'I did not expect this' - Emma Norsgaard woke up in a bad mood and won a Tour de France Femmes stage

Dane overcomes career set-backs to triumph on day six in Blagnac

Emma Norsgaard celebrates at the Tour de France Femmes 2023
(Image credit: Getty)

Emma Norsgaard woke up in a bad mood on Friday morning. She had slept badly. During the night, the air conditioning in her hotel room packed in, and the thought of racing through 30-degree heat filled her with dread. 

“Let me tell you,” she starts. “I woke up this morning, you know, like, ‘Oh no, another day. Another day I have to work. Another day I have to suffer’, and I was in such a bad mood. 

“I needed three cups of coffee before anyone could speak to me, and then my DS came up to me with this plan that I needed to go in the breakaway, and I was like, ‘Are you kidding me? Again?’” 

Come half past five in the evening, her feelings towards her directeur sportif had changed. “I love him now,” she says with a smile, sat in a press conference as the winner of stage six of the Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift

In a breakaway with two others, Norsgaard’s move was destined to fail. The trio became a duo with 4km remaining, and the Dane held on to a meagre 15-second gap with Canyon-Sram’s Agnieszka Skalniak-Sójka. The odds were stacked against them. The sprint trains were coming. 

“I didn’t listen to anything on the radio other than vamos,” Norsgaard says. “I tried not to look back, and really just focus on the finish line.

“It was a super strong break I was in. The girls were super strong and they were pulling super hard. In the last 10km, I was really trying to encourage them and I think they heard the same thing on the radio as me. I’m lost for words.”

Sensing her fate, the 24-year-old opened up her sprint early. Very early, in fact. With 600m to go, she rose out of the saddle and tore away from her last remaining companion. Behind her, the gap closed. Three seconds, two seconds, one second. And there it stayed. 

“I did not expect this,” Norsgaard said. “The last 5km, I maybe started to believe in it, but otherwise I was just pulling like there was no tomorrow.” 

Emma Norsgaard with her hand over her mouth

(Image credit: Getty)

The Dane’s path to this year’s Tour was not an easy one. She crashed out of last year’s race on day five, and broke her collarbone at Strade Bianche in spring, missing a chunk of the Classics. Illness then left her questioning whether she would make it to France at all. 

“Coming into the Tour, I was a little bit sick,” she explains. “I did the Baloise [Ladies] Tour in Belgium and Holland and I got a fever on the last stage. I was so scared of not being selected for the race because we have so many strong riders on our team and they could take another. I was pretty nervous the first couple of days, I really had to ride into it. When it’s hot, it’s not really my thing.” 

Her room-mate at the race, Floortje Mackaij, concurred on this last point. In the pair's hotel room in Albi after Thursday’s fifth stage, the heat was unbearable. “We had a really bad night last night,” Mackaij said. “Our air conditioning wasn’t working and Emma woke up. We felt like we were hungover, and counting down [the days] a little bit.” 

And so, Norsgaard started the day in a bad mood. She ended it beaming, curled in a ball on the floor, crying tears of joy. 

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Tom Davidson
News and Features Writer

Tom joined Cycling Weekly as a news and features writer in the summer of 2022, having previously contributed as a freelancer. He is the host of The TT Podcast, which covers both the men's and women's pelotons and has featured a number of prominent British riders. 

An enthusiastic cyclist himself, Tom likes it most when the road goes uphill and actively seeks out double-figure gradients on his rides. 

He's also fluent in French and Spanish and holds a master's degree in International Journalism.