Fem van Empel wins Stage 3 of Tour de l’Avenir

In a pulsating third stage of the women’s Tour de l’Avenir, Dutch cyclist Fem van Empel seized the day, outpacing her competitors over a challenging 97.3-kilometre route from Saint-Didier-sur-Chalaronne to Val-d’Épy. Van Empel, the current cyclocross world champion, triumphed over Dominika Wlodarczyk of Poland and Gaia Masetti of Italy, while Germany’s Antonia Niedermaier retained her position as the overall race leader.

The stage featured a strenuous final ascent, the Côte du Thoissia, a 6.4-kilometre climb with a 4.6% average gradient. The summit was situated 14 kilometres from the finish line, adding to the tactical complexity of the race. Niedermaier started the stage holding a 14-second lead over Anna Shackley and a 23-second lead over Shirin van Anrooij, making them her closest competitors.

Van Empel expressed immense satisfaction with her win. “I’m delighted; it’s the first Tour de l’Avenir and it’s a big chance to win here,” she said. She gave credit to her teammate Van Anrooij and the rest of her team for their support during the race’s first long climb. Looking ahead, she noted her aim to possibly defend both the green and polka dot jerseys in the coming stages.

Wlodarczyk, who secured second place, said the race felt like a dream, especially considering her recovery from food poisoning that had kept her off the bike for a week. She praised the event as a smaller version of the Tour de France Femmes and stated that her team was in strong form. “We are always together in the peloton; I’m guiding everyone because I’m the oldest on the team,” she explained.

Masetti, who finished third, described the final hilly and tortuous section as perfect for her skills as a punchy climber. She said her team’s tactics were to test the tempo on the Côte du Thoissia. Despite failing to secure the win, she remained pleased with her performance.

Niedermaier weighed in on her experience of retaining the yellow jersey, saying, “I did everything I could to be at the front when the strongest broke away.” She admitted that the next stages would be a challenge due to longer climbs but was optimistic about her chances.

Natalie Quinn, another competitor, criticised the defensive racing style she observed. Quinn, who recently transitioned from mountain biking, said, “I don’t understand why everyone is riding so defensively. We are a new team, and there is a lot to gain.” She expressed her ambition to race more aggressively again after being in a solo break that had over 1 minute for a time before getting closed, highlighting the encouraging applause from spectators as a morale booster.

In summary, the third stage of the women’s Tour de l’Avenir highlighted not just individual skills but also teamwork, strategy, and resilience. As competitors prepare for the challenging climbs that lie ahead, the narrative of this inaugural race continues to evolve, with each stage revealing new layers of drama and complexity.

2023 Tour de l’Avenir Stage 3 result

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