In a sprint finish that largely stuck to the pre-race narrative, Swiss rider Linda Zanetti sealed victory in the inaugural road stage of the 2023 Tour de l’Avenir Femmes. Competing for the UAE Development Team, the 21-year-old former mountain biker adds another feather to her cap, reinforcing her burgeoning reputation in women’s cycling. This triumph at Louhans-Châteaurenaud, covering 91.8 kilometres from Charolles, marks Zanetti’s sixth win this year and is arguably her most significant, coming on the heels of her recent stage victory at the Princess Anna Vasa Tour in Poland.
Belgium’s Julie De Wilde and Fem Van Empel of the Netherlands followed Zanetti over the finish line. Van Empel had earlier captured the imagination by securing three Queen of the Mountain) points at the Col de Brancion. This categorised climb was, however, the day’s sole significant ascent, lying a substantial 45 kilometres from the finishing line. Despite a smattering of early crashes that briefly unsettled the peloton—including a mishap involving race leader Antonia Niedermaier of Germany—the race largely unfolded as anticipated, culminating in a tight sprint finish.
For Zanetti, this victory has a wider significance, serving as a clarion call for Switzerland’s escalating influence in women’s cycling. “It may have been a straightforward stage, but each win carries its own weight,” she might well have thought upon crossing the finish line.
Italian rider Cristina Tonetti secured a respectable sixth place, on the day her signing for Laboral Kutxa was confirmed, again emphasising the deepening talent pool in women’s cycling. With stalwarts like Tonetti in the mix, the 2023 Tour de l’Avenir Femmes is shaping up to be one of the season’s most compelling contests.
In the general classification stakes, Germany’s Antonia Niedermaier retains her lead, closely followed by Britain’s Anna Shackley and the Netherlands’ Shirin Van Anrooij. Niedermaier herself had a moment of drama, taking a tumble that momentarily disturbed the peloton, before resuming the race and retaining her place atop the general classification.
Tomorrow’s stage holds the promise of a potentially pivotal climb: the Côte du Thoissia. This 4.6-km ascent, boasting a gradient of 5.2%, lies just 14 kilometres from the finishing line in Val-d’Épy and could well alter the race’s dynamics.
2023 Tour de l’Avenir Stage 2 result
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Main photo credit: Anouk Flesch