Demi Vollering wins stage seven of the Tour de France Femmes and takes overall lead

After the riders spent a lot of time looking at each other and riding quite conservatively, Demi Vollering showed she's the strongest at the 2023 Tour de France Femmes

Demi Vollering at the summit of the col du tourmalet
(Image credit: Getty)

Demi Vollering (Team SD Worx-Protime) won Stage 7 of the Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift with a solo ride through the mist on the Col du Tourmalet. With the stage win she moved into the overall lead of the race.

The fireworks between her and key rival Annemiek van Vleuten (Movistar) didn't materialise as the latter couldn't follow when the decisive move was made.

That was after the pair had earlier ridden a descent like they were in a track sprint on a velodrome, each refusing to chase the solo breakaway.

Riding in the yellow skinsuit of race leader, Lotte Kopecky (Team SD Worx-Protime) rode well and for a while looked like she might even hold on to the overall lead. But once her teammate went the gap only grew.

A commendable second on the stage went to Kasia Niewiadoma (Canyon-Sram Racing), who capitalised on the Dutch debate to go solo for a while but could not answer when Vollering later caught and passed her through the fog.

Stage 7 at the 2023 Tour de France Femmes: How it happened

A relatively short stage, at 89.8km, was heavily backloaded with a summit finish atop the mighty Col du Tourmalet. Before that hors categorie climb, there was the intimidating prospect of the Col d'Aspin as a leg softener.

Early into the stage, some big name riders such as Lizzie Deignan (Lidl-Trek) tried to get the breakaway going but were soon closed down.

After a few more fruitless attacks from a range of riders, Susanne Andersen (Uno-X Pro Cycling Team) and Margot Pompanon (St Michel-Mavic-Auber93 WE) were able to get clear with a slim advantage.

Behind them, Sara Poidevin (EF Education-TIBCO-SVB) was stuck between the front of the race and the peloton.

Usually, such a situation would satisfy the GC contenders and their teams, but after miscalculations (and to be fair to the winners, very strong breakaway rides) have led to upsets already this race, the peloton needed to stay alert to who went and how far ahead they got.

Poidevin's adventure was soon over as the peloton drew her back in.

With 41.7km to go, and about 200 metres into the Col d'Aspin, the peloton caught and passed the lead pair. On the flatter, wider roads leading in, the peloton had been massed across the road but as the climbing started it began to get strung out.

An early casualty of the increased climbing speed was Marianne Vos (Jumbo-Visma) as she watched what was left of the peloton going away from her up the climb.

Movistar took it up at the front, setting a fast pace for the expected attack from Van Vleuten.

Niewiadoma, Van Vleuten and Vollering went over summit of the Col d'Aspin first, gaining almost a minute over the peloton. As the road levelled out, Niewiadoma went clear while the pair of favourites let the gap grow as they appeared to debate who should chase.

The solo leader moved into the virtual overall lead of the race while the Dutch pair behind her were freewheeling and even braking at times rather than working together.

With Niewiadoma now 48 seconds ahead and spots of rain seen on the lens of the race cameras, Vollering and Van Vleuten almost looked like they were working together for all of about 300 metres.

The group behind, including two of Vollering's teammates – her reason for not working with her rival, caught the chasers as Niewiadoma went all in on the lower slopes of the formidable Col du Tourmalet to increase her lead to around a minute.

With around 15km to go for the stage leader and chasing group, news came through that Marianne Vos had abandoned the race. She'd look out of sorts earlier, getting dropped long before you'd expect. Her team tweeted to say she would switch her focus to the upcoming World Championships.

Clinging on to the chasing group, and for a time it looked like perhaps the yellow jersey too, was Kopecky as her teammate Marlen Reusser did the heavy lifting of bringing the solo leader back.

Reusser's effort had the added bonus of shelling riders out the back, among them Amanda Spratt (Lidl-Trek). Her team would have hoped for a good day after the earlier bad news of Elisa Longo Borghini's abandon ahead of the stage.

Niewiadoma kept riding and after Reusser had brought her back to four seconds, the gap went back out to nine as the latter peeled off the front of the chase group and the pace lulled slightly. 

The Canyon-Sram rider just kept going, doing her own thing, and soon had 43 seconds again. The pace had slowed sufficiently in the yellow jersey group for Spratt to get back on.

As Spratt almost made contact, the first attack went from the yellow jersey group as Juliette Labous (Team DSM-Firmenich) launched. Vollering was straight on her wheel and was soon joined by Van Vleuten, Kopecky and Ashleigh Moolman (AG Insurance-Soudal Quick-Step) – wearing the points jersey on Kopecky's behalf.

Labous tried again but couldn't get a gap. She attacked from the back of the group, but by the time she'd got to the front, Vollering had slightly upped her pace and cadence just enough to simply ride in behind the attacking rider.

In the fog of the Tourmalet, Vollering cracked Van Vleuten and began to ride away from her biggest rival. The rest of the group were now all solo riders with gaps of varying sizes between them.

Silhouetted through the fog against the headlight of the following motorbike, Vollering's outline grew as she got closer and closer to Niewiadoma. Vollering looked at the previous leader and immediately went clear of her by increasing the pressure on the pedals to grow the gap.

Vollering never looked back and simply got further and further ahead of her rivals.

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Jack Elton-Walters hails from the Isle of Wight, and would be quick to tell anyone that it's his favourite place to ride. He has covered a varied range of topics for Cycling Weekly, producing articles focusing on tech, professional racing and cycling culture. He moved on to work for Cyclist Magazine in 2017 where he stayed for four years until going freelance. He now returns to Cycling Weekly from time-to-time to cover racing, review cycling gear and write longer features for print and online.