Dutch rider Annemiek van Vleuten has won the Tour de France after she tamed the brutal ascent to La Super Planche des Belles Filles in the final stage to claim the overall victory.
Van Vleuten, 39, came under pressure midway through Sunday’s stage as she underwent mechanical issues that forced her to change her bike on three occasions.
The Movistar rider also faced several attacks by rival teams but she proved why she is the best climber as she accelerated away on the final ascent, sealing the overall title after crossing the finish line 30 seconds ahead of second-placed Demi Vollering.
“It’s a dream come true, winning in yellow on the top. Wow,” Van Vleuten said.
“It was not an easy stage and not an easy week. It’s been a super big rollercoaster for me.”
It was Olympic time trial champion Van Vleuten’s second stage win following her climbing masterclass in the penultimate stage.
Vollering of SD Worx came second in the overall standings, nearly four minutes adrift of Van Vleuten, while Katarzyna Niewiadoma of Canyon-SRAM was third after eight days of intense racing since the start in Paris.
Grace Brown was the best placed Australian rider, in 20th place. Alexandra Manly was 41st and Ruby Roseman-Gannon 42nd.
On Saturday’s penultimate stage, Van Vleuten rose from eighth overall to take the yellow jersey from Marianne Vos.
Van Vleuten added this victory to a long list of achievements, including three Giro d’Italia titles, Olympic gold in time trial and two world championship golds in the same discipline.
Six years ago, her career was under threat after she sustained fractures to her spine and was placed in intensive care after crashing during the women’s Olympic road race at the Brazil Games.
Vos was among the favourites, but the three-time Giro d’Italia champion ended up in 26th place overall.
The Tour de France Femmes is the first time in 33 years that the best female racers have been given the chance to compete in a multi-stage version of the world’s greatest cycle race.
“I’m super proud to be the first winner of the Tour de France for women – of this new version,” Van Vleuten added.
“I hope it’s a big start for more, and we can build this event into an even bigger event. It’s a milestone to win the first one of hopefully many more.”