Annemiek van Vleuten claims Tour de France Femmes despite six bike changes

Annemiek van Vleuten secured overall victory in the first edition of the Tour de France Femmes with a second stage win at Super Planche des Belles Filles in the Vosges.

The 39-year-old Dutch rider had taken an unassailable lead in Saturday’s “queen” stage, demolishing her rivals over three first-category climbs and winning at the summit of Le Markstein. But it was a testing final day for the Olympic time-trial title holder, leader of the Movistar Team, who swapped bikes half a dozen times, after starting the final stage in an all yellow bike, kit and helmet combination.

Although her closest rival, compatriot Demi Vollering, wearing the Queen of the Mountains jersey, attempted to force the pace on the descents towards the final climb to Super Planche, Van Vleuten’s lead remained intact to the foot of the seven kilometre ascent with sections as steep as 24%.

Six kilometres from the finish, Van Vleuten bridged up to her Colombian teammate, Andrea Patino, and began accelerating through the remnants of the day’s nine-rider breakaway. Only Vollering could give chase but as the climb wore on, the race leader’s advantage grew and, although Vollering closed the gap on the final gravel ramps, Van Vleuten crossed the finish line with 30 seconds to spare.

Van Vleuten has already won this year’s women’s Tour of Italy, the Giro Donne, and now becomes the first women to achieve the Giro-Tour double since Joane Somarriba, of Spain, in 2000. “The TDF Femmes has exceeded my expectations,” Van Vleuten said.

“I really have the feeling that we’re in the Tour de France, that we’re not a sideshow. It’s the fourth week of the Tour and they’re doing an amazing job. On top of that, there are so many people watching us on the side of the road, that you really feel in every village you pass, that the Tour is alive.”