At 23 years old, Ricarda Bauernfeind (Canyon//Sram) delivered a stunning performance to take the solo victory in Albi on day 5 of the Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift. After a furious battle over the first climbs of the day, the young German champ attacked with 36 kilometres to go. And nobody was able to come back to her as she soloed her way to the greatest victory of her young career. Marlen Reusser (SD Worx) and Liane Lippert (Movistar) round out the stage top 3 after they escaped the peloton in the final kilometres. And Lotte Kopecky (SD Worx) was the fastest from the bunch as she retained the Maillot Jaune on a day also marked by the withdrawal of her teammate Lorena Wiebes. Stage 6 will offer a new battle between sprinters and attackers ahead of the final fireworks for the overall standings this week-end.
A 140-woman peloton sets off from Onet-le-Château without Lorena Wiebes (SD Worx), winner of three stages of the Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift, whose team reports she suffers stomach issues. Mie Bjorndal Ottestad (Uno X) and Jenny Rissveds (Coop-Hitec Products) are non-starters as well. And the relentless pace from the start quickly leads to three abandons of riders weakened by several physical issues: Kaja Rysz (Lifeplus Wahoo), Gabrielle Pilote Fortin (Cofidis) and Évita Muzic (FDJ-Suez), who finished 8th in last year’s edition.
An all out battle all day long
Eleven riders try to get away: Paula Patiño (Movistar), Mischa Bredewold (SD Worx), Amber Kraak (Jumbo-Visma), Olivia Baril (UAE Team ADQ), Loes Adegeest (FDJ-Suez), Justine Ghekiere (AG Insurance-Soudal Quick-Step), Claire Steels (Israel Premier Tech Roland), Hannah Ludwig (Uno X), Clara Koppenburg (Cofidis), Ella Wyllie (Lifeplus Wahoo) and Clara Emond (Arkea).
But the peloton is not willing to let them go and a huge battle ensues over a rolling terrain, much more demanding than the speeds suggest. The attackers cover 42.4 kilometres in the first hour but their lead never gets higher than 50’’. They’re eventually caught on the slopes up the first categorised climb, the cat-3 Côte de Najac (summit at km 74.9). Some 40 riders remain at the front due to the relentless pace.
Yara Kastelijn (Fenix-Deceuninck) chases the QOM points in Najac and on the next climb as well, the cat-3 Côte de Laguépie (km 85.2). Then Ricarda Bauernfeind (Canyon//Sram) attacks at km 90. Claire Steels (Israel Premier Tech Roland) tries to follow and comes 2nd at the Bonus point, with Ashleigh Moolman Pasio (AG Insurance-Soudal Quick-Step) sprinting to the 3rd position.
Bauernfeind pushes her advantage, up to 1’30’’ as she summits the cat-4 Côte de Monestiés just inside the last 25km. She then tries to resist the bunch. Her lead is down to 38’’ with 10 km to go… But she maintains a gap of 37’’ with 5km to go.
Marlen Reusser (SD Worx) and Liane Lippert (Movistar) get away from the bunch in the finale but it’s too late to get back to Bauernfeind, who maintains a gap of 22’’ on the line. Lotte Kopecky (SD Worx) dominates the sprint in the bunch and retains the Maillot Jaune.