The 2023 Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift took a bow with a 22.6 km individual time trial in Pau. The stage was won by European ITT champion Marlen Reusser in an SD Worx 1-2-3, with Demi Vollering and Lotte Kopecky joining the Swiss star on the stage podium.
With Vollering winning overall, the team also secured the top two steps of the GC podium as Kopecky flew through the course to overhaul not just Annemiek van Vleuten, but also edging ahead of Kasia Niewiadoma who earned a much-deserved third-place finish for the second year in a row.
- U23 ITT world champion Vittoria Guazzini set the early benchmark of 30:36, which stood for almost 90 minutes. The first rider to break her time was the Italian’s FDJ-Suez teammate Grace Brown, but the Australian national champion didn’t even have time to catch her breath before Marlen Reusser took 40 seconds out of her marker.
- Reusser’s time-trial effort was not without incident. About 12 km into the course, the European champion was held up by the team vehicle of the rider ahead of her on the fast descent just after the intermediate time check, which she flew through almost half a minute faster than the previous best time. She will have lost a handful of seconds waiting for the road to clear, but she was soon on her way again – after admonishing the careless driver – and set about increasing her advantage in the fast run-in.
- In the GC competition, while Vollering’s cushion of 1:50 looked pretty safe, the lower steps of the podium were up for grabs with four riders within a minute of second place. Niewiadoma had 38 seconds to defend from Olympic and two-time ITT world champion Van Vleuten, who herself had Kopecky breathing down her neck 7 seconds down, with Ashleigh Moolman Pasio not far off either. The time check provided an early indication of what the overall podium would look like, and with the top two holding firm, there was clearly going to be a change on the third step as Kopecky flew through the course, going 31 seconds faster than Van Vleuten at the halfway point and setting the third-best time on the stage.
Quotes of the day
The words ‘I’m speechless’ are often heard from the mouths of athletes, invariably before they find a stream of words to describe, often quite eloquently, how happy they are. Though Vollering was eventually able to find the words, her hesitance in front of the mic would have earned this clichéd sentiment, and why not? She’d just won the Tour de France Femmes.
“I think I still cannot believe it,” Vollering said after wrapping up overall victory.
“Of course, I worked hard, but it’s just not only working hard, it’s believing in it,” she continued when asked about her long-term preparation. “I don’t know, it’s so much together and in the end, you have a dream and you work really hard for it but you need to keep yourself a bit calm. You need to find good balance in your life also: how to do it, to keep it going and find a relaxed way to do all this.
“I think this year I feel really comfortable and good in what I’m doing. Together with [coach and DS] Anna van der Breggen – she makes my trainings – I feel like everything comes together and, yeah, it’s just an amazing season for me.”
After a confident performance on Saturday’s queen stage, Vollering was surprised by how she felt before the final day’s TT.
“Actually I was super relaxed this morning and that made me a bit nervous because I was so relaxed I was like ‘oh, I need to wake up’ because you also need to have those nerves for a time trial because otherwise it’s not good. In the end, if you have those nerves you can really dig deep also, it makes you sharp, so this morning I was at first really relaxed and then I got a bit nervous that I was so relaxed and then the nerves came a bit and it was all good in the end.”
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When one of your title sponsors is a biscuit company …
The champ chillin’ in the hot seat.
It was a valiant effort for the defending champion on the Tour’s final weekend, but in the end it wasn’t to be for Annemiek van Vleuten.
- Our on-the-ground team were on the summit of the Col du Tourmalet yesterday, giving them a front row seat to the atmosphere that was at once eerie and festive. Matt de Neef provided a peek inside the circus that is a Tour de France mountain-top stage finish…
- Abby Mickey gave some insight into ‘when second feels like a win’, celebrating the career-high performance of Kasia Niewiadoma…
- And the inimitable Kate Wagner told the story of the stage as only she can.
- Away from the Tour de France Femmes, British Cycling’s unique track bike has had a suitably mind-boggling update in advance of the Paris Olympics. Look out for the wacky frame at the World Championships next week…
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