A breakaway rider once again foiled the sprinters on what seemed like an obvious sprint stage on Friday at the Tour de France Femmes, as Emma Norsgaard (Movistar) narrowly held on to win stage 6 in Blagnac.
The 24-year-old Dane was the last survivor of a three-rider move and she held out just enough to take the victory ahead of Charlotte Kool (DSM-Firmenich) and race leader Lotte Kopecky (SD Worx-Protime) on a stage that featured a few crashes in the final 60 km, including with around one kilometer to go. Nonetheless, there were no major changes in the GC battle on the day.
- Although the parcours made stage 6 a clear opportunity for the sprinters, that didn’t stop Agnieszka Skalniak-Sójka (Canyon-SRAM) from going on the attack with Sandra Alonso (Ceratizit-WNT). After all, the breakaway had already stunned the sprinters on the previous stage. Alonso dropped back after a few kilometers, but then Norsgaard decided to bridge up to the move and pulled back Alonso with her, ultimately making for a three-rider break.
- The peloton kept the group close for the entire day and the gap was down under a minute inside the last 20 km.
- There were multiple crashes inside the last 60 km. Veronica Ewers (EF Education-Tibco-SVB) and Yara Kastelijn (Fenix-Deceuninck) were among those crashing into a ditch in a pileup with around 50 km to go, and there was another crash in the bunch with a little more than 20 km to go. Finally, a big crash in the bunch with around a kilometer to go may have helped slow the chase.
- With the pack closing into within 15 seconds inside the final 2 km, Norsgaard and Skalniak-Sójka left Alonso behind and pressed on as a duo. In the last half kilometer, as the sprinters scrambled to reorganize the chase following the late crash, Norsgaard made a solo bid for the line.
- Behind Norsgaard, the fast finishers powered up to speed, zooming past Skalniak-Sójka, but there was no catching Norsgaard, who held on to take the win one second ahead of Kool.
- Yet again, the breakaway triumphed at the Tour de France Femmes, a race that has seen escapees outfox the peloton time and time again. For the second straight day, the sprinters were denied on a stage that seemed destined to end in a bunch kick.
- Norsgaard’s power was on display early on in the day when she bridged up to Skalniak-Sójka, and the trio out front worked well together for most of the afternoon despite having little breathing room. That remained true into the finale when it seemed like everything was set for the expected sprint finish, with DSM and Jumbo-Visma working hard at the front.
- The pack brought Norsgaard to within a handful of seconds in the last kilometer, but that small advantage was enough for Norsgaard to take all the way to the line. In so doing, she took a big step forward after what has been a very difficult past 12 months that started with Norsgaard breaking her collarbone at last year’s Tour. Friday’s win was one of the biggest yet in her young career.
- The stage was the final potential sprint day of the race, and thus the last opportunity for Kool, who had to settle for second. DSM will now have to look to climber Juliette Labous to vie for the squad’s first win of the race.
Stage 7 preview
It’s time for the climbers to come to the fore at the Tour de France Femmes. A short but challenging stage 7 will take the peloton over the Category 1 Col d’Aspin after the midway point of the stage, and then it will finish on the hors categorie Col du Tourmalet. At 17.2 km with a 7.3 percent average gradient, it will almost certainly see major gaps among the finishers and it will have a huge impact on the overall battle.
Quote of the day
“I’m lost for words really. It’s been a really difficult start of the year,” said an emotional Norsgaard after her victory. “I want to thank everyone around me. My family, husband, the team, for still believing in me after being out the whole spring. Yeah, I’m super emotional, I’m sorry – this is the biggest victory ever – I’m so, so happy.”
She also noted that despite her talents as a fast finisher, she decided to try her luck in the break given recent results, a decision that paid off in the end.
“I think I’m not a sprinter anymore. I have realized I might be fast but I cannot keep up with the real sprinters,” she said. “I took a chance today and reached for the stars. Here we are.”
SD Worx-Protime boss Danny Stam was thrown off the race for dangerous driving on stage 5.
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