A flat stage, yes, but full of ups and downs, with three category 4 climbs and a category 3 climb, the Mutigny plain – a leg-breaking ramp at 12.2% – in the final section of the route. Enough for Marianne Vos’ debut as the leader of the race to see Danish champion Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig, ever smiling, rise as the strongest of the favorites at Épernay. The FDJ runner, cut off yesterday by the fans, prevailed in the last meters, jumping upwards, against a small team with Vos, Niewiadoma and Moolman, meters ahead of the rest of the applicants, where Mavi García, with great sensations, she clenched her teeth , to finish seventh, six seconds behind the winner.
wiping away tears and with a broken voice, Ludwig dedicated the victory to his team, the FDJ, complained on Monday after she had to give up Marta Cavalli, her big win for the overall standings: “This is unbelievable. To win like that after the shitty day we had yesterday… I’m at a loss for words”.
On the first day reserved for the big names, 134 kilometers between Reims and Épernay, the favorites set the pace and reduced the peloton to a dozen runners on the very tough Mutigny ramp. There, in the group of the best, the Dutchman Demi Vollering, one of the contenders for the final victory, fell on the way to the finish, but was able to rejoin the front shortly afterwards.
After the nerves that are unremitting on an electric tour, Italy’s Elisa Longo Borghini needed an extra three seconds for the overall standings on the bonus track four kilometers from the finish. There, however, the news was different. Annemiek Van Vleuten, eternal number one, relented and, spinning on the bike, always seated, certified her earthly condition in front of the rest of the favourites. Although he managed to catch up with his head before the last kilometer, his suffering was not in vain: he crossed the finish line 20 seconds behind Ludwig. According to her, it is a result of a stomach virus that prevents her from eating and drinking during the phase.
Up front came Vos, Niewiadioma, Moolman, Persico and Longo Borghini, two seconds behind Ludwig, García six and Vollering, who had recovered from his crash, eight.
Tough stage, the third of the Tour, accentuated even more by Monday’s scramble in Provins, where Marta Cavalli, Ludwig’s partner, Giro runner-up, had to retire from the race after being violently run over by Australian Nicole Frain. The sea champion apologized on her Instagram account while blocking third-party opinions. “I get a lot of unacceptable feedback,” he said in a statement.
After the fall, Cavalli didn’t get on her bike without flinching, but was stopped by her own team, the FDJ-Suez Futuroscope. Initial medical tests following the strike revealed the Lombard runner suffered head and leg injuries, but no serious injuries. Following the scare, sources from the France squad confirmed to EL PAÍS on Tuesday that the Italian is stable, supporting her teammates in the team car and will soon return to Italy to recover.
“We will fight for Marta,” the team said yesterday. Said and done.
After the Tour’s bumpy start, Ludwig has made up for his partner’s abandonment ahead of Wednesday’s main course, a 127-kilometer stage between Troyes and Bar-sur-Aube, with up to four sections of dirt roads, dust and rocks covering the French Champagne countryside . A day dreaded by the favorites. “That gives me a bit of respect,” Mavi García admits to EL PAÍS. And he adds: “It will be a day when you need luck to avoid flat tires and falls.”
At the moment, Marianne Vos from the Netherlands is leading the race with a 16-second lead over Silvia Persico and Katarzyna Niewiadioma who have the same time. After the first big day, Mavi García is sixth overall, 55 seconds behind Vos.