By VeloNews Interactive
Race leader Ina Teutenberg (Saturn) finally cracked on Friday’s eighth stage of the 18th Tour de l’Aude Cycliste Féminin in France, but teammate Judith Arndt was there to pick up the pieces, and now holds an overall lead of slightly more than a minute over Valentina Polkhanova (Itera) and Edita Pucinskaite (Figurella Dream Team) with just two days of racing remaining.
Teutenberg put Saturn in orbit early in the 10-stage race, winning the opening stage May 17 to take the leader’s yellow jersey, then adding another victory in stage 4.
In between, Polkhanova’s Itera squad claimed the second-stage time trial, with Saturn best of the rest, while Teutenberg lieutenant Catherine Marsal finished fastest in stage 3.
Teutenberg collected another win in the second half of the divided stage 5 on May 21, extending her lead to more than two minutes. And then Arndt came out to play in stage 6 around the town of Castelnaudary, winning the 32km individual time trial in what team director Giana Roberge called “apocalyptic weather.”
Teutenberg, better known as a sprinter, turned in a gritty performance to retain her leader’s jersey — she finished fourth aboard Marsal’s LeMond time-trial bike — as her victorious teammate vaulted into the runner-up spot on GC, just 1:20 back.
The overall contenders were content to watch each other in the seventh stage, won by Sarah Symington (British National) in honor of her teammate Sue Carter, injured in an earlier crash.But in stage 8, the race entered the Pyrénées for a 120km stage with two serious climbs, and the mountaineers made their move — the win went to Pucinskaite, ahead of Polkhanova and Arndt, while Teutenberg lost nearly five minutes on the day and surrendered her leader’s jersey to Arndt.
Just two stages remain: Friday’s 114km jaunt from Quillan to Limoux, and the 107km finale from Saint-Hilaire to Limoux, 107 km.