Lisa Guérin

Published on : 07/26/2023

As stage 3 runs from Cahors to Rodez today, the Cofidis riders talk about their first impressions. They talk about this Tour without respite, "always on the ball", and reveal their resilience and self-sacrifice. Above all, they make no secret of their ambitions for the next five stages, and see themselves playing spoilsport this Wednesday on a course that looks like a "mini Liège-Bastogne-Liège".

The men's Grande Boucle has barely come to an end, but the summer's greatest soap opera has continued for another week. The 2nd edition of the Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift promised to be particularly competitive, and it is. The Cofidis riders can testify to this, as they are on the front line to feel the intensity and difficulties. 

"It's very tense, every day".

The start of the Tour de France has been tough," admits Martina Alzini. We're still riding flat out as if they were Classics". For the Italian rider, the density of the competition means that "only a few girls can get away every day". Added to this is the nervousness visible from the very first turns of the wheel. It's very tense," says Gaël Le Bellec. All the teams wanted to show their level by driving hard, as we saw on the first stage. But when they set up their train 40 km from the finish, it's complicated for us to compete. The race director speaks of "the fight to get to the front" and a race "quickly locked in". 

On Monday, rain and crashes were the order of the day. The Cofidis team suffered as Spela Kern crashed and had to retire (dislocated thumb). As in the men's race a few days earlier, the repetition of effort is particularly hard on the body. Gabrielle Pilote-Fortin found this out on Tuesday: sick from transport, she had to fight hard to regain her place in the peloton.

"Fit and motivated! 

The girls are on a mission and will do everything to achieve it. "The team has a definite plan for the next few days and that's very motivating," adds Martina. Gabrielle is also reassuring: "I didn't expect to be able to get through the first three stages so easily after my complicated start to the season. But now I'm staying in shape, I've got plenty of energy and I'm still motivated! A state of mind shared by all her team-mates and the close-knit staff around them. 

With today's stage between Rodez and Cahors in our sights, 177.1 km marked by five difficulties (two 4th category, two 3rd category and one 2nd category). We've ticked off this stage as a mini 'Liège-Bastogne-Liège'," smiles Gaël Le Bellec. It will be a stage of wear and tear, and our climbers, who are more enduring than explosive, will be able to pull their weight." There's every reason to be optimistic and motivated, especially as their male counterparts have shown over the past three weeks that nothing is impossible.


Gabrielle Pilote-Fortin: "Today was really complicated. I had motion sickness on the way here this morning, which made me sick for the first hour. I had to go and get some medicine from the car, and I wasted a lot of time getting back into the peloton. Since the start of the Tour, I've been pretty satisfied with my performance, doing my job while keeping my energy up. I didn't expect to be able to get through the first three stages so easily, given my complicated start to the season, but so far I'm fit and motivated."

Martina Alzini: "It's been a tough start to the Tour de France. Even yesterday in the gruppetto, we rode like crazy. But I'm glad the team has a definite plan for the days ahead. Every day, only a few girls can get away. Today I couldn't try because I gave up in the last kilometer of the final climb. But I gave it my all, even at the start of the stage, because I knew it was going to be tough, especially on the climbs. In the meantime, we're going to keep riding with our objective right to the end."

Gaël Le Bellec, team manager: "The key word at the start of the Tour was 'nervousness'. It was very tense, and all the teams wanted to show their level by riding hard, as witnessed by the big battle on the first stage. All the teams set up their train 40km before the finish, and when that happens, it's hard for us to compete. Our objectives for this Tour are the top 15 overall, the fighting spirit prize and a top 10 on a stage. We haven't achieved them yet, but we've still got 5 stages to go. 

Yesterday wasn't an easy day either, with the rain and the crashes, so we weren't able to get into the breakaway, but we're not undeserving, we try every day. The fight to get to the front is fierce, the race is fast-paced, and the big teams let 2 or 3 girls go, no more. We haven't had the best of it so far, but if we keep going like this, we'll get there. Today, we weren't able to play the sprint card with Martina, as she was unhooked on the last climb. Our climbers are getting better and better, preferring a series of climbs to a single hard, fast climb. We've marked off tomorrow's stage, the mini "Liège-Bastogne-Liège", hoping that they'll do well on this stage, which will be hard wearing. We've got girls with more stamina than explosiveness, and I hope our balance will be positive tomorrow evening."