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Tour de France Femmes

Words of Winder: Our fondness for the breakaway

An ode to the breakway by Ruth Winder after stage 5 of the Tour de France Femmes.

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Throughout the Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift, retired professional cyclist and former U.S. national champion Ruth Winder will be offering commentary and analysis to VeloNews readers.

We see it time and time again.

The hopeful breakaway, those riders that we grow to love and cheer for, even though we might have never heard of them before. Our hearts grow fond for them over the hours of watching them suffer off the front, putting on a show for us.

Teams and riders know the day to try before even arriving at the race. That happens weeks in advance while scoping out the stages. They’ll see the obvious sprint stages early and the classic GC days.

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But what they’re really looking for? Those days to be hopeful, to get in the breakaway.

When the day arrives the team meeting is short: “make sure you get in the break.” As a rider, there will be a moment of thinking along the lines of … “but, why? It’ll never last. The big teams will pull us back. They have to. That’s their job, they have the best sprinters.”

Then, “if we don’t, then what? Sit in the peloton and still lose? We have to try. We came to race.”

So, they race. They attack and attack until the right collection is decided by the big teams. Then off they go for hours. This isn’t a break that goes for only an hour, they are committed to the whole day. Giving us — the viewers — time for our fondness to grow.

As the kilometers tick down, they’ve depleted themselves all day. The finish is close but they’ve still not been caught. That thought is back: “this will never last.”

They try to ignore the mind which is wishing it to just be over soon. Wishing that the peloton will save them from the misery. Hoping for relief in the form of shelter in the peloton.

But, the relief hasn’t come with a few kilometers to go. There is no giving up at this point. They push the thoughts of relief from their minds, and all they do is focus on suffering.

“We made it this far, it’s 2km to go, we can do it, just suffer. This is what we came for.”

Maybe this dream of winning a stage can happen. Maybe just maybe they’ll stay away.