory yesterday, and also has a full yellow custom Canyon bike for the occasion.
We're on the move. The riders have left Lure and are rolling through the neutral zone. Flag drop in five minutes.
One non-starter today and it's a big one. Ashleigh Moolman Pasio (SD Worx) was off the pace yesterday and it turns out she's ill. Here's the full story.
Before we get going on this final stage, now's the time to catch up on yesterday's extraordinary stage. Report, results, standings, and photos all in the link below.
To summarise, Van Vleuten did a madness. She leads the race by more than three minutes, with Demi Vollering (SD Worx) the only rider able to even live with her for a brief while on Saturday. Kasia Niewiadoma (Canyon-SRAM) is third overall at 4:33.
Previous race leader Marianne Vos (Jumbo-Visma) lost 25 minutes and is now in the green jersey which she'll seal overall provided she reaches the finish. Vollering is in the polka-dot jersey after pipping Van Vleuten to the first QOM yesterday but the mountains classification will be decided on the Planche. Shirin Van Anrooij (Trek-Segafredo) is in the white jersey as best young rider, 15th overall at 19 minutes.
Another delayed start due to mechanicals in the neutral. Van Vleuten and another big name in Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig (FDJ) have had to stop briefly.
Here we go then. The final stage of the Tour de France Femmes is waved underway
Another fast start and no breakaway yet.
All together after 15km.
Ludwig's FDJ team are active at the head of affairs as we barrel along the early kilometres.
We start with 50km of flat before the climbing begins today. Will we see a proper breakaway? Yesterday one had just formed ahead of the first climb but then Van Vleuten went on the attack and blew the whole race open.
It's another fast and furious start with an average speed of more than 40km/h so far.
Plenty of reaction as riders came to terms with what Van Vleuten had done to them yesterday. Here's Vollering, who was the only one able to follow on the first climb - where she even pipped her to the QOM - but had to relent on the second.
There's still nothing going off the front of the peloton but, as with yesterday, there are actually riders going out the back given this rapid start. A group of around 20 riders has lost contact.
FDJ continue to lead the peloton. They have Uttrup Ludwig in fifth overall after she finished third yesterday and also won a stage earlier in the week. They also have the impressive Evita Muzic in third place but she's at 10 minutes so Ludwig is the leader. The Danish champion is 6 minutes down on Van Vleuten but will have podium hopes as she starts the day 37 seconds down on fourth-placed Juliette Labous and 1:26 down on third-placed Katarzyna Niewiadoma.
83km to go
An hour on the clock and we've done a shade under 40km.
The dropped group is back so we have a full peloton approaching the intermediate sprint at KM47.5. The green jersey is safe on the shoulders of Vos so this matters little, but we'll soon be climbing.
The race hits the first climb of the day. It's a short little introduction, just 2.3km but at a vicious average gradient of 8.5% on the Côte d'Esmoulières.
Rachel Neylan (Cofidis) launches the first big attack on the climb.
The bunch starts to explode on the steep climb.
Neylan is caught just shy of the summit as Vollering opens up and grabs the maximum five mountains points to extend her lead in the polka-dot standings.
Here's the order over the first climb
1. Vollering, 5 pts
2. Rooijakkers, 3 pts
3. Guazzini, 2 pts
4. Neylan, 1 pt
67.5km to go
The road now continues to drag uphill for a while and things are starting to open up at last.
We now have a breakaway group going clear. Nine riders there as more reactions come from behind.
But now the pace eases in the yellow jersey group, and Van Vleuten herself appears at the front to marshall proceedings. They're letting this breakaway go.
In the break are:
Elise Chabbey, Pauliena Rooijakkers (Canyon-Sram)
Leah Thomas (Trek-Segafredo)
Paula Patiño (Movistar)
Grace Brown (FDJ Suez Futuroscope)
Riejanne Markus (Jumbo-Visma)
Liane Lippert (Team DSM)
Mavi Garcia (UAE Team ADQ)
Yara Kastelijn (Plantur-Pura)
Coralie Demay (St Michel Auber 93)
We've already got a gruppetto, with Vos part of a group 1:30 down.
I spoke too soon. BikeExchange look to speed things up in the bunch and now a Victoire Berteau (Cofidis) attacks. She has to bridge a 35-second gap.
More counter-attacks now as riders realise this move is going clear.
Ane Santesteban (BikeExchange-Jayco), Jeanne Korevaar (Liv Racing Xstra) and Antri Christoforou (Human Powered Health) are in a trio of counter-attackers. A little further back there are two more: Christine Majerus (SD Worx) and Mie Bjørndal Ottestad (Uno-X).
The Vos gruppetto gets back to the peloton as the pace eases.
Up front, the best-placed riders on GC are Mavi Garcia (9th at 12:06) and Elise Chabbey (10th at 12:26)
Behind that lead group, Berteau is caught by Santesteban, Korevaar, and Antri Christoforou to making a chasing quartet. They're at 30 seconds, though, and not making inroads.
Mechanical for Van Vleuten!
She has to ditch her yellow bike and grab a teammate's bike.
