Elisa Longo Borghini (Trek-Segafredo) was caught in no man’s land for more than 100km in a fight to hold on to third place but was caught by the chasing group and finished seventh almost seven minutes behind the winner of stage Annemiek van Vleuten (Movistar) . She was forced to give up her aspirations for a podium in the Women’s Tour de France with Zwift.
“I’m completely exhausted. I’ve been alone for a very long time. For me, what really killed me was the valley and I tried my best, and that’s it. In the end, if you have do your best, that’s all you can do. I really did my best,” Longo Borghini said at the finish line at the Markstein.
Longo Borghini found herself alone after trying to chase the two leaders of the day Van Vleuten and Demi Vollering (SD Worx) on the Petit Ballon, the first of three 127 km stage 7 climbs to Le Markstein.
Van Vleuten was suffering from a stomach ache which she said started after the opening stage in Paris. She tested negative for COVID-19 but said she continued to feel unwell during Stage 3 in Épernay. Her Movistar team hoped she would recover in the week leading up to the final two mountain stages.
If there was any doubt about Van Vleuten’s health, she put them aside, with a commanding solo performance on the first of two days in the Vosges that earned her stage 7 victory and the yellow jersey.
“We all knew she was the strongest. I didn’t believe for a second that she wasn’t good,” Longo Borghini said.
Longo Borghini said that mentally she felt capable of chasing Van Vleuten and Vollering, but physically, she said, “my legs weren’t working”.
His solo pursuit ended after a long effort through the valley to the Grand Ballon, the last ascent of the day. “It was a hundred kilometer time trial. I just couldn’t stop. The valley killed me and I climbed the final climb – it’s cycle racing.”
Longo Borghini now sits seventh overall 6:15 a.m. behind race leader Van Vleuten as the race heads into the final of stage 8 which ends on Sunday atop La Super Planche des Belles Filles.
Trek-Segafredo manager Ina Teutenberg sees no opportunity for a stage win, and a similar scenario will likely play out with Van Vleuten overtaking his opponents on three more major climbs on Stage 8. ‘Annemiek wants to win stage 8 in yellow, so I think it will be difficult for anyone else, to be honest.