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The 27-year-old Polish rider ended the eight-day event third overall, 6:35 behind the overall winner Annemiek van Vleuten (Movistar Team). She was 2:47 off the runner-up slot of Demi Vollering (SD Worx).
“There was not enough time to let it sink in, but definitely finishing top three in the general classification in the Tour de France avec Zwift is something I have been dreaming of ever since I found out that we are going to have this race in our calendar,” she said at the post-race press conference on Sunday. “I am beyond the moon, extremely happy and proud of my teammates.”
The Canyon//SRAM rider was third on stage two, sixth on stage three, then seventh and fifth on the final two days in the high mountains. She showed a consistency that some didn’t expect, and also a flair for racing in the high mountains which she didn’t realize she had.
Still, she does have one day where things simply didn’t go to plan.
“I wish that I hadn’t crashed on the third stage and that I arrived to the last kilometer more fresh and I could fight for the victory,” she said. “I feel that was in some ways a heartbreaking stage for me.”
She finished five seconds behind Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig (FDJ-Suez-Futuroscope) on that day, being one of four riders on that time. Having a little more in the finale could, she feels, have made the difference.
Looking at the race as a whole, she said that she saw it as an event of two parts. Day one aside, when she finished 18th in Paris, she was otherwise in the top three overall for the entire time. Indeed she was up to second overall after Friday’s stage six, saying it was a matter of holding on as best as possible until Sunday’s big finale on La Super Planche des Belles Filles.
The mountain raid by Annemiek van Vleuten (Movistar Team) on Saturday bumped her down one place overall, but she was satisfied with how she handled terrain that she said doesn’t naturally play to her strengths.
“Personally I have been enjoying the first couple of days, I like explosive, punchy climbs,” she said. “So that is what we had in the first six stages, I would say. It was something we really enjoyed. The last two stages were all about surviving, I would say.”\
“This week was extremely hard,” she said. “I was super happy that I took a little rest after my first part of the season and then coming with six weeks just for the preparation for this race, without racing or extra travel. So I felt that my body was capable of sustaining all those hard efforts and high speeds.
“Definitely I would say it was one of the hardest races we have ever done, especially with yesterday’s stage. Today was all about surviving and all about pushing beyond the limits.”
Assessing the Tour de France Femmes
This year was the first time the Tour de France Femmes was held. There were previous versions of the race, most notably the editions in the 1980s which were held alongside the men’s race, but also a long number of years without any such an event.
La Course made its debut in 2014 and in the years since Tour organizers ASO ran it as a one- or two-day race. This year is the first time that the company properly delivered on a stage race commitment it made several years ago.
Niewiadoma is greatly encouraged by what she saw, including the reception of those who turned out to watch the riders.
“It was amazing to see all of the fans on the side of the road. I feel like we have been receiving a lot of energy, and that also motivated us to go harder and push beyond our limits,” she said. “Also receiving a lot of attention from social media and TV was something very special. So it was very nice to find ourselves in a situation where we were giving something to the public and the public was giving back to us.”
“I’m incredibly happy to take third on GC. It was a team goal, and my personal goal, and this time to actually achieve my target is just so, so satisfying. I’m thankful to the team and to my teammates,” @KNiewiadoma. #TDFF #TakeTheLead pic.twitter.com/xBNGGQo7CD
— CANYON//SRAM Racing & CANYON//SRAM Generation (@WMNcycling) July 31, 2022
Looking to the upcoming years, she was asked if there was anything that she would like to see in the event.
“To be honest, at the moment I have nothing in my head that I could say,” she answered. “I can definitely see this racing evolving to 10 stages, or even maybe a two weeks stage race. So far I feel like we have all been enjoying the race. It was a very special experience and it was nice to feel it myself because a lot of people talk about this race, how amazing it is and how special and how much attention the race gets. So it was nice to find ourselves in the position of a rider, and to basically feel it.”
Van Vleuten dominated the event and said after Saturday’s stage that one reason for doing so is that she has built up a tolerance for training over a long career, and that this has enabled her to work harder than her fellow competitors.
Now 27, Niewiadoma was asked how she would respond to that suggestion. She answered by focusing on herself, and what she can do for the future to try to get closer to the yellow jersey.
“I think that for the most part of my career I have been focusing on short, punchy efforts, something that could prepare me extremely well for the classics,” she said. “I was never really focusing on long climbs because I was doubting my abilities to do so.
“Having a couple of weeks spent in the mountains where I was just preparing for this race, knowing that the last two stages were going to be extremely hard, I know that with the right training and preparation that I can improve.”
She finishes the race greatly satisfied with her overall performance, but will take additional motivation from that realization about the big climbs.
She knows that further improvements are possible in the high mountains and she will work towards that goal in the year between now and the next running of the Tour de France Femmes.