Van Vleuten (Mitchelton-Scott) and van der Breggen (Boels-Dolmans) have a bit of a rivalry, always likely to come up when two riders go head-to-head so often for the victory at big races. The pair have swapped the limelight of the top step in the past few seasons, but this race was perhaps the most dramatic of all.
Cresting the summit of the Col de la Colombiere with a 10 second advantage on van Vleuten after attacking on the upper slopes of the climb, it looked like van der Breggen would take a famous win as she held her gap on the descent into Grand Bornand.
The pair raced so hard on the descent that they left Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio, who was third over the top of the climb only a few seconds behind van Vleuten for dead, putting over a minute into the South African over the final 14 kilometres of downhill racing.
However, the winner of Liege-Bastogne-Liege and Fleche Wallonne ran out of legs on the final rise to the finish line, allowing a dogged van Vleuten to surge past in the final 20 metres to win the stage by a single second.
"Last year was nice, but this was a race," said van Vleuten. "With 200 metres to go I thought I got second, but then I saw her dying. To win like this... I know I'm in good shape but Anna van der Breggen is also a really good cyclist. It was a really tough ride, but beautiful."
"I could have given up with 500 metres to go, but I kept going. Always that everything is possible. This one was really beautiful. Together with the Giro Rosa last week and this one.. it is really high on my wishlist."
For the near victor, it was a tough loss to take, especially after getting so close to the finishing line in the lead of the race.
"It is not a feeling I like, but that is also racing," said van der Breggen. "For me, it has been a long time since I did long climbs like this. I felt quite good, but at the end I got into difficulties.
"I did not expect this difficulty at the end, and I just could not stand up on the pedals any more. If you have something like that in the downhill, you can carry over some speed, and it is OK, but that last uphill was just too much for me. I was really empty at the end."
Amanda Spratt (Mitchelton-Scott) entered van Vleuten's post-race interview to deliver a resounding high-five to the winner after finishing eighth herself.
Perhaps the most emotional was Cecile Uttrup Ludwig (Cervelo-Bigla), who gave a no-filter interview that laid bare her emotions after finishing the grueling race. She entreated viewers to get more women's cycling into their watching habits.
"We just showed how good women's cycling is. People out there should watch more women's cycling please!"
The race also featured a few debutants at the high-profile race, with Aussies Grace Brown and Macey Stewart (both Wiggle-High5) both excited to compete in the widely seen event.