In the end, stage 3 of the Tour de France Femmes saw the winner everybody expected as Lorena Wiebes (Team SD Worx) sprinted to victory using a lead out by yellow jersey Lotte Kopecky. Lone attacker Julie van de Velde (Fenix-Deceuninck) had escaped 59km before and was only caught on the finishing straight.
Team SD Worx joined the chase late, only coming to the front in the last three kilometres when Team dsm-firmenich could not close the gap to Van de Velde.
Wiebes, who had moved from that team to SD Worx ahead of the 2023 season, used her inside knowledge to outfox her former teammates.
“I know that if they have a plan, they will go fully for the plan. And I had a feeling the plan was to sprint with Charlotte [Kool]. I also know that if they want to sprint, they will chase the breakaway. And last year, we had a lot of situations when it was up to us to chase things back,” Wiebes explained at the stage winner’s press conference about her former team’s tactics.
Asked for the reason to hold back and not join the chase to ensure a sprint, Wiebes pointed to her team’s diverse goals.
“We have a GC leader in our team, and it’s still long to the end of the race. It wasn’t up to us, and we also need the riders for the next days. We cannot let them ride full and then they cannot do anything for GC anymore.
“And that’s the thing with sprinting, sometimes you have to gamble. We got so many victories this year already,” said Wiebes, implying that the team had been prepared to let Van de Velde win.
Her teammate and Swiss Champion Marlen Reusser came to the front of the peloton in the last three kilometres, but her chase work was interrupted by Van de Velde’s teammates.
“It was difficult to move up and really be there. I would have helped to pull much earlier, but I just could not get there. And then I was stupid, to be honest. Once I pulled through, I saw the Fenix-Deceuninck girls moving up and thought, ‘yeah, it’s going down’. But they were the wrong girls, everything stopped, and I was stuck in the washing machine. It just worked out in the end. We were lucky,” Reusser gave an honest assessment of the hectic final 10 kilometres.
Yellow jersey Lotte Kopecky was impressed by the performance of her compatriot in the breakaway.
“Julie was very strong. It is really hard for one lone leader who has been out for so long to keep a gap against the peloton. It was nice to see, but in the end, two or three riders from our team started to help DSM. We could see Julie in the final corner we see Julie, and I started sprinting to lead out Lorena,” Kopecky said.
After leading out Wiebes, Kopecky kept sprinting and finished in third place to complete yet another day dominated by Team SD Worx.