Tour de France Women with Zwift  AT TOURMALET, THEY CLIMBED THE LEGEND


Lisa Guérin

Published on : 07/30/2023

The Cofidis runners gave their all on Saturday's final climb. As they attacked a myth, they recounted its demands, its toughness and the pleasure of having gone all the way, whatever the cost. They all fought tirelessly to help their leader, Clara Koppenburg. At the end of this incredible stage, the German rider moved up six places in the overall standings, where she is now 17th. Here's a look back at a very special day.

A 17.1 km ascent at 7.5% and a race to the Tourmalet, the legendary pass that has made and broken so many legends, was the menu for the queen stage of this Tour de France for Women with Zwift. The sole aim of the Tour's survivors was to climb this legend at the end of the 89.8km stage, which was completed at dusk.

"It was all about survival 

For the women from the Cofidis team, the climb was a first. Morgane Coston recounts her "arrival at the foggy summit". "It was pretty scary, almost like arriving at the edge of hell". "Such a tough stage at the end of a Tour de France inevitably hurts the legs," confides the Frenchwoman. We went flat out from the start of the stage," explains Rachel Neylan. In the end, it was all about surviving. 

Despite the difficulty and the effort, there was all this popular support and effervescence along the roads. A classic image for the men, a little less so for the girls. It was an opportunity for the runners, who had given their all, to fill up with enthusiasm beyond their suffering. "It was incredible to see all those fans at the roadside. I've never seen so many in my career. It's a very special thing to experience from the inside.

Clara, the remontada 

Yesterday at Cofidis, there was satisfaction in the air, despite the thick fog that prevented the runners from seeing more than 3 metres. Our sportswomen pulled out all the stops to ensure that their leader, Clara Koppenburg, put in a fine performance. Ranking 16th on the day's stage, the German runner made a remarkable comeback in the overall standings, coming 17th. The four competitors ahead of her are all within three minutes of each other. "We're really pleased to see that Clara has climbed so well in the overall rankings," enthuses Morgane Coston. "It was a tough start from the outset, but she gave it her all and did a great job," agrees Rachel Neylan. 

Resisting a stage like that is a feat in itself, and the Cofidis racers can be delighted. After recovering overnight, they are now looking ahead to the final challenge of this Tour de France: a 22.6 km time trial in Pau. This will be their last chance to give it their all before savouring the simple pleasure of having come to the end of an incredible adventure.



Morgane Coston: "The finish at the foggy summit of the Tourmalet is pretty scary, you'd think we were arriving at the gates of hell! Such a tough stage at the end of a Tour de France is hard on the legs, not to mention the injuries we've been accumulating for a week. But I'm relieved that the day is over. Clara has come back well in the general standings, her legs have done the talking for her and we're very satisfied. Let's get on with the time trial to finish this Tour in style.

Rachel Neylan "I had different emotions at the end of this stage. Clara did a great job, and we tried to help her as much as we could on the climb to the Col d'Aspin. We stayed focused from the start of the stage, but natural selection didn't spare us. We battled against time limits at the end, and simply tried to survive one of the toughest climbs in the world. But I'm very happy for Clara and the team. She was able to gain precious places yesterday. It was a Dantesque day, the roadside crowds were sensational, it was an experience I'd never had in my life, lots of emotions I'll remember for a long time to come."

Gaël Le Bellec, team manager: "We're getting closer to the 'top 15' we announced at the start. That was our initial objective, but we were a long way from it at the start of the competition, so we preferred to prioritize breakaways. In fact, Clara lost a few rounds, but I also think it gave her the confidence and motivation she needed. Yesterday she beat a lot of girls who used to beat her. When you look at the overall standings, you're happy because Clara is at her level and where she belongs in the rankings, less than 40 seconds from the top 15, so anything is still possible today. She's going to go all out for her time and we're going to give it everything we've got for this final stage. It's a course that suits her because it's very technical and we're going to have to drive fast. The aero work done this year has already paid off and will make all the difference today with the wind forecast. It's a shame there won't be a second week of racing when you see Clara's ability to recover. She's getting better and better compared to other racers who were ahead of her in the last stages."