TOUR DE FRANCE FEMMES 2023 | STAGE 7 | LANNEMEZAN > TOURMALET BAGNÈRES-DE-BIGORRE
The queen stage of the Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift 2023 saw an all out battle over the Pyrenean summits. Annemiek van Vleuten (Movistar) already put the hammer down up Col d’Aspin, to try and wear down her rivals, but she couldn’t repeat her one-woman-show from last year, with Kasia Niewiadoma (Canyon//Sram) throwing everything she had in this fight, before Demi Vollering (SD Worx) surged on the iconic ascent of the Tourmalet. Through the mist, the Dutch star covered the last 5 kilometres on her own to open significant gaps on the line: 1’58” to Niewiadoma and 2’34” to Van Vleuten. Vollering also takes the Maillot Jaune on the eve of the closing ITT in Pau.
The higher summits of the Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift 2023 lie ahead of the 130 riders starting from Lannemezan (after they finished inside the GC top-10 last year, Elisa Longo Borghini and Veronica Ewers don’t start due to physical issues). And many riders are inspired according to the flurry of attacks on the way to the first ascent of the day, up to Col d’Aspin.
With an average of 41.6km/h all the way to km 48, Margot Pompanon (St Michel-Mavic-Auber93) and Susanne Andersen (Uno X) are the last attackers to be reeled right at the bottom of the climb.
VAN VLEUTEN OPENS UP THE BATTLE
Annemiek van Vleuten’s Movistar immediately set a strong pace that wears down the peloton. And the winner of the Tour 2022 puts the hammer down with 5km to go to the summit of the cat-1 ascent up Col d’Aspin (12km at 6.5%). Only Demi Vollering (SD Worx) and Kasia Niewiadoma (Canyon//Sram) can accompany her. At the summit, Lotte Kopecky, Marlen Reusser (SD Worx), Ashleigh Moolman Pasio (AG Insurance-Soudal Quick-Step), Juliette Labous (DSM-Firmenich), Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig, Marta Cavalli (FDJ-Suez), Ane Santesteban (Jayco-AlUla), Amanda Spratt (Lidl-Trek) trail by 45”.
Niewiadoma accelerates on the downhill towards the final ascent of the day. Vollering and Van Vleuten look at each other. They’re eventually caught by the chasers, while Niewiadoma keeps pushing. She faces the HC ascent to Col du Tourmalet with a lead of 45”.
VOLLERING FLIES THROUGH THE MIST
With Reusser setting the pace, the gap drops down to 5” with 12km to go. But the Swiss powerhouse is done with her work, and the gap increases again, up to 35” for the last 10km. Labous tries to attack several times. Vollering, Van Vleuten, Moolman Pasio and Kopecky match her moves.
Vollering eventually attacks with 5.5km to go. And nobody can react. Niewiadoma is caught 500 metres later and the Polich attacker can’t keep up with the pace set but the Dutch climber.
Through the mist, Vollering never looks back. And she celebrates an iconic success with significant gaps: 1’58” to Niewiadoma, 2’34” to Van Vleuten, 2’43” to Moolman Pasio, 2’46” to Labous and 3’32” to Kopecky, who gives her Maillot Jaune to Vollering on the eve of the final ITT, in Pau.
DEMI VOLLERING: “I WENT FULL GAS AND NEVER LOOKED BACK”
“In the team, we said: ‘Let’s not talk about seconds, let’s make it minutes.’ I wanted to take as much time as possible and I’m happy I did it for my team. They kept saying: ‘You’ll set things straight on the Tourmalet.’ But I told them, it’s one thing to say it but I need to do it, and I was a bit nervous. I know they said it because they truly believe in me and that gives me a lot fo strength. I told Annemiek [van Vleuten] it was not up to me to ride with her because I had teammates behind, and if the girls wanted to drop Lotte [Kopecky], then it was up to them. At one point, I felt it and I just went. With the mist, I knew that if I opened a gap quickly, then they wouldn’t be able to see me. I went full gas and never looked back. When I crossed the line, I was just happy that it was over, that I had made it happen.”
CÉDRINE KERBAOL : “I BUILT CONFIDENCE IN MYSELF”
“It’s the stage I was waiting for, but also the stage I feared. My direct rival [Ella Wyllie] was very, very strong on the climbs today. But I built confidence in myselfand I figured: ‘Do as you always do, find your pace like in time trial and you’ll come back.’ The third time she attacked, she put a harder pace. I tried to be not too far. I had a lead of 2’45”, I tried to control my losses, and I still have 2 minutes.”
KASIA NIEWIADOMA: “DEMI SHOWED HOW STRONG SHE IS”
“On the climb, I could see that Demi [Vollering] didn’t want to work with Annemiek [van Vleuten] so I knew that they would look at each other and I decided to take my chance on the downhill, go quite fast and see if I would be able to go. It was a perfect scenario. I heard at the bottom of the Tourmalet that the chasers got back together so that wasn’t ideal but I just rode my pace and tried to stay in my zone. I was just hoping they would be looking at each other more and I could get more time. But Demi showed how strong she is when she passed me. Somehow on the first stages, I knew I would get the polka-dot jersey. I was the only favourite scoring points here and there, so I had a feeling it was gonna be mine. I definitely believed I would get the victory! But I often come 2nd or 3rd … Maybe I need to come to terms with that [she laughs].”
LOTTE KOPECKY: “THE CHANCE OF MY LIFE TO GET ON THE PODIUM OF THE TOUR”
“This is why we came here, to win the Tour with Demi [Vollering]! And I think the way she did it, she showed she is the best. I wanted to enjoy my last day in yellow … But it was pretty painful [she laughs]. I just went all out and we wanted to see where I could get. Now I’m less than 10 seconds behind Annemiek [van Vleuten] … So tomorrow, one last day full gas, and maybe I can be on the podium of the Tour! Winning the green jersey is also something that won’t happen every year. I’d like to say I’ll enjoy it tomorrow but I will go full gas. This is the chance of my life to get on the podium of the Tour! One last day and then it will be recovery mode.”