The opening stage of the 2023 Tour de France Femmes was a slow burner of a race but it did provide enough fireworks at the end. A slow start saw a move by Typhaine Laurance that was pulled back and then with the terrain offering nothing the bunch just stayed together. Marta Lach attacked and secured the most combative prize of the day but ultimately there wasn’t much doing until the final climb. There the pace ramped up massively and an attack near the summit by Kopecky secured the stage win and opening yellow jersey.
An obvious one to start. Lotte Kopecky’s attack and ride to the finish line saw her take the yellow jersey, green jersey and polka dot jersey all in one go. It was also the first Belgian in at a women’s Tour de France since 1985! With bonus seconds, Kopecky ended up with 53″ over the GC contenders, possibly enough to see her stay in yellow tomorrow despite the final climb. If she can hang onto it tomorrow, Kopecky can stay in yellow all the way to the Pyrenees on the penultimate day. It’s another career goal ticked off on the palmares.
My favourite for the white jersey got off to a strong start by taking it from the opening day. The Breton rider is already in a strong position with a gap of 34″ on Silke Smulders and 46″ on Ella Wyllie. No other rider is within 89 seconds of Cedrine Kerbaol. Last year saw Shirin van Anrooij take the win and whilst obviously not as prestigious as the yellow jersey, it still represents a chance for a non-WWT rider to be on the podium each day and will go down in the history books if she can hang onto it in Pau.
A lot has been made of Lorena Wiebes’ hill climbing this year and the perception is that Charlotte Kool wasn’t as strong in this area. So today, on a tough climb like that with the pace high, Kool didn’t drop out of the lead group until the final few hundred metres and was then able to get back to the front of the race with her rival and former teammate Wiebes. Plenty of other sprinters dropped out long before then so this represents another string to her bow. She might be slightly disappointed to finish 3rd behind Wiebes but that’s still a great result.
This one will sound harsh after finishing 2nd in a 1-2 with her teammate Kopecky but hear me out! The favourite coming into today’s stage, a lot had been said about her hill-climbing improving and that should get her to the end of the stage at the front. It pretty much did after a short chase and she was certainly on the same bit of road as Kool and Vos. For me though, I think a bit of her will not be happy that she missed out on a second yellow jersey after winning last year’s opening stage and going in with a great chance again today. With tomorrow’s stage expected to be for GC riders, this was her one and only shot at it this year.
Riejanne Markus/Silvia Persico/Claire Steels
The GC battle is all about minimising avoidable time losses and whilst the majority of GC riders finished in that group behind Kopecky to be 53″ behind the Belgian overall, some riders didn’t make it. These 3 riders finished in the same mini group but have already given up 23″ to rivals on the very first climb of this year’s Tour de France Femmes. Markus is probably confident she can pull that gap back in the TT on the final day but for Persico and Steels, those seconds are going to be tough to claw back and might decide placings as well later on.
Losing even more time though was German Clara Koppenburg who now sits 39th at +1’53” from Kopecky and exactly a minute behind GC rivals. The TT on the final day won’t be one for her anyway so it will be interesting to see if, with this time loss, she can engineer a situation where she can go clear and take on the Tourmalet. It would need to be similar to the stage win Juliette Labous took on the Passo Maniva at the Giro Donne last year but might be the best way for her to get something solid from this race.
Photo credits: Getty Images