SAINT-DIÉ-DES-VOSGES, France (VN) — Veronica Ewers turned professional less than a year ago, but the EF Education-TIBCO-SVB rider doesn’t look out of place racing against the world’s best riders at the Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift.
Ewers climbed ever closer to the top 10 in the overall classification Wednesday with an impressive ride over the gravel of the Champagne region of France. After some misfortune earlier in the race, she is currently in 14th overall with a 2:55 gap to the yellow jersey.
Her Tour de France Femmes performance is all part of a whirlwind ride into the pro ranks that started late last season and saw her take her first professional win at the Festival Elsy Jacobs at the beginning of May.
“It’s been pretty overwhelming. It’s tough for me not to get ahead of myself and want more and more, but I do have a lot of moments where I do need to remember that this is my first full year at the WorldTour level, and to be present in every moment and enjoying the experience and acknowledge that there is still a lot of room for growth and take it step by step,” Ewers told VeloNews at the start of stage 4.
“It’s been pretty amazing, and I really don’t think I’ll be able to fully comprehend it until after the fact. I’m just trying to take it day by day at the moment and just trying to enjoy the ups and the downs that come with cycling.”
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Ewers jumped up three places in the overall standings due to her gravel ride, which was only the second time she’d raced on rough roads like that. She jumped across to a counter-attack inside the final 20 kilometers of the stage and though the group never caught solo rider Marlen Reusser, she gained 16 seconds on the main GC rivals.
“On the second to last long climb, when I attacked to join Evita Muzic and Alena [Amialiusik] with Canyon-SRAM, my DS was telling me that this is your chance. It worked out in my favor. A top-five result for the first time for myself, so it’s really exciting,” she told reporters at the finish.
“I had a friend before this race say go out there and have fun. You know, it’s fun but I’m scared shitless 85 percent of the time because I’m trying to navigate the peloton still but once it was a smaller group, I was like this is awesome. I honestly had a really good time in the gravel sections today.”
If she can keep herself out of trouble for the next few days, Ewers could feasibly climb herself into the top-10 overall — a result that would cement herself as a top GC contender in the women’s peloton. For now, Ewers just wants to get herself into the front of the group and see how it pans out.
“Personally, I think just being up there with the big hitters at a key moment that would mean a whole lot to me. I think we’re showing that we can ride as a team and that we can be present up at the front, which I think is huge, coming with a brand-new team into the WorldTour,” she told VeloNews.
A gateway into women’s cycling
Ewers, like many of the riders, has been awed and impressed by the support that the Tour de France Femmes has had so far. There has been a strong fan turnout throughout the opening stages with big crowds turning up at the starts and finishes and flocking to the roadsides, too.
With so much attention and pressure on the peloton, there has understandably been a lot of tension in the bunch that resulted in some big crashes, but it has calmed down as the race hierarchy has settled down.
“It’s amazing, the nerves are obviously there, the excitement, the anxiety. It was pretty clear on stage 2 that there was quite a bit of chaos. Fortunately, [stage 3] was a bit more tame with regards to crashing. I think the viewership, in general, has been so amazing with so many fans out,” she said.
“One of our DSs mentioned that stage 1 was interesting because you didn’t really know how many people were here for the Tour Femmes because the men were coming in on the same day, but just as many people were out for stage 2, if not more. It was absolutely amazing.”
Ewers has only been in the sport for a short time but she believes that the Tour de France Femmes will have a major positive impact on it and not just for the eight days that the race is on.
“Having family and friends reach out about it and acknowledging that they’ve been watching, and they’ve never been interested in it before has been amazing. This Tour has not only progressed women’s cycling, but it is also engaging more of the world’s population in cycling, which I think is so cool,” she said.
“I think this is just a gateway into women’s cycling and I think this will bring more attention to cycling in general. Then we’ll have more viewership and support for all of these other races that we have and it will be just as important as the Tour de France Femmes.”