Images: Justin Britton
There has been plenty of attention lavished on Team SD Worx not only at this Tour de France Femmes but throughout the WWT season so far, as the best team in the women's peloton currently.
So far this race they've scored two stage wins, snapped up the yellow jersey at the earliest possible opportunity, and held onto both that and the green jersey ever since. Not a bad output.
But for a team used to filling at least two thirds of the podium spots on every day they race, could it be fair to say that they may perhaps not be considered the most standout team at the race, thus far? Given the - understandably stratospheric - expectations we have of them?
In terms of expectations, the winners of the best team so far could arguably be Alpecin-Deceuninck, with a stage win, an almost-stage-win, and two-thirds of the race so far spent controlling the polka dot jersey. True underdog spirit goes a long way at the Belgian team.
Movistar have great expectations placed upon them, as they always do when Annemiek van Vleuten is present, but like SD Worx the Spanish team have taken two stage wins, and the reigning World Champion has barely had to put her nose in the wind yet - she is biding her time for the Tourmalet, tomorrow.
I'll throw one more name into the ring for team of the Tour so far, and that's Team Breakaway. OK OK, I know, it's not a real team. But as I wrote about during the men's Tour, being a part of a breakaway is a special thing. You become kin for one afternoon, working together for a greater good, and that was very much the vibe of today's breakaway trio, and duo in the latter stages, and it's why Emma Norsgaard was able to complete a hat-trick for Team Breakaway - three wins in three days for 'not-the-peloton.'
Though two of these wins were solos, today really encapsulated the art of riding as part of a transient coven of equally determined sisters, and it was wonderful to see, and once again left us wondering whether the loss of Lorena Wiebes really did upset the balance of control in the race, or whether these breakaway winners have simply solved the conundrum, for now, of how to get the better of the best.
PRÉPAREZ VOS MUSETTES!
def: prepare your musettes!
Looking ahead to tomorrow.
Speedy stage preview
Stage 7 - Lannemezan - Col du Tourmalet (89.8km, Mountain)
The shortest stage of the race so far, but what is lacks in length it more than makes up for in altitude metres. Yes, it's the big one, the one that's been circled in the Roadbook since the route was first announced, last autumn. The first assault on the lauded Cols d'Aspin and du Tourmalet for the women's peloton, in a stage that will ask questions of the GC contenders, and relatively quickly provide the answers.
With the GC race simmering beneath the surface, in a week that's revolved around stage wins and breakaways, the main protagonists will be raring to go, and with an individual time trial all that remains after they've crested the summit of the mighty mountain, the majority will leave it all out on the road.
PREDICTION: Two names have been interchangeable when it comes to this year's overall contenders, and in a repeat of La Vuelta Femenina, they will be the two at whom the rest look, as the climbing begins in earnest tomorrow. Annemiek van Vleuten has won both Grand Tours so far this year; Demi Vollering is in the shape of her life. Which will be victorious? Or can we possibly look beyond the two, to the likes of Elisa Longo Borghini, Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio, Juliette Labous, Kasia Niewiadoma, or even her young teammate and yesterday's stage winner Ricarda Bauernfeind, to provide an upset?
I'll play it safe and go with Demi Vollering for the win - though I expect a strong ride from Ash M-P too.
APRÈS L'EFFORT, LE RÉCONFORT
def: after the effort, the comfort
Taking a look back at the day's action.
Stage 6: in Review
On what was supposed to be the easiest day of the race, it would have been easy for the bunch to sit on their laurels and coast through to the finish. But the sprinters' teams had other ideas: the final chance of this year's race for their fast women to face off for the potential glory of a Tour de France Femmes stage win - would they be able to control the breakaway, after two days of success for lone riders?
It was a trio who finally made the escape on stage 6: Sandra Alonso (Ceratizit-WNT), Emma Norsgaard (Movistar), and Agnieszka Skalniak-Sójka (Canyon//SRAM), and they maintained a modest but steady gap for a long period, mopping up the QOM points and ensuring Yara Kastelijn would remain in the jersey for another day.
Lizzie Deignan tried an attack at one point which she sustained for a short while, but it came to nought; meanwhile a crash saw EF Education-TIBCO-SVB's GC leader Veronica Ewers down and out, and Kastelijn herself coming down, though she was able to continue (Ewers got back on her bike and completed the stage almost 10 minutes down on the bunch - we await her condition, to see if she will take to the start tomorrow).
With 20km to go the break's gap was down to one minute and it looked to be well-managed by the peloton, who were riding relatively well as a unit on a largely flat parcours. Another crash saw FDJ-SUEZ's Lois Adegeest worst affected, in a race that's been one to forget for the French team so far.
The gap narrowed fast, closing to 16 secs, and that was quite close enough for Norsgaard, who launched an attack with 4.2km left to race. Alonso was unable to hold the pace which left the duo to work together. The gap hovered around the 16-18 second mark for a couple of kilometres before it began to drop with the Flamme Rouge in sight.
