A gritty performance and best young rider emerge in Queen Stage

A gritty performance and best young rider emerge in Queen Stage

Elisa Longo Borghini goes for broke in a bid for final podium as Shirin van Anrooij climbs into white jersey at the Tour de France Femmes

Elisa Longo Borghini gave everything in a gritty performance in Stage 7 at the Tour de France Femmes. It was pure Elisa, a determined, solo effort to try and secure third place in the overall.

For a big part of the race, Elisa pursued two leaders, Annmieke van Vleuten and Demi Vollering, while trying to hold off a chase group.  In the end, Elisa succumbed to her effort and was caught by the group, but not before helping animate another thrilling race at the Tour Femmes.

The GC battle

Everyone knew that Van Vleuten would attack at some point in the first of two back-to-back key mountain stages, and it came early, on the first of three grueling climbs.

Demi Vollering was the only rider able to go with Van Vleuten, while Elisa just missed catching their wheels. Instead, she found herself in a no-man’s-land between the two leaders and a chase group of GC rivals behind.

At the top of the second climb, Van Vleuten pressed the accelerator and rode away from Vollering. She increased her lead over the ensuing kilometers and final climb – a dominating performance – to secure the win and take the yellow jersey with an insurmountable lead.

Vollering, who had created a solid buffer by holding Van Vleuten’s wheel until the top of the second climb, held her position to the finish to take second.

Behind it turned into a fight for third.

Longo Borghini was still turning the pedals on her own, a valiant effort to hold off a strong five-rider chase group over two climbs, down the descent, and through the valley.

“Mentally, it was all good; it was my legs that were not working,” said Elisa about her long solo effort. “I think I time trialled for 100kms! What really killed me was the valley, but I was in a position where I just couldn’t stop. The valley hurt me, and then I was just climbing like a rock on the last climb.”

She was finally caught on the final climb by four riders.

Elisa paid the price for her long solo effort. When Kasia Niewiadoma accelerated, Longo Borghini could no longer hold the wheels, dropping off the pace and watching a trio escape up the road.

“I gave my best, and that’s it. As I said at the start if you give your best, that’s all you can do, and I really did that today,” emphasized Elisa. “We all knew that Annmieke was the strongest, and I didn’t believe for one second that she was not going to be good today.”

Elisa finished in 7th place.

The fight for white

While the GC fight played out in front, behind another race had formed, that of the white jersey of the best young rider, and Shirin van Anrooij had the green light to ride for it today.

The attack by Van Vleuten shattered the race on the first climb and the UCI Women’s WorldTour best young rider, Van Anrooij, was dropped like pretty much everyone else.

“I didn’t like the attack from Annemiek; I don’t think anyone did,” laughed Shirin. “It was impressive, already on the Petit Ballon, and I was dropped pretty fast and then rode my own pace.”

“Ina (Teutenberg, director) told me to try and help Elisa in the beginning, and then just find my way and try to get into the white jersey. It was not a goal at the start of the race, but I knew today that I would be one of the strongest climbers from the youth.

“I tried to get to the front before the Petit Ballon, but for the first time ever, I had cramps at the bottom. I found a good group to get over the second climb and get through the valley, and then it was just riding my own pace again on the final climb.”

Shirin found her pace and a good group and settled in. She gave everything up the final climb and crossed the line in an impressive 17th place to claim the white jersey.

“It’s the first time ever in the Tour, and to wear the white jersey, yeah, it means a lot. I had the blue jersey, but it’s extra special to wear the white jersey as well.

“I tried to work as much as possible for the team in the first six days and fight for Elisa (Longo Borghini), and today was to try and find my rhythm, and I had a chance to go for the white jersey. I felt pretty good, but I had no idea where I was in the race, so I just tried to keep pushing. It’s really special that it worked out.”

Shirin needs to keep her focus for one more day to clinch the best young rider title.

“Tomorrow will be another day of suffering at my own pace. I am looking forward to Planche des Belles Filles; it will be really hard, but there will also be a lot of people cheering us.”