The much awaited “gravel stage” at the Tour de France Femmes lay ahead of the peloton this afternoon, with 13 kilometres of rugged roads and multiple challenging short climbs set to make for a very tough day out in the saddle. It was a fast start to the day with a lot of attacks before eventually the elastic snapped and a trio managed to escape. With all Team DSM riders in the peloton, focus remained on staying safe for what was to come later.
The trio built up a two minute advantage before the pace ramped up in the peloton going onto the first climb and gravel section, where Franziska Koch and Charlotte Kool did some strong positioning work. Unfortunately, Kool had to step off the bike once over the top of the climb, suffering from fatigue. The peloton split then regrouped once again, before the next climb with Lorena Wiebes and Pfeiffer Georgi positioning Liane Lippert and Juliette Labous expertly at the front.
A similar pattern emerged once again with more riders dropping from the peloton, as it became a race from attrition. Heading into the final 25 kilometres a reduced peloton of around 40 riders approached the next climb and final cobbled section, with Georgi, Labous and Lippert in there for the team. Proceedings slowed and the eventual race winning attack was made by Reusser who launched clear from the bunch which hesitated in the chase initially, with her gap quickly growing to over 30 seconds.
Following a similar pattern as to previous sectors, a strong pace was set at the head of the race over the top of the climb and onto the gravel section which followed where once again Labous and Lippert rode brilliantly to make the group of ten. Yet, things slowed down once more and the gap to Reusser ballooned as more riders returning to the yellow jersey group. Coming across the line in the reduced peloton, Lippert led the team home in 12th place with Labous just behind in 14th. After today’s chaos on the gravel, Labous also moves up one place on GC to seventh ahead of tomorrow’s fifth stage.