The 2023 Tour de France Femmes is now done and in the record books. Demi Vollering took her first victory after dominating the upper slopes of the Tourmalet and secured it with a strong time trial. The GC race came down to a few key moments late on and quickly developed a chasm between Vollering and the rest. Along the way though, plenty of teams took results that they can look back on with some pride. Some others, however, will leave the race wondering if they could have done more.
They came here to win the GC after missing out last year and also at the Vuelta Femenina this year. That was secured with some ease on the final weekend and there were also 4 stage wins along the way, the team prize and the green jersey to celebrate. The team hit its objectives but also got itself embroiled in controversies along the way during what should’ve been a slam-dunk PR period for the team in yellow all race. It also feels like the team could’ve won 3, maybe 4 more stages as well but left borderline guaranteed wins unwon due to tactical decisions.
It’s tough to see how Canyon SRAM could’ve done any better during this year’s Tour de France Femmes. They took a stage win with Ricarda Bauernfeind, the polka dot jersey and 3rd place from Kasia Niewiadoma. The Pole was only fractions of a section away from securing 2nd place as well. Kasia was 3rd here last year as well but the was a big gulf from the top-2 to her, whereas her attacking ride this year on the Tourmalet stage endeared her to any new fans watching. The team hit all of their targets for sure.
It didn’t quite pan out for Annemiek van Vleuten here, the Dutch star finishing 4th and ending her major GC title streak. The team gave things a solid go on the Col d’Aspin but it didn’t quite launch the attack we’ve been used to seeing. They didn’t leave empty handed though after well-timed attacks/sprints from Liane Lippert and Emma Norsgaard saw them take a stage win each. There will now be a changing of the guard at Movistar with Liane Lippert expected to step up and do her best to emulate Van Vleuten.
A fairly anonymous Tour de France Femmes for FDJ-Suez still saw Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig finish 7th and Marta Cavalli 19th in GC. Time after time FDJ looked to have decent numbers in the front group but were found wanting once the top tier of favourites kicked on. Until Grace Brown finished 4th in the TT, the best result all week had been 6th on Stage 2 and whilst they regularly featured near the bottom of the top-10 it will feel like they could have done better. For whatever reason, no one really looked at their top form compared to their rivals.
UAE Team ADQ
I nearly went for a D for UAE Team ADQ but a couple of decent stage results earlier in the race helped them be a C here. Silvia Persico’s 3rd and Chiara Consonni’s 4th places doing just enough. The team would’ve hoped to get more GC with Silvia Persico and Erica Magnaldi, the latter after a strong Giro Donne performance. 13th and 14th feels a little underwhelming given the hopes would’ve been for a minimum top-10 and maybe a repeat of Persico’s 5th place last year.
AG Insurance-Soudal Quick-Step
Sometimes it’s easy to forget that this team isn’t in the Women’s WorldTour, yet at least. For a non-WWT team to put a rider 6th in GC and be in the green jersey for most of the week (even if it was on loan) was a very solid ride. Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio possibly hoped to be close to the podium but against star teams with masses of support on the climbs, the South African put up a good performance to be in the mix throughout.
I was very high on seeing what Riejanne Markus might do in this year’s race. She looked stronger at climbing and very good in the TT at Dutch nationals against Vollering/Van Vleuten. She found the week tough though and wasn’t able to repeat such a strong performance against the clock although 5th was still solid. That helped Markus finish 11th in GC and Amber Kraak wasn’t too far behind in 17th. Marianne Vos came close to another Tour de France Femmes stage win but like many, struggles to come past Lorena Wiebes – 2nd, 4th & 4th were ok enough.
It didn’t really work out for Lidl-Trek at this year’s race. Elisa Balsamo was only just about race fit after her RideLondon Classique crash and took 5th place on a stage before leaving ahead of the Tourmalet. It’s a similar enough story for Elisa Longo Borghini who is still coming back from her own crash at the Giro Donne and would leave early with a skin infection. She didn’t look quite as strong as she did before her fall either but was plugging away and was still 4th in GC before the Tourmalet. Ultimately, the team came away with 10th place in GC from Amanda Spratt who stepped up.
Feels almost harsh not giving the team more than this as they probably maximised their GC position with Juliette Labous in 5th place. It’s tough to see them finishing too much higher than that against these riders and it was the best French performance. Where I’ve just downgraded them is on not getting a stage win with Charlotte Kool as that would’ve been a big objective. The Dutch sprinter took a 2nd and a 3rd which were close but not quite there. The 2nd place in particular, finishing just 1 second behind a solo Emma Norsgaard was the big chance for her.
Israel-Premier Tech Roland
Tamara Dronova’s top-10 results at the start of the Tour de France Femmes have just boosted this grade up from a C I think. Dronova was solid throughout but never really in the GC conversation which seemed maybe possible after a strong set of races in Spain earlier this season. Claire Steels rode an attacking race and maybe might’ve finished a little higher if everything went to plan. She was almost able to hang with Ricarda Bauernfeind on the stage the German went on to win and that will feel like the biggest near yet so far opportunity this week.
