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Julie van de Velde (Fenix-Deceuninck) stole the show on stage 3 of the Tour de France Femmes when she attacked with over 60km to go. She swooped up the last two mountain sprints to keep the polka-dot jersey in her team, taking over from Yara Kastelijn.
But as the peloton let the gap go out to more than two-and-a-half minutes and the long leash almost allowed Van de Velde to win the stage, only being caught on the finishing straight at Montignac-Lascaux.
The final 300 metres turned into apparent heartbreak for Van de Velde and ultimate triumph for European Champion Lorena Wiebes (Team SD Worx), but the 30-year-old Belgian just tried to make the best of her situation.
“The plan was to take points for the polka-dot jersey, to keep it in the team. It wasn’t the goal to go full-gas to the line on my own," Van de Velde said.
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"But I was there, I couldn’t turn back, so I just went. And I thought, as long as the team is in the picture in the front, it’s good for the sponsors. I could have waited for the peloton, but I could also stay in front for a bit and see when they come. It turned out to be on the last 300 metres.”
She was in the breakaway for almost all of the final 59km of the 147.2km stage. Instead of winning a Tour de France Femmes stage, she finished in the pack in 37th position, just two seconds behind Wiebes.
A Tour stage victory would have been a first for the WorldTour freshman, but she was happy to have secured the mountain jersey and combativity prize with her performance.
“Of course there is a bit of disappointment, but I am really proud that I came so close. I’m also proud to have the [QOM] jersey now and to have shown myself. And the team did amazing work blocking the pace in the bunch,” the Belgian thanked her teammates.
And the new wearer of the mountain jersey promised that she would go on the attack again, on stage 7 at the latest. The Saturday stage is the queen stage with ascents of the Col d'Aspin (12km at 6.5%) and the Col du Tourmalet (17km at 7.3%), marking it the most decisive stage of the event.
“I like the mountain stage on the Col d’Aspin, Col de Tourmalet the most. That is marked in red in my mind. I will try to show something nice there also,” Van de Velde added.
💔 Heartbreak for @julieJvdv, triumph for @lorenawiebes, relive the nail biting last KM of stage 3!💔 Que c'est cruel pour @julieJvdv ! @lorenawiebes triomphe au bout d'un dernier kilomètre qui nous aura tenu en haleine !#TDFF2023 | #WatchTheFemmes | @GoZwift pic.twitter.com/97ZTF9b8zbJuly 25, 2023