‘I really messed up’: Why didn’t the favourites chase Lotte Kopecky at the Tour de France Femmes?

The Belgian put 41 seconds into the GC contenders on stage one, but the time gap is no cause for concern

The chase group at the Tour de France Femmes 2023
(Image credit: Getty)

There was a feeling of frustration after the finish line of the Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift on Sunday. As the riders gasped for air, breathless in the humidity of Clermont-Ferrand, many were left wondering what could have been. After all, there was a yellow jersey on the line, and all but one of them missed out. 

The honours, in the end, went to Lotte Kopecky (SD Worx), the winner of the race’s first stage with a 10km solo attack. When the Belgian launched her move, she took the rest of the field by surprise, leaving some of the GC favourites with a sour taste in their mouths. 

“I think I really messed up when Lotte went,” Kasia Niewiadoma (Canyon-Sram) told Cycling Weekly after the race. “I just lost a couple of seconds. I was trying to get out of Ashleigh Moolman [Pasio]’s wheel because she was kind of blocking me. It’s a pity for us it ended up like this because I think we could have had a better result.”

On the road into Clermont-Ferrand, chaos reigned in the group that followed Kopecky. “Sometimes it feels like no-one wants to work together because everyone has a different tactic or strategy in mind,” Niewiadoma explained. And with little organisation between the chasers, the time gap blew out. 

A few seconds over the top of the Côte de Durtol soon turned into 20, and ultimately 41 over the line. 

Speaking to the media, Moolman Pasio, the sole AG Insurance - Soudal Quick-Step rider in the group, said: "It wasn't actually my job to chase.

“There were multiple riders from other teams. But at the same time, I didn’t want to just sit up, so I tried to keep things going," she explained. "I don’t understand the mentality to attack, counter attack, because if we work together we could bring her back.” 

For Moolman Pasio, the disorder came when Kopecky's attack caught the GC contenders off guard. “She just came with speed from behind,” the South African said. “It was the element of surprise. In hindsight, maybe I’m kicking myself because I knew she was going to go, so why didn’t I just sit on her wheel? Why did I get caught up sitting on Demi [Vollering]’s wheel? 

“But I suppose that doesn’t make sense. Demi’s here to ride the GC, I’m here to ride GC. So nothing is lost today.” 

This, perhaps, is where the crux of it all lay. By virtue of not being a GC contender, the favourites did not deem Kopecky to be a threat, and so gave her licence to draw out an advantage. 

The SD Worx rider’s team-mate Marlen Reusser knew that would always be the case. “It was all the GC riders behind, not the sprinters, and that’s always the game,” she told Cycling Weekly. “They look at each other, and Lotte isn’t a GC rider, so that’s the big advantage that she had there.

“It went perfect,” Reusser added with a smile. 

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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.