The team came away with a stage win thanks to Yara Kastelijn which is a huge result for a lower-middle ranked Women’s WorldTour team. They also weren’t far away from winning the polka dot jersey as well with just a few points on the Col d’Aspin separating them from a classification jersey. The team weren’t afraid to roll the dice at a point of the race where it seemed like others very much were. They got their just rewards for trying to animate the racing.
Liv Racing TeqFind
It’s tough to think of a positive for the team’s Tour de France Femmes efforts this year. Mavi Garcia struggled with illness and fell down the GC on the Tourmalet stage before not starting the time trial, effectively taking away their highest GC position. Rachele Barbieri struggled early on before leaving the race on Stage 4, with a best result of 99th for the sprinter. Thalita de Jong tried some attacks and Silke Smulder was high in the white jersey classification for a while but there wasn’t much there results-wise.
A very quietly efficient race from Ceratizit-WNT saw them take the white jersey with Cédrine Kerbaol. Much of the hard work was done early on. The first day saw the Breton open up a 45″ gap on rival Ella Wyllie, then extend it by another 30 seconds the following day. By the end of Stage 4 it was 2’45”, a gap that would prove too tough to claim back. Kerbaol was always going to be stronger in the TT and after losing a small amount on the Tourmalet would win the jersey by over 3 minutes.
The team in pink made plenty of attacks but ultimately came away from the race with little to show for the efforts. Kathrin Hammes almost put herself into the polka dot jersey after Stage 3 but wasn’t able to keep up with the battle between Koster and Kastelijn the following day. We saw Sara Poidevin and Georgia Williams in the odd move. Their race turned on its head really when Veronica Ewers crashed and broke her collarbone. She had been sat in a reasonably good position and with the Tourmalet to come might’ve got into the top 10.
A solid Tour from the French Continental team. Coralie Demay got herself into the top-30 on GC, 10th on Stage 5 and we saw her on a solo break ahead of the Col d’Aspin too. The best stage result came from Celia le Mouel who managed to get into the break to Rodez on Stage 4. Caught by the GC group within sight of the line, she still pushed on to finish 8th on the stage. As one of the smallest teams at this year’s race, that’s a decent return.
Another French Continental team, Clara Koppenburg managed to finish 15th in GC which is a decent enough effort. There were maybe hopes that the German could sneak into the top-10 but she was one of a number of riders who struggled slightly on the punchy stages and had to plug away to get the result she did. Compared to how the last 2 years have ended up at major stage races for her though, this is an ideal result to build on next year. It would’ve been interesting to see how Victoire Berteau would have fared here after a strong season as well.
Human Powered Health
The American team were largely anonymous here with riders struggling in the grupetto most stages because of illness. Barbara Malcotti was robbed of what was looking like the result of the week on Stage 5. The Italian had a mechanical in the final stages whilst part of a small group of favourites. She would finish 24th in GC which as a WWT team could be better. The team didn’t manage a top-10 on any stage, with Audrey Cordon-Ragot coming closest with an 11th in the TT and 16th on the road.
The British team came with an objective of the white jersey and whilst they didn’t quite achieve it, they pushed Cédrine Kerbaol all the way to the end. The spearhead was Ella Wyllie, who won the youth jersey back at Itzulia Women, but unfortunately, a little bit too much time was lost on the opening days. That said, even on its own the 11th place on the Col du Tourmalet is great for a Continental team on a legendary climb against bigger names. Natalie Grinczer showed herself to be a strong support rider for Wyllie despite only joining the team in the lead-up to the Tour.
A solid showing from the Aussie team that saw Ane Santesteban carry on her 10th place Giro Donne form to finish 8th at the Tour de France Femmes. She took a couple of 7th places along the way for an effective GC race that saw her stay out of trouble and not waste energy at key moments. Teammate Alex Manly took the team’s best stage result with 6th on Stage 3 as well. It wasn’t a particularly showy or exciting performance but it definitely got the job done for them.
If I was grading individual riders, I’d probably give Anouska Koster an A. The Dutch rider had a solid go at the polka dot jersey and got to wear it for a day as well. Her 3rd place on Stage 4 was the best finish by a Uno-X rider and she nearly held out for 2nd until Demi Vollering passed her near the finish line. Susanne Andersen notched up a top-10 on Stage 3 and often tried to attack. Hannah Ludwig’s 13th place on the Col du Tourmalet though was potentially the most impressive result by a rider as she finished in a bunch of pure climbers. Often a domestique, it showed she might have more tricks up her sleeve.
Clara Emond was a late inclusion after Megan Armitage was knocked off her bike. The Canadian took the team’s best GC result of 23rd which isn’t bad for a Continental team. We saw the team often make attempts to attack but rarely end up in the final move that went away. Maaike Colje was particularly visible in trying to make breaks or bridge across to breaks but the amount of effort she put in won’t be seen on the results sheet.
A tough Tour de France Femmes for the Norwegian team saw their star rider Jenny Rissveds struggle in the first couple of stages before leaving on Stage 5. The team’s best stage finish was 38th by Sigrid Ytterhus Haugset on Stage 5 and she was the highest placed GC rider in 69th as well. Unlucky injuries to Josie Nelson throughout this year probably reduced what she might have been able to do as well. Despite the results, the team were one of the most visible, upbeat and happy on social media throughout the race.
Photo credits: ASO | Charly Lopez & Thomas Maheux