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Gallery: Marlen Reusser conquers the stunning chemins blancs on TDFF Stage 4

27 Jul 2022

Who needs Strade Bianche when you have les chemins blancs? France’s own white roads played host to a tough Stage 4 of the Tour de France Femmes with SD Worx’s Marlen Reusser taking a huge solo win.

While there remains some debate over the place of gravel in road stage racing, there is absolutely no debate over the fact it makes for a beautiful backdrop, and even frontdrop, because riders couldn’t see a thing at times.

Three escapees got away before the race hit the gravel sections in Coralie Demay of St Michel-Auber 93, Laura Ascencio of Ceratizit-WNT and Valerie Demey of Liv Racing Xstra.

The last of these was dropped on the climb just prior to the first taste of dust with Asencio not lasting much longer. Demay managed to hold off the peloton for a while, looking strong on the white roads, but eventually got swallowed up as things in the bunch began to kick off.

As you’d expect, especially when the gravel was as loose and rough as the riders faced today, there were plenty of mechanical issues, which then lead to further chaos among support cars and riders chasing back on.

Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig had to perform an impressively swift wheel swap with teammate Vittoria Guazzini. Kasia Niewiadoma punctured. Annemiek van Vleuten had issues and got held up by riders struggling around her early on.

It was UAE ADQ’s Mavi García that suffered the most though, oh Mavi what a day. Mechanical after mechanical, constantly fighting back on and then the unthinkable.

She was taken out and nearly run over by her own team car while chasing back on, sliding several metres across the gravel. That was the day and the GC battle (for sixth overall) over, as she ended up coming home battered and bruised over a minute and a half down on her rivals.

Ahead the battle for the polka dots went on as Canyon-SRAM’s Elise Chabbey continued to fight for the points and Mischa Bredewold, teammate of current QOM Femke Gerritse, just about held her off to save a point, with Chabbey four down on Gerritse.

It was SD Worx who would try to take the stage on with their team highly experienced on the Strade Bianche, including this year’s winner Lotte Kopecky and 2018 victor Anna van der Breggen in the car, pushing hard.

Swiss time-trial specialist Marlen Reusser was the rider given daylight though, and once she found it there was no looking back. The impressive Reusser, normally reduced to a domestique for her team leaders this week, powered away to a famous victory.

A group of three in FDJ’s Évita Muzic, Canyon-SRAM’s Alena Amialiusik and EF Education-TIBCO-SVB’s Veronica Ewers fought hard to catch Reusser but came home 1:24 behind, with the peloton led by yellow jersey Marianne Vos just 16 seconds behind them.

As you can imagine, the gallery from Russ Ellis (Cycling Images) today is absolutely incredible:

Ugh it’s just so beautiful.

It might be hell for the riders but it’s heaven as a viewer. What a blessing to be able to watch races like this.

It’s even tough for teams of cyclocross riders like Plantur-Pura, though Belgian national champ Kim De Baat is one of the team’s non-’crossers.

Who needs Strade Bianche?

Marlen Reusser looked incredibly strong.

It’s no surprise that someone with her TT prowess would successfully make a solo move so easily.

Kasia Niewiadoma, third on GC, tried to put the pressure on late in the race but couldn’t get a gap to stick.

It was another tough day out for Annemiek van Vleuten, who told reporters yesterday that she’s been struggling with illness, but no more time was lost on this stage.

Lovely to see a Time bike in the peloton. And those EF colours were looking superb today too.

Now she’s bagged a victory, expect Reusser to be on big time domestique duty the rest of the way.

In contrast, Spanish national champion Mavi García had a day to forget. Don't be too surprised if she switches teams soon after getting taken out by her own support car.

Can't imagine the dust blown up from the motorbikes helps the situation.

Is this Unbound?

How good is this one?

Despite being one of SD Worx's team leaders, Demi Vollering did a lot of pushing from the front today. Luckily she's got one of, if not the, longest stages of her life tomorrow to recover.

Elisa Balsamo's World Champion setup looks incredible on the white roads. She had to lend her bike to Elisa Longo Borghini late on though, so her compatriot cheekily got to ride with the rainbow bands.

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