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LE MARKSTEIN, France (VN) – On Friday, Kasia Niewiadoma (Canyon-SRAM) said that the GC, which had then been separated by a matter of seconds, would become all about the minutes after Saturday’s first mountain stage.
After winning the massively steep stage by over three minutes, Annemiek van Vleuten (Movistar Team) fulfilled the prophesy.
Nevertheless, a super solid performance by Niewiadoma keeps the Polish rider in third overall, a position she’s maintained throughout the race’s seven stages.
In fact, it was imagining herself with a third place finish at the Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift that kept Niewiadoma motivated during the hardest part of the day.
“I was basically riding the last climb thinking about the third place in GC, I wasn’t focusing too much on who’s riding or who doesn’t want to ride because that wasn’t helping me,” she said. “Setting my own pace and trying to basically do my best and close the gap to Demi or at first close the gap to Elisa. When I heard that she dropped it was a moment for me to go all in.”
Niewiadoma spent most of the day embedded in a group of six that included Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig, Evita Muzic, Silvia Persico, Juliette Labous, and for a time, Grace Brown. The riders organized themselves shortly after Van Vleuten’s attack near the base of the stage’s first climb, the Col du Petit Ballon.
With Van Vleuten and Vollering going clear up the road with a lone Elisa Longo Borghini chasing behind, Niewiadoma said that sextet — which later included Urška Žigart — ”settled down in our little group and worked together until bottom of last climb.”
Niewiadoma would eventually finish fifth on the day, with Uttrup Ludwig getting third with the fastest sprint in the bunch. So, was the 27-year-old tempted to bridge the gap when she had a chance?
“No, I knew that, for me, that after the second climb there was a long descent on a big road and the part in the valley was something that you’d definitely benefit from having riders around you,” she said. “So when I saw Longo Borghini going on her own I knew it would be a difficult day for her.”
Niewiadoma’s group eventually did catch the Italian who finished seventh on the day.
For Niewiadoma, Saturday’s stunner performance was a reflection of thoughtful and thorough preparation, including setting goals and then targeting them.
“I’m not known for amazingly long climbs, let’s say,” the Polish rider told VeloNews on Thursday, “but I’ve spent some time in Andorra recently practicing and trying to improve.”
Another goal met for Niewiadoma at this year’s Tour de France Femmes? Finding the right time to make a move rather than reacting to someone else’s.
“Definitely [years ago] I would jump [when someone like Van Vleuten did] and then a couple meters later I would explode,” she said. “I am an explosive rider but on the short climbs when I can recover straight afterwards. On the climbs that are 30 minutes plus I’ve learned in my body that I just need to stay consistent otherwise I just cannot recover.
“I think it’s just the experience of how you train, knowing what you’ve done before coming to the Tour. When you are at your strongest, and what works for your body and what doesn’t”