Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio wins 2023 Tour des Pyrénées opener

Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio won the opening stage of the Tour des Pyrénées, outsprinting Anna Henderson and Loes Adegeest at the final in Lourdes. The race got underway with a 129km stage that didn’t feature the major climbing that will come tomorrow but still had enough in there to split up the peloton. There was also neutralisation and full stoppage of the race early on for 15 minutes as the race doctor had to leave the race convoy. The climbs of Tournay (2.7km at 7.2%) and Loucrup (1.3km at 4.3%) were raced hard which negated the chances of pure sprinters and left only around 25 riders in the lead group.

An unfortunate touch of wheels saw Segolene Thomas crash, taking Yulia Biriukova down with her. Thomas was able to finish the stage but Biriukova DNFed and had to visit the hospital. FDJ-Suez had all 6 riders in there and using their numerical advantage they attacked over and over. Eventually, they got Jade Wiel to go clear and she was only reeled back in with around 2km left to race. The efforts of Jumbo-Visma in particular were instrumental in closing down the move.

They were working for Anna Henderson who appeared to be the fastest rider on paper for a finish like this. A final late FDJ-Suez attack from Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig was closed back and the final move from Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio was enough to cross the line first and take the South African’s first win since Durango Durango last month.

Safety Concerns

Aside from the race win, there were plenty of safety issues with today’s stage. Numerous times earlier in the stage moving traffic was seen on one part of the road, with no clear stoppage in place by marshalls. That led the peloton to have to drift across at late notice as the available road surface narrowed. This was seen repeatedly as cars seemed to get through any rolling roadblock that was in place.

It all came to a head in Lourdes where a short lap around the city resulted in numerous near misses with traffic, with minimal areas fenced off or controlled by race marshalls. Cars on side roads were spotted only stopping because of the traffic rather than any effort from the organisation as it was left to only one outrider.

During the earlier neutralisation, riders had complained to the race organisation – riders like Anna Henderson and Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio were seen speaking to Marion Clignet in the lead car.

The final kilometres saw close calls with a coach, cars about to turn on the race route, spectators walking on the road and worst of all, a car actually driving on the route that saw Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig have to race alongside in the heat of battle.

“We were together as a team and protecting each other in the first half. Then we had bad luck with Gaia sliding out, Lotta puncturing right after that and Britt crashing too. I ended up in the first group alone. On the penultimate climb I set the pace and FDJ-Suez who were represented with all six riders, attacked. I tried to cover all these moves and then I played it smart. Jade Wiel was not the biggest threat for tomorrow’s stage. I let her go and then Jumbo-Visma brought her back.

In Lourdes it was all really technical. Jolien [d’Hoore] had been very clear in the sprint preparation the day before in case Lotta was there but then she wasn’t. And I was. Jolien had put so much time in that preparation. She had so much confidence in me and guided me perfectly. I pulled it all off and that’s so satisfying. Everyone worked so hard and to reward that effort is great. We now have the queen stage to Hautacam ahead of us. I am sure we can defend this yellow jersey as a team.”

Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio

2023 Tour des Pyrénées Stage 1 result

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