No major panic for the race leader but we're heading down a short descent now and she's looking uncomfortable on an unfamiliar bike.
Van Vleuten gets back on. She's still on Arlenis Sierra's bike and will want to change that after this descent, before the Ballon d'Alsace climb.
Van Vleuten isn't quite back on. She's back in a group that actually had lost contact with the main portion of the peloton on the descent.
SD Worx are pushing on here...
Van Vleuten has to sprint across a gap... to her own teammates. What's happening here? Her teammates are leaving her behind.
Van Vleuten closes the gap herself but she shouldn't have had to. A communication breakdown but she now has two teammates chasing for her.
This is not ideal for Van Vleuten, who's still a fair way behind another group that was clipped off the back of the main bunch. She's still on a teammate's bike, so will need to stop again soon to get her own bike from her team car.
Van Vleuten is down to one teammate. Sheyla Gutierrez is done and Aude Biannic is the rider who has to try to close the gap behind the Ballon d'Alsace.
Van Vleuten is 40 seconds down on the main bunch!
SD Worx have called Majerus back from her counter-attack to help turn the screw on Van Vleuten!
Trek are going all-in too. Cordon Ragot drilled the initial split, and now world champ Elisa Balsamo and Ellen van Dijk are getting involved.
Biannic is done! Yellow jersey Van Vleuten is isolated and chasing alone.
47.5km to go
And now the leaders hit the first major climb of the day, the Ballon d'Alsace.
The climb is 8.7km at 6.9%
Van Vleuten hits the climb and immediately starts to make up ground.
The yellow jersey is blasting her way through groups of riders, but she's still a fair way down on the main group.
Van Vleuten is back!
The race leader bursts back into the main bunch, which is already thinning. She's still on a bike that's too big for her.
And now Van Vleuten is going to stop for a new bike
She stops and the Movistar team car give her an all-yellow bike. The one she started on just had yellow tape and accents. She doesn't look too stressed as she puts her head unit in place, but she's got another effort to make to get back into the reduced bunch once again.
Van Vleuten makes it back up in no time. She has such a big advantage that this isn't really all that worrying, and then there's the fact that she's simply better than anyone else, so can afford to make these efforts.
Up front, the breakaway has swelled to 14 after Berteau, Santesteban, Korevaar, and Christoforou made it across.
But now Berteau is dropped as the climb really bites.
Krista Doebel-Hickok (EF) attacks from the bunch.
44km to go
5km from the top of the Ballon d'Alsace and the break have just over a minute on the yellow jersey group.
Another bike change for Van Vleuten!
She wants the one she started on, which has apparently been repaired now, so she stops again.
The yellow jersey makes her way back to the bunch for a third time on this climb.
Mavi Garcia is setting a strong pace up front and starting to thin out this breakaway.
Coralie Demey (St Michel-Auber 93) is with Doebel-Hickok and they're 30 seconds in front of the bunch and 30 seconds behind the break.
Doebel-Hickok makes it across to the breakaway.
The yellow jersey group was already down to around 25 riders but the rider in second overall wants more damage and produces a big acceleration.
Only around a dozen riders can follow Vollering.
Vollering goes again!
The polka-dot jersey is coming out swinging here. Van Vleuten follows.
Niewiadoma is there in third wheel. FDJ look good with three riders in the group.
Garcia continues to lead the break into the final kilometre of the Ballon d'Alsace. With her are Thomas, Patiño, Brown, Markus, Lippert, Chabbey, Rooijakkers, Kastelijn, and Doebel-Hickock.
Despite Vollering's accelerations, the yellow jersey is still more than a minute down so all the mountains points are going to be snaffled by the break.
The crowds thicken towards the top of the climb.
38.5km to go
Chabbey takes to the front at the top, but Garcia nips back around and leads the race over the Ballon d'Alsace, taking maximum QOM points.
Christoforou and Santesteban are dropped and trail over the summit.
Demay is almost caught as Vollering leads the bunch over the top of the climb. 17 riders left in the GC group.
Vollering hits the front for the descent. She dropped Van Vleuten downhill yesterday.
We now have a 15km descent, then 15km in the valley, then our final climb up La Planche des Belles Filles.
QOM points on Ballon d'Alsace
1. Garcia, 10 pts
2. Rooijakkers, 8 pts
3. Brown, 6 pts
4. Markus, 4 pts
5. Patiño, 2 pts
6. Chabbey, 1 pt
The big names are safely in the yellow jersey group, with Van Vleuten, Vollering, Niewiadoma, Labous, Ludwig, Persico, Longo Borghini, and Muzic all there. That's the top eight on GC, and then ninth and 10th are up the road in the breakaway (Garcia and Chabbey).
Van Vleuten distanced. She's struggling downhill once again.
It's Vollering who's still pushing the pace and it's putting the yellow jersey under pressure once more. She's not being allowed a moment of calm on this final stage. She'll probably end up in yellow but she's being made to sweat for it, which is great to see.
Van Vleuten returns on a flatter section.
22km to go
We're on the slog through the valley now and the yellow jersey group has eased, with the breakaway pulling out to 1:45.
