On stage six of the Tour de France Femmes, 54 kilometres from the finish, a distressing incident occurred in the bunch that led to five riders being launched to the side of the road. Among them was Julie Van de Velde and polka dot jersey wearer Yara Kastelijn from Fenix-Deceuninck, white jersey wearer Cédrine Kerbaol, as well as Kathrin Hammes and Veronica Ewers from EF Education-TIBCO-SVB. While four of the riders quickly remounted their bikes to avoid distancing themselves from the bunch, Veronica Ewers, a strong contender for the GC, remained lying in the ditch at the side of the road unable to get up. From that moment, the future of her race changed.
After a few minutes of lying by the side of the road, Ewers was surrounded by race and team staff, who checked for any serious injuries. It seemed she might have to abandon the race, as a stretcher was prepared by the ambulance crew. However, this rider did not give up without a fight. Displaying her determination and resilience, Ewers decided to continue riding to the finish in Blagnac.
As she got back onto her bike, it was clear she was in considerable pain, with tears in her eyes, recognising that her dreams had been dashed by the unfortunate crash. Eventually, when the race came to a close with Emma Norsgaard (Movistar) celebrating victory, Ewers crossed the line in last place, 9:56 behind the peloton with her teammate Magdeleine Vallieres, who stayed back to support her, ensuring she could still race if she felt well enough on the penultimate stage. However, the crash plummeted Ewers to 32nd place overall, now trailing yellow jersey wearer Lotte Kopecky by 12 minutes and 17 seconds.
As the American rider walked back to the team bus after a heart-rending day distraught with tears, she held her left arm close to her body. She got immediately onto the bus and it was confirmed by the team that she would be taken to hospital for a thorough examination.
Before Ewers arrived back to her team bus, EF Education-TIBCO-SVB DS Tim Harris said, "It was just one of those crashes, there was a touch of wheels and then she came down in the ditch. So, when we got there it looked pretty bad; the doctors were there but then she decided to keep on riding."
Leading up to this year's Tour de France Femmes, Ewers had been the pink-clad team's hopeful for the GC. Her talent as an exciting and promising rider had become evident in her first year as a pro just last year, where she secured a ninth-place finish overall at the Tour. Prior to this year's race, the 28-year-old rider was on an upward trajectory, evident from her impressive fourth-place GC finish and second-place podium at the Giro Donne earlier that month, even beating world champion Annemiek van Vleuten to the line.
Ewers had her sights set on the Tour de France Femmes, particularly on conquering the Col du Tourmalet, where she intended to showcase her exceptional climbing abilities. Unfortunately, her hopes were dashed, and tomorrow's stage, expected to decide the GC battle, will now be without her formidable presence in the battle for the GC title. Throughout the week, she displayed strength as the women's peloton faced numerous challenging climbs, placing herself in a good position ahead of the Tour de France Femmes only mountain stage.
"It’s really disappointing because she was in a really good position for tomorrow," Harris expressed. "Obviously, we’ve been waiting all week for this day. She was in good form, for us, it’s super, super, super disappointing."
A few hours after the stage, EF Education-TIBCO-SVB announced on Twitter that Ewers had sustained a broken collarbone and would be withdrawing from the race – her GC dreams over. Some may argue that things happen for a reason, and maybe this just wasn’t Ewers' chance at a GC victory. But for the American rider who has invested countless hours in training and preparation exactly for this moment, the disappointment is unimaginable.