Emma Norsgaard holds on to win stage six of the Tour de France Femmes in Blagnac

The Movistar rider spent the day in the break before romping to victory with a 500m sprint as the bunch bore down

Emma Norsgaard sprints to victory on stage six of the 2023 Tour de France Femmes
(Image credit: Alex Broadway / Getty)

Day-long breakaway Emma Norsgaard was the winner of stage six of the Tour de France Femmes in Blagnac, romping away from her breakaway partner with 500m to go and holding off the advancing bunch by what was only a single second on the line.

The Movistar rider had spent the day out front with fellow breakaways Agnieszka Skalniak-Sójka (Canyon-SRAM) and Sandra Alonso (Ceratizit-WNT).

The bunch kept the trio at less than two minutes for much of the day, closing it down in the final 20km. Alonso was unlatched in the closing stages and then, with the bunch almost having made the catch, Norsgaard began what was a long, powerful and ultimately victorious sprint to the line.

Sprinter Charlotte Kool (DSM-Firmenich) was second, a single second behind, with Lotte Kopecky (SD Worx) third.

"I'm lost for words," said an emotional Norsgaard afterwards, thanking those around her for believing in her after she broke her collarbone at Strade Bianche and was forced to sit out the Spring Classics.

"I'm not a sprinter anymore, I have to realise it," she said, explaining why she opted to go on the attack. "I might be fast but I can't keep up with the real sprinters."

Tomorrow's stage takes riders to the Col du Tourmalet, a key target for Norsgaard's team leader Annemiek Van Vleuten, but the Dane said: "I'm going to celebrate, don't worry!"

The stage began at yesterday's finish town of Albi, and featured four category-four ascents as it crossed the hot and grippy roads of southern France.

Agnieszka Skalniak-Sójka (Canyon-SRAM) and Sandra Alonso (Ceratizit-WNT) extricated themselves from the bunch with 95km to ride, joined by Movistar's Emma Norsgaard a few kilometres later. None posed a threat to the GC and the peloton seemed content to let the trio drift away. There were numerous attempts to bridge across, including one from Lizzie Deignan, but none succeeded. In fact it was Skalniak-Sójka who managed one of the most promising moves, and was off the front alone for 20 kilometres at the beginning of the stage.

With the Alonso's chase bolstered by Norsgaard though, the pair were able to recatch the Pole, and the trio became a stage-long feature.

Over the final climb of La Gayre and into the final 40km, the bunch began to eat into the break's lead, with DSM-Firmenich and SD Worx especially active on the front of the break. The gap dipped below a minute to go with around 17km to ride, as the race approached what was a technical finish with plenty of potential to trip up either breakaway or the chasing bunch. Into the final 10km the gap began to tumble, with the leading trio in the peloton's crosshairs with six kilometres to go.

An attack by Norsgaard unlatched Alonso with 4km to to, with the gap holding at around 20 seconds. A win for the break – which now consisted of the Danish and Polish time trial champions – began to look like a possibility as the leading pair swept through barriered roundabouts.

Going into the final, die-straight kilometre the pair had eight seconds, as the bunch was disrupted by a massive crash behind as it negotiated a chicane complete with tramlines. Despite the crash the bunch bore down fast, as Norsgaard launched drawing clear of Skalniak-Sójka and holding off the marauding bunch behind. 

It was Movistar's second stage win of the week following Lianne Lippert's victory at Mauriac on stage two.

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After cutting his teeth on local and national newspapers, James began at Cycling Weekly as a sub-editor in 2000 when the current office was literally all fields. 

Eventually becoming chief sub-editor, in 2016 he switched to the job of full-time writer, and covers news, racing and features.

A lifelong cyclist and cycling fan, James's racing days (and most of his fitness) are now behind him. But he still rides regularly, both on the road and on the gravelly stuff.