The Tour de France Femmes is the biggest race on the women’s WorldTour calendar. And not only is it the most important race for all the teams and riders involved, but it is the race with the most TV coverage, with viewers from around the world tuning in to get a glimpse at the women’s peloton racing around France.
This is therefore the perfect opportunity for those from smaller teams to get time in front of the camera, show off their jerseys, and ultimately make the sponsors happy. In the men’s Tour de France, there have been some very chaotic days, with attack, after attack, after attack, with the breakaway group seeming bigger than the main peloton at times. But in the women’s opening stage in Clermont-Ferrand, no break managed to form. Instead, as the kilometres dwindled down, only one rider at a time made an attempt to get away. In the end, the brave rider would end up being caught by the chasing peloton a few kilometres later.
Marie-Morgane Le Deunff of Arkéa Pro Cycling Team was the first to try, attacking with 104 kilometres to go. The French rider managed in the end to gain a 30 second gap between herself and the peloton. This is when April Tacey (Lifeplus-Wahoo) made an attack in an attempt to bridge the gap to Le Deunff. However, Tacey was swallowed up shortly after, and Le Deunff followed.
The same happened again later in the stage with another rider from Lifeplus-Wahoo, Typhaine Laurance, then Amandine Fouquenet (Arkéa) and finally Marta Lach of Ceratizit-WNT Pro Cycling, who did eventually manage to distance herself by almost a minute – but as today’s story went, she was caught by the chasing peloton after using up all her energy in an attempt to go solo.
Even Lidl-Trek's Lizzie Deignan was unsure as to why there wasn’t more aggressive racing in an attempt to get into the breakaway, saying after the stage, “I think you should go and ask them, your guess is as good as mine. I’d prefer aggressive racing.”
It was cagey racing in the opening stage of the Tour de France Femmes (Image by Thomas Maheux/ASO)
If more riders had joined those attacking to form a break, they could have worked together, giving them all more time in front of the TV cameras as well as more sliding room on the final, deciding climb, where they most likely would have been caught by the peloton behind that featured the ever-dominate riders of SD Worx, Movistar and Lidl-Trek. Was this one of the reasons why no one wanted to make the jump? It’s not worth wasting their energy on the first stage when they know the inevitable will happen.
Lifeplus-Wahoo, Arkéa and Ceratizit-WNT were the only teams to take advantage of the opportunity, adding some excitement into the first stage of the eight-day race.
“I was hoping more people would come with us,” Tacey told Rouleur back at the team’s bus after the race had finished. “But I feel like it is the first stage and everyone knows it’s going to be hard towards the end because there was a sprint, a KOM and the finish, so I just think a lot of people just wanted to save their energy and wait for the finish.”
Lifeplus-Wahoo was one of three teams who attempted to get out front (Image by Andy Rogers/Lifeplus-Wahoo)
Lifeplus-Wahoo’s team manager Tom Varney felt the same and did not understand why more teams did not want to participate in the break, especially those from smaller teams. There are seven stages remaining, and maybe it was a case of first-day nerves for a lot of riders, especially with half the peloton making their Tour debut. But this is the Tour de France and every opportunity needs to be taken, something some riders grabbed with two hands.
“I just wanted to make the most out of the first stage and just be present in the breakaway,” Tacey added. “Later in the week I want to be in the breakaway again.”
The upcoming stages look set for fireworks with a number of challenging stages, featuring several categorised climbs, a trip up the Col du Tourmalet and a time trial grand finale, so will there be more aggressive racing from teams, or will we see just the favourites in the spotlight?