To the surprise of no one, Team SD Worx-Protime dominated stage 1 of the Tour de France Femmes Avec Zwift, setting up Lotte Kopecky for an attack on the only classified climb of the day. The Belgian national champion went clear with just under 10 km to go and soloed to the finish for a first Tour stage win of her career, and the yellow jersey with it.
- It was a carefully controlled day with no real chance for a breakaway to establish itself, though a handful tried – Marta Lach (Ceratizit-WNT) managed the largest gap of almost a minute, but with the intermediate sprint approaching, her solo move was in vain.
- The first meaningful bullet point of the day was at the intermediate sprint where Lizzie Deignan (Lidl-Trek) took max points – no bonus seconds available – from a compact bunch. There were a couple of attempts to jump away as the road continued to rise slightly, but the bigger teams kept the race together and the pace high with the first classified climb to come.
- Topping out about 9 km from the line, The Côte de Durtol (1.7 km at 7.3%) was a cruel sting in the tail of the stage, and with SD Worx-Protime in control of the pace, the peloton was reduced to less than 25 riders, seeing off favourites including Marianne Vos (Jumbo-Visma) on the steep gradients.
- Lotte Kopecky attacked in the last 500 metres of the climb and quickly got a sizeable gap over what became a ten-rider chase group, made up mostly of GC favourites. Her teammate Demi Vollering was among them, and as Kopecky’s gap grew to over half a minute, the Women’s WorldTour leader worked as a parachute at the front of the second group on the road. And by the finishing straight, the group had grown as dropped riders caught back on.
- The Belgian national champion finished 41 seconds ahead of the swollen bunch, where Lorena Wiebes won the sprint to make it an SD Worx 1-2, with Charlotte Kool (DSM-Firmenich) best of the rest in third.
- Stage 1 presented the perfect scenario for Vollering who only briefly imposed herself on the first classified climb of the race, before waiting up and keeping things steady with her teammate up the road. While everyone else tried to bring Kopecky back – not just hoping for a stage win, but also perhaps thinking to days ahead and an opportunity to take the yellow jersey off SD Worx – Vollering only had to mark her rivals and save her matches for the harder and more GC-favoured stages to come. With Kopecky now leading the Tour by 45 seconds over teammate Wiebes, and Vollering on the same time as the majority of her key GC rivals 53 seconds back, will the yellow jersey ever leave the SD Worx bus?
Quote of the day
Lotte Kopecky admitted she had her eye on the first stage and the yellow jersey, but with so many potential winners at SD Worx, there’s also an element of improvisation on the go.
“We had two strategies because we had Lorena – if she could get over the climb we would go for Lorena in the bunch sprint,” Kopecky said. “But I also had my chance to go and they gave me this chance – I’m happy for the team SD Worx that I could finish it off.”
Both Vollering and Kopecky were asked about the team’s relentless success this season, not just on the top step of the podium, but often one step lower too.
“In the team, we are really laughing about it,” said Kopecky, acknowledging Wiebes’s second-place finish on stage 1. “We don’t understand it ourselves – so many races we are 1 and 2. This year we have a super strong and super good team together. It’s super nice to race like this.”
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