Daria Pikulik takes second stage win at this year’s Tour de l’Ardeche

A dramatic day of racing unfurled as the peloton gathered in the city centre. From the outset, the atmosphere was charged. Several cyclists lunged forward, attempting to break free. Their rapid pace caused the peloton to tick along, but it remained intact, as one unit. Within the first 17km, the Dutch racer, Danique Braam of the Duolar team, powered forward, seizing the lead position at an intermediate sprint. Trailing close behind were Ireland’s Lara Gillespie from the UAE Team ADQ team and Italy’s Silvia Zanardi from Bepink.

At the 25km mark, the first major assault was launched by three riders, creating a palpable ripple in the main group. Their aggressive surge unfortunately resulted in a crash in the peloton’s rear ranks. Pushing the pace at the front were Diane Ingabire, the Rwandan champion from Canyon, Hana Zumer from Slovenia’s national team, and American Natalie Quinn of Team USA. After 30km, their daring breakaway had awarded them a lead exceeding a minute. The racers closed the first hour with an impressive average speed of 39.9 km/h.

The gap between the breakaway and the peloton began to fluctuate before settling. But then, a significant shift: Zumer found herself falling behind her two breakaway companions. A new challenge emerged as Emilie Fortin from Canada and the Cynisca team attempted to bridge up. After 60km, her efforts paid off, uniting her with the leading duo. In the race’s second intermediate sprint, the Rwandan rider Ingabire claimed the top spot, followed closely by Quinn and the Canadian Fortin. They pushed their advantage to 2 minutes after 75km. By 15:30, the scorching heat was palpable with temperatures touching 32°C in Jonquières.

Approaching the final 30 kilometres to the finish, the lead had shrunk to a mere 30 seconds. In the third intermediate sprint, the American Quinn dominated, with Ingabire and Fortin trailing. The mercury continued to rise, with Roquemaure registering 33°C. After covering 100km, the breakaway duo of Quinn and Ingabire, who had led for an impressive 85 kilometres today had their gap at 50 seconds. However, their valiant efforts were neutralised when the chasing peloton eventually swallowed them up.

As the finish line beckoned, a blistering sprint ensued. It was the Polish racer, Daria Pikulik of Human Powered Health, who triumphantly crossed the line first for the second time this week, beating Sarah van Dam of DNA and Silvia Zanardi of BePink.

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