WORDS: REBECCA BLAND
IMAGES: ZAC WILLIAMS / ARNE MILL
Abandoning the smooth tarmac roads of yesterday, stage four of the Tour de France Femmes headed onto white roads that would make the Italians proud. The first 60km were relatively flat, with dust, punctures and steep climbs the feature of the latter part of the stage.
The team’s ambitions for the day originally lay with Lizzie, but the race split shortly after the first climb, with Lizzie missing the move. Eva found her way to the front group, as she explained.
“The goal was actually to protect Lizzie, and for me, my goal was to do this in the final part, but then the group split after the first climb. We didn’t do a really good job of positioning Lizzie on the climb, so she was pretty far back.
“I made it to the first group and stayed with it for most of the time. Then it was quite hard, and with I think 20km to go, I made a bit of a mistake and I went into the ditch with the gravel – I just got into deep gravel and just lost contact with the group.
“Other people also crashed and I got a nice group to ride to the finish with. It looked like maybe we might get back to the front group because Mavi Garcia was in there, but in the end, we didn’t. I also got some nice support from the Netherlands on the side, so that was encouraging.”
With some technical sections and plenty of gravel to contend with, before the Tour, some of the riders reconned the stage. Eva was not among the recon group due to Covid protocols, so the gravel sectors were something of a novelty for her.
“I wasn’t at the recon so it was a nice surprise, but I liked it. If you’re loose with your hands on your handlebars, then it’s actually alright. There were a lot of parts where I couldn’t see anything because there was just so much dirt flying around, but it was pretty cool.”
She may not have experienced this stage’s gravel before today, but she adapted quickly and avoided any major crashes. The major concern for the day was mechanicals and punctures, and she managed to avoid both. Her efforts today saw her leap almost 30 places in the general classification as she rolled over the line in one of the front groups.
The end of today’s stage signals the halfway mark of the Tour de France Femmes 2022, and tomorrow is the longest stage of the race at 175.6km.
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