TOUR DE FRANCE FEMMES 2023 | STAGE 5 | ONET-LE-CHÂTEAU > ALBI
At 23 years old, Ricarda Bauernfeind (Canyon//Sram) delivered a stunning performance to take the solo victory in Albi on day 5 of the Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift. After a furious battle over the first climbs of the day, the young German champ attacked with 36 kilometres to go. And nobody was able to come back to her as she soloed her way to the greatest victory of her young career. Marlen Reusser (SD Worx) and Liane Lippert (Movistar) round out the stage top 3 after they escaped the peloton in the final kilometres.
Lotte Kopecky (SD Worx) was the fastest from the bunch as she retained the Maillot Jaune on a day also marked by the withdrawal of her teammate Lorena Wiebes. Stage 6 will offer a new battle between sprinters and attackers ahead of the final fireworks for the overall standings this week-end.
A 140-woman peloton sets off from Onet-le-Château without Lorena Wiebes (SD Worx), winner of three stages of the Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift, whose team reports she suffers stomach issues. Mie Bjorndal Ottestad (Uno X) and Jenny Rissveds (Coop-Hitec Products) are non-starters as well. And the relentless pace from the start quickly leads to three abandons of riders weakened by several physical issues: Kaja Rysz (Lifeplus Wahoo), Gabrielle Pilote Fortin (Cofidis) and Évita Muzic (FDJ-Suez), who finished 8th in last year’s edition.
AN ALL OUT BATTLE ALL DAY LONG
Eleven riders try to get away: Paula Patiño (Movistar), Mischa Bredewold (SD Worx), Amber Kraak (Jumbo-Visma), Olivia Baril (UAE Team ADQ), Loes Adegeest (FDJ-Suez), Justine Ghekiere (AG Insurance-Soudal Quick-Step), Claire Steels (Israel Premier Tech Roland), Hannah Ludwig (Uno X), Clara Koppenburg (Cofidis), Ella Wyllie (Lifeplus Wahoo) and Clara Emond (Arkea).
But the peloton is not willing to let them go and a huge battle ensues over a rolling terrain, much more demanding than the speeds suggest. The attackers cover 42.4 kilometres in the first hour but their lead never gets higher than 50″. They’re eventually caught on the slopes up the first categorised climb, the cat-3 Côte de Najac (summit at km 74.9). Some 40 riders remain at the front due to the relentless pace.
Yara Kastelijn (Fenix-Deceuninck) chases the QOM points in Najac and on the next climb as well, the cat-3 Côte de Laguépie (km 85.2). Then Ricarda Bauernfeind (Canyon//Sram) attacks at km 90. Claire Steels (Israel Premier Tech Roland) tries to follow and comes 2nd at the Bonus point, with Ashleigh Moolman Pasio (AG Insurance-Soudal Quick-Step) sprinting to the 3rd position.
Bauernfeind pushes her advantage, up to 1’30″ as she summits the cat-4 Côte de Monestiés just inside the last 25km. She then tries to resist the bunch. Her lead is down to 38″ with 10 km to go… But she maintains a gap of 37″ with 5km to go.
Marlen Reusser (SD Worx) and Liane Lippert (Movistar) get away from the bunch in the finale but it’s too late to get back to Bauernfeind, who maintains a gap of 22″ on the line. Lotte Kopecky (SD Worx) dominates the sprint in the bunch and retains the Maillot Jaune.
RICARDA BAUERNFEIND: “IT’S JUST INCREDIBLE”
“To be honest, I can’t believe it, it’s just incredible. I had the support from my teammates, from the car behind, all the partners… Everyone helped me and supported us. It was an incredible team ride. First we had to chase the breakaway because we didn’t have anyone there. My teammates did a fantastic job. Then, it was up to me, I tried to attack and it worked out. It’s fantastic. As a team, we waited for such a win all year, and now we did it.
A few years ago, I made the decision to focus on my studies. I wanted to become a teacher. Then there was the pandemics, I did a lot of Zwift to stay in form. When I stopped, it was because I had lost a bit of fun, I was always pressuring myself. Then I got the opportunity to join Canyon//Sram Generation. They focus on developing the riders without pressure. It was the best step for me. And now I’m here with Canyon Sram.”
CÉDRINE KERBAOL: “IT WAS VERY FAST ALL DAY”
“Mentally, it was really intense. Even in the neutral start, the whole peloton started to rub shoulders. I was behind the car, normally I was safe but I got pushed straight away! There was a lot of tension. I told my teammates: ‘Be careful, when the flag goes up, something is going to happen. It didn’t miss.’ The bunch split in several groups… The 2nd in the best young rider classification [Ella Wyllie] was in the breakaway. We were not too worried, there was a maximum gap of 45″. But we said to ourselves that at some point we would have to bridge the gap. Sandra |Alonso] rode a lot, then Canyon//Sram took over as well. It came back on a climb, it was very intense, it was very fast all day. When Bauernfeind attacked, I was a little more focused on Ella Wyllie, because she had also tried to put in attacks. I was playing it safe. I wanted to try something in the sprint. But without a teammate, it was complicated to position myself.”
LOTTE KOPECKY: “IT’S DEFINITELY NOT THE BEST DAY FOR US”
“I think I was the reason why nobody wanted to chase! It’s a missed opportunity but I can’t ask Demi [Vollering] to start pulling the bunch. In the end, the general classification is the most important thing, we don’t want to waste energy we will need later on. And it’s also nice that the women who attack also get a reward. It’s definitely not the best day for us. Losing Lorena [Wiebes] was not nice to start the day. And Demi receiving a 20″ penalty is bullshit I think. If you get dropped, I think it’s normal, but if you have a mechanical, it happens all the time.”