“Oh my god, thank you!”, says Liane Lippert, still catching her breath as she embraces her team leader, Annemiek van Vleuten. The pair are standing astride their bikes amid a thick crowd of team staff and media personnel, just past the finish line in Mauriac. “Wow!” Van Vleuten replies as the two separate. “So deserved!”
Moments earlier, Lippert had sprinted to the biggest win of her career on stage 2 of the Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift, a breakout win that was years in the making.
It’s been more than three whole seasons since Lippert’s only other WorldTour win: an impressive solo victory in heavy rain at the 2020 Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race. The years since have been defined by a multitude of near-misses. Not including two German road race titles in 2022 and 2023, Lippert had reached the podium 18 times since that Cadel’s Race win, without taking another victory. Take her 2023 season, for example.
Second in her first race of the year, the Vuela CV Feminas. Top-10s at Strade Bianche, Dwars door Vlaanderen, and Liége-Bastogne-Liége. Podiums at Brabantse Pijl and Flèche Wallonne. Another two podiums at the Giro d’Italia Donne as Van Vleuten rampaged to overall victory.
Sure, she won a German road title this past June, but that big, WorldTour win has proved frustratingly elusive. Until today.
“I’ve been waiting so long for a win and to win at the Tour de France, yeah, I think I couldn’t wish for more,” Lippert said.
Crashing in the neutral zone wasn’t the ideal start to Lippert’s day. And she’d touch down again several hours later, with 48 km to go in the stage. But on a tough day that was defined by patchy rain and a bunch of crashes, Lippert never looked in trouble. She looked comfortable on the day’s final climb, as SD Worx began to assert its dominance, as it’s done so often this season.
“Our tactic was actually to see what will SD Worx do on the climb and how will the pace be,” Lippert said in her post-race press conference. “The girls did really well positioning me and I felt really good and in control on this final climb.”
In the final kilometre that followed that ascent, Lippert glued herself to the wheel of overall leader and stage 1 winner, Lotte Kopecky. And when Lippert stepped out into the wind with 150 metres to go on the uphill drag to the line, no one could come around her.
Van Vleuten is hopeful this success will pave the way for more from her 25-year-old teammate.
“Now maybe she will believe more in herself and also the kind of finishes she can do – finishes like this, and also after a hard race,” Van Vleuten said. “I knew that she was super strong. [Sometimes] when you start winning … I think she will not stop.”
The pairing of Lippert and Van Vleuten has been an intriguing one all season – the pair’s first on the same team after Lippert joined Movistar this year. Lippert shone (without major success) in the Spring Classics while Van Vleuten looked a long way from her best. When stage race season kicked off, Lippert had to focus more of her energy on riding for Van Vleuten’s GC ambitions, while still taking the opportunities she could.
But the balance seems to be working well. And if anything, sharing leadership duties with the all-conquering world champion has helped Lippert.
“It’s great to have this last year together with Annemiek,” she said. “I mean, it also takes a bit of pressure away from me for this year. And I think that we can combine our cards well. I would say that I’m a really different rider than her. I’m more punchy, for example, [which] I showed today and she’s more on the long climbs.”
Lippert was told in the Movistar team meeting before today’s stage 2 that she would have an opportunity in the sprint, if the race came down to a select bunch. But she’s very clear about the bigger picture this week.
“We all know the biggest goal is to win the GC with Annemiek,” she said. “So for sure, we sometimes have to step back for our own cards, but that’s OK with everyone. Because in the end if you win the GC, and you are together on the podium – like in the Giro – it’s just an awesome moment.
“If it’s like today that I still get my chance, I’m really happy about the team that they also give me this chance. But I’m also having no problem to go back into working mode after now getting this from the team. I’m happy and grateful.”
That would explain Lippert’s words of thanks to Van Vleuten past the finish line. Gratitude that her team leader gave her the freedom to contest the stage win, in a Tour where Van Vleuten’s GC goals are paramount.
Now to see whether Van Vleuten is right. Whether one big victory is all Lippert needed to start winning a whole lot more.
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