TOUR DE FRANCE FEMMES 2023 | STAGE 6 | ALBI > BLAGNAC
Emma Norsgaard Bjerg (Movistar) was beautifully inspired by the previous attackers’ successes in the Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift 2023 as she powered to a thrilling success in Blagnac, at the end of a fast stage 6. The Dane is among the fastest riders in the bunch … and she decided to make the most of her raw power in the breakaway, joining Agnieszka Skalniak-Sojka (Canyon//Sram) and Sandra Alonso (Ceratizit-WNT) at the front of the race. The peloton almost came back … but for the third day in a row, an attacker claimed glory, as Charlotte Kool (DSM-Firmenich) dominated the sprint from the bunch and finished 2nd, 1″ behind the 24 year-old Dane, who celebrated her birthday on Wednesday. After a fast and furious six days of racing, the riders head into the decisive final week-end of the race, with a summit finish at Col du Tourmalet on Saturday and the Pau ITT on Sunday.
ANOTHER BREAK, OR A SPRINT?
After they saw breakaway riders succeed on days 4 and 5, many riders want to race aggressively. April Tacey (Lifplus Wahoo) is the first attacker to open a proper gap but she’s caught ahead of the first ascent of the day, the cat-4 Côte de la Cadène (summit at km 30.9).
Agnieszka Skalniak-Sojka (Canyon//Sram) sets off at km 29 and Sandra Alonso (Ceratizit-WNT) tries to follow her, unsuccessfully. Emma Norsgaard Bjerg (Movistar) attacks over the top, joins Alonso, and the two of them eventually get back to the Polish ITT national champion on the second ascent of the day, the cat-4 Côte de Puycelsi (km 51.3). The peloton trail by 2″. But more aggressive racing is about to unfold.
INTENSE RACING SEE KOOL TRAIL BEHIND
Lidl-Trek and FDJ-Suez are determined to get on the move, with several attacks from Amanda Spratt, Lizzie Deignan, Jade Wiel and Grace Brown. With a very hard pace on the Côte de Puycelsi and the following Côte du Clos Pourtié (cat. 4, km 58), the gap to the front trio drops down to 40″ and Charlotte Kool (DSM-Firmenich), one of the hot favourites of the day, is momentarily dropped.
Yara Kastelijn (Fenix-Deceuninck), leader of the QOM standings, and Veronica Ewers (EF Education-Tibco-SVB), a contender for the GC top 10, are involved in a crash with 49km to go. The polka-dot jersey quickly resumes racing while the American struggles to get back up but refuses to give up.
ANOTHER THRILLING FINALE
An intense battle is engaged between the front trio and the peloton, mostly led by Charlotte Kool’s DSM-Firmenich, Marianne Vos’ Jumbo-Visma and Chiara Consonni’s UAE Team ADQ. The gap is down to 45″ into the last 10 kilometres, and 18″ with 5 kilometres to go …
Norsgaard Bjerg ups the ante with 4km to go and Alonso is dropped. But Skalniak-Sojka is still up there and the gap is still up to 10″ with 1 kilometre to go! The Dane opens up her sprint with 400 metres to go. Her Polish companion is caught inside the last 100 metres but Norsgaard Bjerg manages to maintain a gap of 1″ to Charlotte Kool on the line!
EMMA NORSGAARD BJERG: “IT’S MY BIGGEST VICTORY EVER, I’M SO EMOTIONAL”
“I am lost for words, really. It’s been a very difficult start of the year. I want to thank everyone, my family, my husband, the team for believing in me after being out the whole spring. It’s my biggest victory ever, I’m so emotional, so happy. A few years ago, I might have gone for the sprint, but I need to realise that I’m not as fast Charlotte Kool or Lorena Wiebes anymore, and I need to find other ways to find success. This morning, when I woke up, I was like: ‘Oh no, another day where I have to work, another day where I have to suffer …’ I was in such a bad mood I needed three cups of coffee before anyone could speak to me. And then my sports director came to tell me about that plan of going in the breakaway. I was thinking: ‘Are you kidding me?’ Now I love him! Obviously the big goal is to win the GC with Annemiek [van Vleuten] and we truly believe she can finish it off. But it’s nice that we can also chase stage wins. I was so emotional when Liane [Lippert] won. It gave me a huge boost.”
YARA KASTELIJN: “I’M HAPPY THAT I DIDN’T LOSE POINTS”
“After my crash, in the beginning, it felt a bit bad. After 20-30 km, it was fine again. So normally it will be fine tomorrow, I hope so! I’m really happy that I didn’t lose points today, because Anouska [Koster] was not in a break. I am 4 points ahead of her, I will give everything tomorrow to keep the jersey. Here, I feel strong on the climbs. We will see tomorrow.”
LOTTE KOPECKY: “WINNING THE GREEN JERSEY OF THE TOUR IS A REALLY NICE THING”
“I don’t know why the break has won three times already in the Tour. Maybe we need to start and learn how to count. But the break was really strong, teams were fully chasing behind. Again, it went pretty fast and in the finale the breakaway was probably stronger. It’s really nice [to be out of reach in the points standings]. At the end of your career if you look back an can say you won the GJ of the Tour de France, it’s a really nice thing. We’ve won two stages, we’ve had the yellow jersey since the start. Now, we have one goal, so we hope we can help Demi [Vollering] tomorrow and hopefully she can finish it off and make big differences on the Tourmalet.”
AGNIESZKA SKALNIAK-SOJKA: “I WANTED TO FIGHT UNTIL THE END”
“For sure, I’m disappointed about the ending, but I’m happy about my performance today and how we ride as a team. What I can say? I’m happy with this red number for tomorrow, and tomorrow it will be a new day for us to fight for the win. From the car, they said that two riders were behind me, like 40″, I just kept going, and then they said it’s like 25″ so I waited for them on the climb. It’s easier to work with three than by myself. We rode full gas until the end, but Emma [Norsgaard Bjerg] was sitting on my wheel with like 1km to go. But I wanted to fight until the end, and they caught me 25m from the line. I think I gave my whole, it’s cycling, and it happens.”
CÉDRINE KERBAOL: “I’M EVEN MORE HUNGRY FOR TOURMALET”
“With 50km to go, we got thrown off road with the polka-dot jersey, so that was not nice but we quickly came back to the bunch. Then it was quite calm, we didn’t have to worry too much. Sandra [Alonso] was at the front, she did a very good job. I didn’t suffer too much from the crash, it’s just a bit of skin, so everything is good. There was another crash with 1km to go, around 15 riders went down but nobody from the team was involved. After crashing, I’m even more hungry for Tourmalet! It’s usually like that: when I crash, I want to smash everything on the next day. I look at as an uphill time trial, I’ll give it everything.”