Elisa Longo Borghini (Trek-Segafredo) was caught out in no man’s land for more than 100km in a fight to hold onto third place but was caught by the chase group and finished seventh at nearly seven minutes behind stage winner Annemiek van Vleuten (Movistar). She was forced to give up her aspirations for a podium at the Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift.
“I’m completely exhausted. I’ve been alone for a really long time. For me, what really killed me was the valley and I gave it my best, and that’s it. In the end, if you did your best that’s all you can do. I really gave it my best,” Longo Borghini said at the finish line in Le Markstein.
Longo Borghini ended up on her own after she attempted to chase the day’s two leaders Van Vleuten and Demi Vollering (SD Worx) over the Petit Ballon, the first of three ascents on the 127km stage 7 to Le Markstein.
Van Vleuten had been unwell with a stomach bug that she said began after the opening stage in Paris. She tested negative for COVID-19 but said she continued to feel unwell through stage 3 into Épernay. Her Movistar team hoped that she would recover during the week before the final two mountain stages.
If there were ever any doubt as to Van Vleuten’s health, she laid those to rest, with a commanding solo performance on the first of two days on the Vosges mountains that netted her the stage 7 victory and the yellow jersey.
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“We all knew that she was the strongest. I didn’t believe for one second that she was no good,” Longo Borghini said.
Longo Borghini said that mentally she felt capable of chasing Van Vleuten and Vollering but physically, she said, “my legs were not working.”
Her solo chase came to an end after a long effort through the valley into the Grand Ballon, the final climb of the day. “It was a time trial of a hundred kilometres. I just couldn’t stop. The valley killed me and I was rock climbing up the last climb – that’s bike racing.”
Longo Borghini now sits in seventh in general classification 6:15 behind overall race leader Van Vleuten as the race heads into the stage 8 finale that ends atop La Super Planche des Belles Filles on Sunday.
Trek-Segafredo’s director Ina Teutenberg doesn’t see an opportunity for a stage victory, and a similar scenario will likely play out with Van Vleuten out-climbing her opponents on another three major ascents on stage 8. “I think Annemiek wants to win stage 8 in yellow, so I think it will be hard for anyone else, to be honest.”