First-year WorldTour pro Ricard Bauernfeind (Canyon-SRAM) struck out in a bold solo attack more than 30 km from the finish and held off the chase to win stage 5 of the Tour de France Femmes. Marlen Reusser chased hard but couldn’t close the gap and finished second just ahead of Liane Lippert, while Reusser’s SD Worx teammate and yellow jersey Lotte Kopecky led home the pack and preserved her overall lead.
- The day began with news that stage 3 winner Lorena Wiebes of SD Worx would not start due to gastrointestinal issues, and her absence doubtless changed the race on a day many expected to culminate in a sprint finish. After letting yesterday’s successful breakaway gain more than 10 minutes at one point, the pack was in little mood for a repeat, and kept such a tight leash on the early break that the group was re-caught with more than 50 km to go. But the reduced pack had little cohesion or control from any one team, which set up a series of attacks and counters that eventually sprung Bauernfeind free.
- Israel-Premier Tech-Roland’s Claire Steels briefly joined Bauernfeind, but the German rider gapped her quickly to continue alone. Reusser shut down many of the attempted counterattacks, but the surge-and-slow pace allowed Bauernfeind to grow her gap to as much as 1:30. Reusser eventually just lifted the pace at around 20 km to go, and then even snuck clear on the final descent, but with Liane Lippert (Movistar) tagging along, Reusser didn’t want to press the advantage with a rider who showed a strong sprint with her stage 2 win and is a possible rival to team leader Demi Vollering.
- Bauernfeind is just 23 years old and in her first season on the WorldTour, but she raced like a veteran pro, perfectly pacing an effort that never left her in much danger of getting caught. Her victory also marks the first Tour de France Femmes stage for her team. After a slow start to the season where the team was often in the mix but missed out on a win, Canyon-SRAM has now won stages at both the Giro Donne and Femmes. In an encouraging sign for the team, many of its top results of late have come from a core of younger riders: Bauernfeind, 20-year-old Giro stage winner Antonia Niedermaier, and Chloe Dygert (who is 26, but hasn’t raced much on the road due to a long recovery from a severe injury in 2020). All are under contract at least through 2024. Bauernfeind and Niedermaier are both products of the team’s development pipeline, Canyon-SRAM Generation.
- The day went a little less swimmingly for SD Worx. First, there was news of Wiebes’ DNS, which certainly came as a blow given that today and Friday both looked likely for sprint finishes. More consequential to their hopes for the overall, Demi Vollering was handed a 20-second time penalty for pacing behind the team car too long after a flat tire. The mechanical itself wasn’t at a terribly crucial spot in the race, coming with 65 km to go and the gap to the early break coming down. But the team had a slow bike change, and initially none of Vollering’s teammates dropped back to help pace her back to the pack. Instead, she sheltered behind the team car for a long period, until a commissaire dropped back to wag an admonishing finger at director Danny Stam. Still not done, Stam then gave Vollering a long “sticky bottle” which – combined with Christine Majerus coming back to help – finally got Vollering back in the bunch.
- Fatigue is definitely starting to wear on the field after five days of hard racing, especially yesterday’s tough 177.1 km stage. Fewer than 40 riders finished in or close behind the peloton, and the next group to cross the line was a large bunch at more than 12 minutes down. Nine riders initially finished outside the time limit and were initially ruled hors delai, but the jury later reinstated them after they presented their case that a train crossing had delayed them. With DNFs and DNSs, the race is down to 137 riders out of 154 starters in Clermont-Ferrand. [An earlier version of this story before the jury’s decision said that the nine riders had been cut. The article has been edited to reflect the change. -Ed.]
Stage 6 preview
OK, really, this one is for sure going to be a sprint stage. Of four possible sprint finishes in the Tour de France Femmes so far, only one has panned out that way. But Friday’s stage is the last chance for the fast finishers, and with Wiebes out, teams like DSM-Firmenich and Jumbo-Visma will be motivated for their sprinters, Charlotte Kool and Marianne Vos, respectively. The 122.1 km route from Albi to Blagnac has no particular difficulties: just four Category 4 climbs, none longer than 2.8 km or steeper than 5% average, and the final climb, the Côte de la Gayre, comes 30 km from the finish. Of course, riders are tired, and after what we’ve seen the past two days what will actually happen is anyone’s guess, but a sprint is the most likely outcome.
Quote of the day
- Want a blow-by-blow of how Vollering came to get a 20-second penalty? Of course you do.
- There’s fast rises and then there’s Georgie Howe – first elite race to the Tour de France Femmes in 18 months. Matt de Neef has the story.
- Not so long ago, 80+ mm wheels were all the rage in mass-start racing; now they’re almost invisible. Why? Ronan Mc Laughlin investigates.
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