There’s still a half-arsedness about the Tour de France’s organisation of La Course, its begrudging token nod to women’s road racing in the 21st Century. But what a race they got today anyway.
The chase for the finish line was far more an effective pursuit match than the one they tried to contrive by stagger starting the finale of the two part edition last year. And in Annemiek van Vleuten pipping Anna van der Breggen in a last ditch surge for the line, the two all-out favourites played out the duel that was expected of them.
The race had been theirs to lose. Van der Breggen had been almost unbeatable this spring, while defending champion Van Vleuten arrived ‘fresh’ from winning the Giro Rosa just two days earlier.
So what you gonna do? Sit around on their wheels and hope they don’t drop you on the two first-cat climbs that were destined to shape the race?
Not the Cervélo-Bigla team who first placed Lotta Pauliina Lepistö in the early four rider break, then fired our Top Banana up the road when things got serious on the penultimate climb of the Col de Romme.
“It was a perfect team day,” said Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig, who would eventually finish fourth, in an emotional interview with ITV’s Matt Rendell. “I saw the opportunity and I thought why not start the fireworks and put the other teams under pressure.”
It was a bold move and one the Dane might conceivably have pulled off. She caught and passed the remnants of the early break on the climb, resisted capture by a fast descending Lucinda Brand and held off the chase of the favourites until little more than a kilometre from the summit of the Col de la Colombière.
Even then her attack potentially served a purpose, allowing Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio – who had been following the wheels – to play the textbook team-mate counter attack against the two main favourites that she’d been keeping company with.
Not that that came to anything – other than sparking an equally textbook, punishment counter-move from Van Der Breggen. And that set into motion the final thrilling pursuit into Grand Bornand.
Tour de France 2018 – Rouleur Top Bananas