Lorena Wiebes (SD Worx) showed her speed to dominate the sprint at the end of stage 3 of the Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift… But victory almost escaped the Dutch sprinter in the streets of Montignac-Lascaux as Julie Van de Velde (Fenix-Deceuninck) was caught with only 200 metres to go. On the line, Wiebes got the best of Marianne Vos (Jumbo Visma), with Lotte Kopecky (SD Worx) rounding out the stage podium. Wiebes is the first rider to make it three stage wins in the Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift (Vos and Van Vleuten have 2), and the first to win both in 2022 and in 2023. Most combative rider of the day, Van de Velde will wear the polka-dot jersey as the new Queen of the mountains on stage 4, the longest of this edition with 177.1 km to go from Cahors to Rodez.
The uphill start inspires early attackers but Kathrin Hammes (EF Education-Tibco-SVB) is the only one who manages to get away, after 4 kilometres of battles. The German rider opens a gap of up to 2’10’’. Meanwhile, the different attempts to counter-attack are neutralised by the bunch. And two riders, weakened by physical issues, are forced to abandon: Marte Berg Edseth (Uno-X) and Lucie Jounier (Coop-Hitec Products).
Hammes takes the most QOM points atop the ascents of Côte du Peyroux (cat. 3), Côte de Pératel (cat. 4) and Côte de l’Escurotte (cat. 4). She racks up 7 points, but Yara Kastelijn (Fenix-Deceuninck) also takes one point to defend her polka-dot jersey, with a tally up to 8 points.
Van de Velde is the new queen of the mountains
The peloton accelerates and Hammes is caught with 83km to go. A flurry of attacks ensue, with Jumbo Visma’s Anna Henderson and Amber Kraak, Lidl Trek’s Lizzie Deignan and Lauretta Hanson, Canyon//Sram’s Agnieszka Skalniak Sojka and Fenix-Deceuninck’s Julie Van de Velde among the most active riders. But Lotte Kopecky reacts in person to control the moves and SD Worx eventually restore order.
Onto the penultimate ascent of the day, Van de Velde attacks again. This time, she opens a gap of 45’’ atop the cat-4 Côte des Andrieux (km 89.4), and still leads by 25’’ atop the cat-4 Côte de Saint-Robert (km 92.2). With a total of 9 QOM points, she all but secures the polka-dot jersey at the end of the stage.
Van de Velde almost resists Wiebes
Counter-attacks fail while Van de Velde keeps pushing - her gap is up to 2’30’’ into the last 30km of the stage. But Canyon//Sram try to spilt the bunch through the wind, and DSM-Firmenich up the ante as well with Lidl-Trek. The attacker’s lead is down to 1’05’’ with 20km to go. And 25’’ as the riders enter the last 10km… But Van de Velde pushes her lead back up to 35’’ under the 5km-to-go arch.
The Belgian attacker was only caught with 200 metres to go. Sprinters flew past her, with Lotte Kopecky launching Lorena Wiebes (SD Worx) to victory, ahead of Marianne Vos. Kopecky rounded out the podium herself, cementing her status as the leader of the race.