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Ashleigh Moolman takes her first-ever Women’s WorldTour victory by outclimbing Van Vleuten

Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio Thyon 2000 2022

The South African Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio won the 2nd stage of the Tour de Romandie in impressive fashion. The SD Worx rider was able to ride away from Annemiek van Vleuten on the long climb to Thyon 2000. As a result, Moolman-Pasio took over the lead in the GC battle.

The peloton took on 100.4km which started off easily enough but had all its action packed into the end of the stage. The first climb of Suen was 13.8km at 6.7% before the major Thyon 2000 climb of 17.3km at 6.6% – a brutal climbing day for everyone. Elise Uijen and Georgia Williams were the breakaway of the day, with Uijen looking to cement her QoM jersey. The pair led by 3 minutes at the bottom of the Suen climb but that gap quickly disappeared on the first major climb. By the time the race reached the base of Thyon 2000, there was only a group of 20 or so riders left containing the major favourites.

A small group had gone clear, containing Marlen Reusser, Arlenis Sierra (winner of Stage 1) and Soraya Paladin, with the latter pair more interested in the intermediate sprint points. The trio also took the pressure off their leaders behind. The onus was put onto BikeExchange-Jayco, Team DSM and FDJ to close the gap. With the trio caught, Uttrup Ludwig was the first to push up the pace and that saw the surprising drop of Demi Vollering, a pre-race favourite. That attack seemingly backfired or was a last-ditch effort as Uttrup Ludwig also soon dropped from the front group.

The attack we all expected from Annemiek van Vleuten came and she looked back to her old self rocking the bike from side to side despite the elbow fracture she sustained in Australia. That brought the group down to just 4 – Van Vleuten, Moolman-Pasio, Petra Stiasny and Liane Lippert. What was noticeable though was that despite the effort, she wasn’t really gapping her rivals. Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio in particular was still on her wheel. In contrast to Van Vleuten’s rocking style, Moolman-Pasio was calm and poised.

With 2km to go, Moolman-Pasio upped the face and for the first time this season, Van Vleuten was found wanting. The South African was able to open up a gap that never looked like it was going to be closed. It was the first win of the season and the first-ever Women’s WorldTour win of her career. 26 seconds back was Van Vleuten, with a late charge from Elisa Longo Borghini meaning the Italian secured 3rd.