Things are stable in this valley and we're set up now for the final climb, the much-anticipated Planche des Belles Filles. Not just the Planche, but the Super Planche, which includes the super-steep extra kilometre on gravel right at the top of the mountain. This was used recently in the men's Tour de France.
Here's a closer look at the climb. It's 7km at 8.7%, with gradients of nearly 25% in that final section.
Leah Thomas has dropped back from the break to pace the GC group through the valley.
The breakaway games have begun. Doebel-Hickok forces a split with Garcia, Markus, and Rooijakkers.
Brown drags it back, with Chabbey, Patiño, Kastelijn and Lippert in the wheel.
Just under 5km to the start of the final climb and we have nine riders in the break with a lead of 1:12 over the bunch.
The yellow jersey group has swelled significantly in the valley, with white jersey Shirin van Anrooij among those regaining contact.
10km to go
3km to the foot of the Planche and the breakaway is a strong one but with only a one-minute lead it looks like victory will come from the GC contenders.
Here we go then, the Planche is about to begin!
Our nine-rider breakaway lead the way onto the final climb of the race: Garcia, Chabbey, Brown, Doebel-Hickok, Kastelijn, Rooijakkers, Markus, Lippert, Patiño.
7km to go
The Planche begins, the road ramps up, and Rooijakkers attacks immediately!
The GC group hit the climb now, just 35 seconds down!
It had grown to 40 riders but it reduces down instantly.
Uttrup Ludwig sets the pace.
Garcia goes after Rooijakkers up front but the rest are left behind and they'll soon be swallowed up by the GC riders.
Longo Borghini ups the pace now.
Van Vleuten, Vollering, and Niewiadoma all looking solid.
Van Vleuten accelerates!!
The yellow jersey starts to move while shouting into her radio.
That'll be because she's finding teammate Patiño from the break, who'll give her a turn.
Patiño drags Van Vleuten clear of the rest!
No defense. Attack is the best form for Van Vleuten. She has opened a small gap on Vollering.
Van Vleuten says gracias to Patiño and works her way through the breakaway remnants. Vollering is once again the best of the rest.
Van Vleuten reaches Garcia and absolutely rips away from her with a vicious out of the saddle acceleration.
Garcia works her way back on a short respite but Van Vleuten kicks again through the 5km to go banner.
Van Vleuten is now alone at the head of the race.
Vollering drops Garcia in response.
We're yet to get time gaps but Vollering is chasing alone at around 15 seconds, with the rest of the GC contenders at more like 30 seconds.
Vollering is holding at 15 seconds. She's in with a shout still.
Behind, it's Niewiadoma, Labous, Ludwig, Longo Borghini, Persico, and Ewers. Six riders left in that chase group.
3.5km from the top and Vollering is at 20 seconds now, the chase group at 35 seconds.
Ludwig struggling! She's dangling off the back of that chase group. She started the day fifth overall and her podium hopes are evaporating here.
Ewers is the next to lose contact as the impressive Labous forces the pace.
Vollering slips to 30 seconds, the others at 53 seconds.
1.5km to go
1500 metres to go and the gradients really ramp up now. Van Vleuten fights with the bike!
The yellow jersey looks laboured but these gradients are savage and they're only going to get worse, with gravel to come.
The Niewiadoma group is at 1:45 now. Amazing gaps once again.
Vollering is at 42 seconds.
1km to go
Final kilometre. A brief moment of flat but now the road will ramp up and become a steep dirt track.
Niewiadoma accelerates behind on the initial super steep ramp. Only Labous can follow!
Van Vleuten is on the white gravel. She looks around and sees no one.
Nothing can go wrong from here. She's going to win the Tour de France and do so by winning the final stage in the yellow jersey.
Vollering is still in the middle and set for second.
Longo Borghini, Persico, and Ewers get back to Niewiadoma and Labous. Ludwig still dropped
Van Vleuten springs out of the saddle once again. The crowd roar as she prepares to tackle the final super steep ramp to the line.
Van Vleuten grinds up and weaves across the road as the gradient hits 24%.
The last 100 metres are interminable.
A race motorbike has crashed on the final incline.
Van Vleuten gets to the line and has just enough speed to raise one arm and punch the air.
She wins the stage and wins the overall.
Here comes Vollering for second place. She finishes 30 seconds down, looking strong on that last section.
And now for third place. Here come Niewiadoma, Persico, Labous and Longo Borghini who's dangling.
Niewiadoma leads them onto the steep final ramp but Persico comes through.
Persico finds another kick and takes third place at 1:43.
Niewiadoma fourth, Labous fifth, then Longo Borghini a few seconds further back.
Ewers trails home several seconds later and soon it will be Ludwig coming across.
The winner's shot
Vollering celebrated her second place. She does win that polka-dot jersey outright.
Let's hear from the winner
"It's a dream come true, winning in yellow on the top. Wow. It was not an easy stage. and not an easy week. It's been a super big rollercoaster for me. But to finish here solo in yellow... the best way.
"I'm super proud to be the first winner of the Tour de France for women - of this new version. I hope it's a big start for more, and we can build this event into an even bigger event. It's a milestone to win the first one of hopefully many more."
The final podium ceremony
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