The first stage of the 21st edition of the Tour Cycliste Féminin International de l’Ardèche offered a plethora of strategic twists and fierce competition, adding multiple layers of complexity to Daria Pikulik’s ultimate triumph.
The stage commenced gently, serving as a warm-up for the arduous seven-stage tour ahead. An early attack at the 7-kilometre mark was swiftly neutralised. By the first rush at 20 kilometres, Irish rider Lara Gillespie of UAE ADQ led the pack, followed by Silvia Zanardi and New Zealander Michaela Drummond of Team Farto-BTC. The peloton, driven by FDJ-Suez, intensified its pace, causing significant fragmentation at the rear.
At the first King of the Mountains (GPM) after 28 kilometres, French sensation and Alpes Gresivaudan winner Evita Muzic from FDJ-Suez was the frontrunner, tailed by teammate Loes Adegeest and Erica Magnaldi of UAE. The average speed recorded in the first hour of racing was 34.4 km/h. The next GPM, secured by Mexican rider Anet Barrera Esparza of DNA Pro Cycling, was followed by Maëlle Grossetête of FDJ-Suez and Ireland’s Megan Armitage of Team Arkéa.
Post this GPM, the breakaway group of 11 riders began to gain traction, widening the gap to 50 seconds after 55 kilometres. By 64 kilometres, they had expanded their lead to two minutes. The second intermediate sprint at Valvignières was conquered by Spanish rider Usoa Ostolaza Zabala, followed by local French star Greta Richioud and Italy’s Giorgia Vettorello of BePink. By the second hour, the average speed climbed to 36.5 km/h.
The 80-kilometre GPM featured a French triumph with Maëlle Grossetête leading, shadowed by Megan Armitage and young talent Alena Ivanchenko from UAE ADQ. As the third and final intermediate sprint unfolded, Italy’s Vettorello showcased her prowess, ahead of young French rider Camille Fahy and Canadian Adèle Normand. With 8 kilometres left, the gap dwindled to a mere 50 seconds.
The drama reached its peak in the last 5 kilometres. Multiple attempts to escape the leading group were thwarted, and the peloton eventually caught up, leaving only Megan Armitage of Team Arkéa with a slim 50-metre lead at 3 kilometres from the finish. However, it was Daria Pikulik’s moment to shine as she overcame all odds to clinch the stage win in a dramatic sprint.
2023 Tour de l’Ardeche Stage 1 result
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