Lorena Wiebes (SD Worx-Protime) won a furious bunch sprint to take stage 3 of the Tour de France Femmes over Marianne Vos (Jumbo-Visma). The pack caught the day’s long solo breakaway, by Fenix-Deceuninck’s Julie Van de Velde, just 100 meters from the line. Yellow jersey Lotte Kopecky led out Wiebes and keeps firm control of the race lead.
- After an early move with EF Education-TIBCO-SVB’s Kathrin Hammes was brought back, Van de Velde struck out with 59 km to go in a solo move that looked as futile as it was bold. With few climbs and a flat run-in to the finish, most expected the race to come back together. But the chase, led mostly by DSM-Firmenich, proved unable to close the gap to under 20 seconds, and with five km to go the gap went back out slightly. But SD Worx’s late effort brought the gap down considerably, and the fast-closing field finally swept around Van de Velde just shy of the line.
- In no surprise, Van de Velde was awarded the Most Combative prize, but that will be small consolation for missing out on a career-making stage win at a race like the Tour. With the catch, the women’s peloton continues a streak where no long breakaway has been successful in one of the three “Grand Tours” this year. Van de Velde’s haul on the climbs puts her just slightly in the lead in the Queen of the Mountains standings, with one point more than teammate Yara Kastelijn.
- Another streak was kept alive: Wiebes has now won at least one stage in every stage race she’s started this year. SD Worx has taken two of three Tour stages so far, and today’s victory marks a jaw-dropping 50th win so far this season, as the team continues to dominate women’s road racing.
- The final part of the stage featured a clear chess match between the teams of the two best sprinters in the race: Charlotte Kool’s DSM and Wiebes’ SD Worx. DSM led much of the chase without SD Worx contributing, but even with several riders on the front didn’t manage to pull the gap to Van de Velde down below 20 seconds and, with five km to go it had actually increased again to around 30 seconds. DSM looked out of numbers and out of gas, when SD Worx stepped in and upped the pace. The bluff worked perfectly, much to DSM’s dismay. “I spoke to them, they said they weren’t going to ride, we took it upon ourselves,” said Pfeiffer Georgi, part of Kool’s leadout. “In the end it didn’t work out but the whole team committed to our plan so we couldn’t do anything else.” With her leadout exhausted by the chase, Kool finished seventh on the day. The sprint battle will take a break for a stage or two, but Friday’s sixth stage looks likely to resume the tactical battles.
- Kopecky’s leadout of her teammate – while in yellow – underscores the cohesion at SD Worx. It’s absolutely a broken record at this point, but no other team in the women’s peloton is able to dictate the action quite like them. It’s hard to think of another team that could singlehandedly close a 30-second gap in five kilometers, and it’s yet another illustration of how completely they control almost every kind of stage if they want. Kopecky’s climbing right now is such that even on Wednesday’s long stage with several late ascents, she may be able to hold the race lead all the way to Saturday’s Tourmalet stage.
Stage 4 preview
This 177.1 km stage takes the peloton from Cahors to Rodez, near the Massif Centrale, in what is not only the longest day of racing on the 2023 Tour de France Femmes, but the longest for the women’s peloton this year. It’s a stage of two halves: the first largely flat and the second decidedly lumpy, with several significant climbs late. First, the Category 3 Côte des Colombies will soften the legs with 6.6km of climbing at 4.2% average, followed by the Category 2 Côte de Moyrazes (4.7km at 5.1%), with the summit just 15 km from the finish. Last but not least, the Category 3 Côte de Lavernhe makes up in steepness (7.1%) what it lacks in length (2.3km). It comes less than 10 km from the line. A late breakaway is certainly a possibility, but it’s also potentially a GC day, especially if a rider like Annemiek van Vleuten wants to assert her trademark aggressiveness.
- Stage 2 winner Liane Lippert waited a long time for her big win. Is this a breakthrough?
- Tamara Dronova is quietly lurking; why haven’t we heard much about her?
- Amy Pieters’ support team posted an update on the rider’s long recovery from her TBI.
What did you think of this story?