50 km from the longest stage of the race, an incident on a straight stretch of road between Bar-le-Luc and Saint-die-des-Vosges quickly turned into a huge accident which saw half the peloton off their bikes.
With dozens of people involved, it took several minutes for riders to disentangle each other’s bikes.
Many riders suffered bumps and bruises, with SD Worx’s Chantal van den Broek-Blaak having to have her right arm bandaged by medical staff in the team car as she rode and the former national champion Italian Marta Bastianelli fighting tears to keep going.
However, the massive pile-up spelled the death knell for Emma Norsgaard’s run from Movistar after she was forced to retire with the injuries she sustained.
Former British racing cyclist Dani Christmas said these things can happen on long stretches of road.
“If you’re too relaxed, if the riders aren’t focused, crashes can happen. The speed in the peloton must have been so high for so many riders to be impacted.”
And at the end of the 175.6km stage, the longest in modern Women’s World Tour history, Team DSM’s Lorena Wiebes finished first.
The Dutch rider, also winner of the shortest stage of the Tour de France Women on Sunday, showed why she is the best sprinter at the moment, while world champion Elisa Balsamo came second and Marianne Vos third.
However, Vos’s four bonus seconds allowed him to extend his overall lead to 20 seconds.