Josie Nelson’s Tour de France Femmes debut diary - pancakes for lunch, hard days, and being the lanterne rouge

The 21-year-old British rider is making her debut at Tour. Rouleur caught up with Nelson through the eight-day race

Josie Nelson from Team Coop-Hitech Products is at Tour de France Femmes making her debut. In the opening two stages, the British rider from Lichfield was surprised by the difficulty of the days, with a combination of the heat in Clermont-Ferrand and the punchy hills that have characterised this year’s route. However, despite some hard days, the 21-year-old rider has been soaking up the atmosphere from the French fans and learning lots along the way. Rouleur caught up with Nelson after stages three, four and five to see how the rest of her Tour experience was going.

After stage three 

The crowds swarm around the team buses after the stage, hoping to catch a glimpse of their favourite riders. As the Norwegian team packs up the bus, making a bid to get to the hotel, Nelson quickly gives a debrief of the day. 

“I’m finding the short, steep climbs difficult at the moment and that was what this stage was. They started quite early as well, so it was just annoying that I couldn't get up and stay in the peloton.

“For lunch today I had rice and pancakes. I had a pre-race meal between two to three hours before the stage. I aim for three but it usually ends up being two as I can’t get it down. Then in the evening, we’ve just been getting what the hotel has been giving us, but for the past few days it has not been enough, so the soigneurs made us some pasta. There have also been a lot of fish and I am not really a fan. I am a bit of a fussy eater. 

“But I felt good before today’s stage and recovery is going well.”

The peloton during stage three (Thomas Maheux/ASO)

After stage four 

Starting in Cahors, stage four was the longest stage in the women’s WorldTour, and for some riders, it was their longest ride ever. On her turbo as the rain spits in Rodez, Nelson reflects on the long day.

“I was a bit worried about the stage length and making the time cut after a hard day yesterday, but I think because the stage was so long, luckily the pace was slower. The course also started pretty flat so it was quite easy, and then after about 140km, it was just steady pace to the finish. 

“I’ve only ever raced 160km before, so I think that is my longest ride ever. The last 20km was fairly easy, which was nice. I was in a fairly small group of about 10 riders and then we got to a group of about that which made it a lot better. 

“I feel better now that the long stage is done with it being the longest. There are still some hard days to come, so hopefully I can just keep recovering and doing it again, but I think I was sort of dreading that stage a little bit because I was dropped quite early on stage three and ended up having a really hard day, about 80km with just one girl. That was really bad. So I feel a lot happier after this stage.”

Team spirits are high (Image by Kjetil Alsvik)

Before stage five 

Outside the Coop team bus, the French media eagerly awaits the arrival of a British rider who was announced as the lanterne rouge after stage four of the race. The weather is scorching in Onet-le-Château as Nelson emerges wearing a Liv bucket hat with the phrase ‘More Femmes on Bikes’ printed on it. She tells Rouleur about her feelings regarding being the last rider in the general classification.  

“I’m feeling better than yesterday. Obviously, today is a lot shorter, but that probably means it is going to be more intense. Just got to get over the climbs! But we have a plan as a team today in that we want someone in the breakaway, so that is a must for today’s stage. 

“I had a good recovery last night with good food and a good massage, so I am ready for today. But it is hot again today and I am a bit nervous about that. The teams are finding it hard to get ice at the feed zones because it just melts and then it's just water in stockings. We end up having loads of stocking socks in the back of our jerseys at the end of the stage. 

“I only found out I was the lanterne rouge last night and I don’t know, I was a bit surprised. It’s sort of funny and my teammates had a giggle about it. I think people will go fairly slow at the Tourmalet, like the sprinters once they have done their jobs, so maybe I can make up some minutes there. I think it was because of stage three when I was dropped, and then the girl I was riding with didn’t finish the stage yesterday, so I am the last rider. But I don’t think I will finish last. Hopefully!”

*Cover image by Kjetil Alsvik

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