Yara Kastelijn (Fenix-Deceuninck) soloed clear of the breakaway to claim Wednesday’s stage 4 of the Tour de France Femmes, the longest day of racing on the Women’s WorldTour this year.
Kastelijn and Audrey Cordon-Ragot (Human Powered Health) left the rest of the move behind on the penultimate climb of the day, and then Kastelijn went solo and stayed clear for her first pro road win.
Demi Vollering (SD Worx-Protime) took runner-up honors on the day – and valuable bonus seconds – ahead of Anouska Koster (Uno-X) in third. Annemiek van Vleuten (Movistar) finished a few seconds later with race leader Lotte Kopecky (SD Worx-Protime) not far behind that, retaining her yellow jersey for another day.
- The early goings featured mostly flat roads punctuated by a pair of small climbs, and it was on the first of those that the early break took shape, with a big group getting clear. The peloton allowed the move to get an advantage that topped out at over 10 minutes.
- Kastelijn and Cordon-Ragot were among the many big names in the group, which also featured the likes of Lucinda Brand (Lidl-Trek), Coryn Labecki (Jumbo-Visma), and Sheyla Gutiérrez (Movistar). As the riders approached an Ardennes-style finale, things started to heat up, with the pack cutting into the gap and the breakaway riders starting to gear up for attacks. With a shot at possibly taking yellow if she could stay clear on the day, Cordon-Ragot attacked the break to grab six bonus seconds at the intermediate sprint. Kastelijn then joined her in a two-rider move off the front before they were chased down.
- Kastelijn launched again on the day’s penultimate categorized climb, the Côte de Moyrazes, and Cordon-Ragot followed at first – but then Kastelijn powered clear alone and set to work putting time into the rest of the move. From that point on, there would be no catching Kastelijn, who soloed confidently over the up-and-down final kilometers.
- Kopecky was very active in the yellow jersey as breakaway riders posed a threat to her race lead. She attacked the GC group in the last 25 km, initially drawing out some big names and then leaving them behind for a while. Eventually, Van Vleuten led a group of chasers across to Kopecky inside the last 10 km and then, with her teammate no longer up the road, Vollering put in a big dig on a steep stretch that put a small gap into Van Vleuten. With the help of Gutiérrez, however, Van Vleuten bridged back up to Vollering and tried to press on, but Vollering was not interested in working and a small group of favorites caught back on.
- Kastelijn held on for a massive first pro road victory, and then a little over a minute later, Vollering charged up the uphill finish to take second on the day with Koster in third. Van Vleuten arrived two seconds behind Vollering, who also nabbed valuable bonus seconds. When all was said and done, Kopecky retained the GC lead with Vollering moving into second, 43 seconds back.
- Just 24 hours after stage 3 ended in heartbreak for Fenix-Deceuninck when Julie Van de Velde was caught after a long day out front, the team was back in the hunt, putting Kastelijn and Marthe Truyen in the day’s move. With Troyen putting in a hard day’s work in support of her teammate for the first few hours of the stage, Kastelijn then delivered for Fenix’s first Tour de France stage win.
- The margins were never great, but Vollering looked to have the better of Van Vleuten on the steep stuff. The climbs, however, were all relatively small, so it remains to be seen how both riders will fare on the much longer ascent of the Tourmalet looming later in the week.
- Kopecky was not content to sit idly in the yellow jersey, showing off some serious power as the GC riders came into the last few climbs. When she initially drew a group of contenders clear, Vollering did not join in the chase. Once things had come back together a few kilometers later, however, Vollering exploded off the front of the group.
- Elisa Longo Borghini (Lidl-Trek), Kasia Niewiadoma (Canyon-SRAM), Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio (AG Insurance-Soudal Quick-Step), and Célia Le Mouel (St Michel-Mavic-Auber93) finished on the same time as Van Vleuten as the GC picture starts to take shape at the Tour de France Femmes. On the other end of the spectrum, the riders who shipped time to other GC favorites at the finish included Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig (FDJ-Suez) and Mavi García (Liv Racing-Teqfind).
Meanwhile, back on the neutral service moto …
Stage 5 preview
After a hilly fourth stage, the Tour peloton will head into a likely sprint stage on Thursday. Stage 5 runs 126.1 km from Onet-le-Château to Albi, and although there is a trio of small climbs that starts a bit after the midway point of the stage, the last of them tops out with more than 20 km to go. Lorena Wiebes seems like a strong favorite here.
Quote of the day
Even after her massive ride alone in the finale, Kastelijn was quick to attribute the win to a group effort.
“It is really a team victory, because I had to do nothing all day,” she said, giving Truyen her due credit – even if meant downplaying her own individual efforts perhaps a bit too much.
Outside of the Fenix-Deceuninck squad, there may have been less appreciation for Kastelijn’s strategy of saving her legs for that big late attack, but that’s bike racing. As Kastelijn put it: “I think other girls in the front were a bit angry with me, but my coach told us we are not here to make friends.”
- Someone please get Audrey Cordon-Ragot some goats.
- Tadej Pogačar is good at Geoguessr.
- Filip Maciejuk has been suspended for one month.
- SD Worx rolled the dice on stage 3 of the Tour de France Femmes.
- DSM has some decisions to make in the coming stages.
What did you think of this story?