Norsgaard and Skalniak-Sójka remained just 8 seconds to the good going into the final kilometre, as behind them a tricky chicane caught out a number of riders and slowed the chase, at least from the middle of pack back. At the front, the sprinters teams seemed to hesitate for a split second, as Norsgaard drove to the line, opening up her sprint early and capitalising on her superior power to hold off the bunch and take a brilliant stage win, and the most significant of her career to date. The emotion that followed told the story of the day, and the cycling world were united in praise and joy for the Dane, who underlines a great summer for Danish riders at the Tours de France.
Charlotte Kool won the bunch sprint behind from Lotte Kopecky and Marianne Vos, and Kool was understandably bitterly disappointed as once again the sprinters missed out on their chance to the might and determination of the break.
Vive la Lanterne Rouge
Vive VERONICA EWERS!
The EF Education-TIBCO-SVB rider came down hard today and it's uncertain whether she will continue tomorrow, so it seems only fair she enjoy her visit to the Vive Lounge while she can. Let's find out more about her, with THREE FACTS:
- She's a relative newcomer to cycling, but not to competitive sport, having come from running, and previously soccer - she played while she was a student, for Willamette University in Salem, Oregon while double majoring in Spanish and anthropology.
- Her favourite place to ride her bike is Mallorca, and her favourite food is Middle Eastern food. And her nickname is Tenacious V which is really cool.
- She's had two pro wins so far, including a stage of the Festival Elsy Jacobs, and the Navarra Women's Elite Classic. She came 4th on GC at the recent Giro Donne.
STOP PRESS: Sadly Ewers has had to retire from the race, suffering from a broken clavicle - heal fast, Tenacious V!
noun: the refuelling
Features to enhance your Tour experience, and refresh your mind after a long day's cycling viewing.
by Lena Koch
Kittie Knox was born into a world which was stacked against her. It was 1874 and she was an African American woman in the United States.
After the early death of her father, Kittie, her mother and brother moved to Boston. Which was a hotspot for the newly emerging cycling culture and community. And the bicycle spelled its magic over Kittie soon enough.
She saved up money from her work as a seamstress, bought a bike and soon became known for her cycling outings, not only because cycling for any women at the time was inherently scandalous and revolutionary.
Through cycling and racing alone, Kittie broke an invisible barrier within society that divided the world in male and female appropriate activities. She even became a member of the Riverside Cycle Club. And Kittie didn’t just participate, she won many races. Against women and men.
However, Kittie wasn’t just a woman and faced segregation through that lens. She was also African American.
Women racers faced much criticism from newspapers, but Kittie even more so. Journalists called her “comely colored maiden”, “murky goddess of Beanville”, and “beautiful and buxom black bloomerite” and much more. The combination of sexism and racism made her an even bigger target than her fellow white women racers.
The League of American Wheelman - today known as the league of American cyclists - was the biggest cycling community in the country. The league had its headquarters in Boston and a growing number of local African-American cyclists joined, among them Kittie Knox, in 1893.
Only one year later the league changed their constitution and African American cyclists could no longer join. The status of African-American cyclists who had joined before 1894 became murky; and largely depended on who you asked. Many disparaged Kittie's status and she was denied entry to events as well as service in hotels and restaurants. However, she also featured prominently in many women’s competitions organized by the league at the same time.
The fight within the league continued until the league issued the following statement: “Miss Katie [sic] Knox joined the League April 21, 1893. The word ‘white’ was put into the [L.A.W.] constitution, Feb. 20, 1894. Such laws are not and cannot be retroactive.”
Kittie had won. The colour bar however remained, she was the exception.
Death found her very young at only 26, when she died of a kidney disease.
The League of American Bicyclists recently created the Kittie Knox award and honoured Ayesha McGowan, the first African American woman to be part of a professional cycling team. She’s also an activist and tries to promote inclusivity and diversity within cycling - a community that to this day continues to be very white and very male.
Stat du Jour
by Sam Mould
Today’s stage finished in Blagnac, home of the Jean-Luc Lagardère plant, the world's third biggest building in terms of usable space. It has a floor area of 122,500msq
It measures 490 metres long, 250 metres wide and 46 metres high. There were only three points on todays stage that were taller than the building. If you laid Côte de la Cadène and Côte de la Gavre on their side, together they would still not be as long as the building.
Today's highest categorised climb was the Côte de la Cadène, at 171.51 Emma Norsgaards tall.
def: The bits and bobs, the shiny things, the small treasures that would otherwise go unnoticed.
League of Nations
The four-nation hold on the national standings table was broken today as Emma Norsgaard scored a win for Denmark - a nation which has been flying in terms of cycling success for the past few seasons. It's even more impressive given the diminutive representation from the Scandi nation - just two riders took to the start line from Denmark: today's winner Emma Norsgaard, and former national champion Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig.
Tweets of the Day
We love this - the fan club of the current leader of the young rider classification, Cédrine Kerbaol, gave her a hero's welcome at today's stage.
It's not a Tweet but it's cool to see the constantly evolving profiles over on the Movistar website - here is today's winner, and all her vital statistics.
And finally just this. Pure joy.