In an impeccable encore, Annemiek van Vleuten, a legendary cyclist with an unrivaled record, certified her first Tour de France in grand style this Sunday, beating out all her rivals at La Super Planche des Belles Filles and demonstrating, another day, insatiable, for the best runner in the world. Crowning the vertical face of the Vosges, with gradients of more than 24%, Van Vleuten, radiant, yellow embedded in his skin, dropped: “There was no better end. I’m very proud to be the first woman to win this new version of the Women’s Tour.”
More than four hours earlier, still hungover from another memorable performance, the peloton, led by Dutchman Movistar, headed for the final signature check with obvious signs of fatigue. almost a thousand Miles in the legs, not a day’s rest since the opening party in Paris, it was clear that the runners wanted to enjoy the finish but also want to finish.
South Africa’s Ashleig Moolman-Pasio was unable to do so, suffering from an infection in the last few hours. The SD Worx climber, 12th overall and a big supporter of Demi Vollering on the climbs, was one of the biggest disappointments among the favorites. Now you understand why. “It’s amazing how quickly everything can change, from very strong to totally empty,” she says sadly at not being able to finish the race.
At the final smash, the Super Planche des Belles Filles, the finishing touch to a historic edition of the women’s Tour, full of emotion, follow-up and electrifying days, Annemiek van Vleuten debuted on a bike that was yellow down to the last carbon fibre.
Still smiling, Mavi Garcia sighed with a raised eyebrow before getting on the bike for the last time: “I don’t know what to expect. Yesterday was a very difficult day, my head wanted but my body wouldn’t let me.” And he added: “I don’t think I’ve recovered but I have nothing to lose. What I have I will give.”
It was like this. Almost 100 kilometers from the finish line, the UAE crossing the flag of Spain on the pristine white of the jersey, provided the first shock of the day and, along with a handful of runners, made up for the day’s break.
Behind, Annemiek van Vleuten, impeccable leaders with the difference always petrified by the minute, watched the timid starts of Demi Vollering, more confidence than legs, now without a teammate. “It was hard to see that I couldn’t keep up with Annemiek’s pace,” said the SD Worx player, glassy-eyed at the goal.
On the final day, not even the scares resolved with Van Vleuten’s bike, which he had to change up to three times to regain his dark creature of habit of recent days – and throw away the yellow one sent by the sports brand – pulsations of the leader of Movistar, unflinching.
At the front, García, too generous in effort, demanded a relay that never came. Aren’t you interested in escaping?! he seemed to be saying to his companions.
Above, at the top of the Ballon d’Alsace, 38 kilometers from the finish line, where the monument to Joan of Arc shines, dark marble, heroine of another time, García took the lead by more than a minute over the group of favourites.
At the foot of the Super Planche, ten from the finish, the lead was gone. The Spaniard, a meter in the lead, wearily craned her neck for fear of seeing who was behind. Who else. Annemiek van Vleuten, remaining, launched the final attack, a hammer blow from someone known to be superior.
Trying to watch the world burn, Movistar’s Dutchwoman didn’t look back. There Vollering rolled, sat as always, and spotted a yellow shadow that got smaller and smaller. Ten seconds. 20th 30th
With the final kilometer, powdery gravel, mad crowd and a 24 per cent incline – where Pogacar beat Vingegaard in the men’s edition – Van Vleuten, twisted on the handlebars, flew into eternity. Second consecutive victory and gold brooch in the first modern women’s Tour de France. “I’m not a dreamer, I just look for goals and try to achieve them.”
At the farewell hundreds of spectators at the finish, a farewell mood, Van Vleuten’s range is indeed dreamlike. The Tour de France opens doors that other races don’t, but it also validates what the others are doing. High in the Vosges, the place cited to mark the rebirth of women’s cycling, Annemiek Van Vleuten, bright yellow, relaxed smile, has come full circle and, if she hasn’t already, been the best cyclist in the world established. “It was the only jersey we were missing,” Eusebio Unzúe, Movistar team boss, told the newspaper.
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