Marta Cavalli takes first win since TdFF accident on slopes of Hautacam

Marta Cavalli 2023 Tour des Pyrenees Stage 2

The second stage of the Tour des Pyrénées had highs and lows but ultimately was won by Marta Cavalli, the Italian’s first win since the heavy impact crash that took her out of last year’s Tour de France Femmes. It’s been quite a comeback that has gone through a few phases over the course of the season and now appears to be peaking at the right time ahead of this year’s Giro Donne and Tour de France Femmes. Despite that positive, there were plenty of negatives too as the riders stopped the race midway through.

After yesterday’s unsafe finish, an agreement was made for the first 24km of the day to be neutralised going up and over the first QoM point of the day. There was still plenty of traffic on the roads but each bit at least had a marshall with a flag signalling the hazard. In an ideal world, there would be no cars at all on the race route with a solid rolling roadblock in place. Things came to a head with complaints about how the motorbike outriders were coming through the peloton as well as the continued traffic on the race route.

Marjolein van ‘t Geloof waved the peloton to stop as they approached a section where traffic was stopped on one side of a road bridge with a concrete raised divider. Even with the slowdown, a rider or two ended up on the traffic side of the divider. That began a discussion between riders. Van ‘t Geloof and race leader Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio were heavily involved, so was the CPA union’s race representatives Lotte Claes and Jolien d’Hoore. A peloton vote was attempted to decide the next steps but the outcome became clear when the race organiser messaged the DSes via Whatsapp to say the race was about to be restarted.

That left Audrey Cordon-Ragot to deliver the message that the race would be restarted in 3 minutes and the options were to stop riding and be considered a race abandon or continue with a neutralisation until the base of the Hautacam where the stage was going to be decided regardless of what came before it. After 15 minutes of delay, the race resumed sort of neutralised. The QoM points and sprints were still apparently live, creating a race in a non-racing bunch. That kept the speed high and came with issues when approaching narrowing sections.

Michaela Drummond and Britt Knaven crashed as the peloton squeezed into a single lane with a concrete divider, both ultimately were able to finish the stage. A rider who didn’t was Claire Steels who crashed face-first at another point where the peloton was squeezed to avoid cars. She had to visit the hospital but was released later this evening. The issue of full-pace neutralisation definitely didn’t help avoid the issues.

The Hautacam split the group up very quickly. Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio set the fastest early pace but was outnumbered by FDJ-Suez and Canyon SRAM to a ratio of 3-3-1. As the pace dropped slightly, other riders like Clara Koppenburg were able to close up but as the climb progressed it was only really 4 serious contenders for the stage win – Antonia Niedermaier, Marta Cavalli, Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig and Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio. When FDJ-Suez decided to use their numbers we saw Uttrup Ludwig attack first, followed by a move from Cavalli. That attack from the Italian brought Moolman-Pasio clear and set up what looked like it was going to be a sprint-a-deux.

However, Niedermaier had proved she was tough to drop as she plugged on at her own pace. The rider who crashed hard in the Thuringen Ladies Tour recently on her comeback from surgery led the riders into the final few hundred metres, where Cavalli kicked with an unmatched acceleration. It was to be her first win since the 2022 Mont Ventoux Dénivelé Challenge and saw her take the leader’s jersey here in the process.

Conversations about the safety issues will be ongoing overnight, with the extreme possibility that the riders won’t ride tomorrow’s 3rd stage. There are a number of options but expect to hear plenty more about it.

2023 Tour des Pyrénées Stage 2 result

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