2023 Tour de France Femmes Stage 7 Preview

Lannemezan / Col du Tourmalet 90km

The big day is here, it’s time to see who’s going to win the yellow jersey.  


Mid 20s in the valley, around 15 degrees up the mountains. There’s a bit of rain around, but it should stay dry for the race. 

The Climbs 

First up is Col d’Aspin.  

The mighty Tourmalet. Not only do the riders have to deal with the severity of the climb, but there’s the altitude too, as they climb to over 2000m. 


The whole race has been billed as two horse race, let’s not pretend it’s any different. Van Vleuten has been at the top of the tree for just about her whole career, 103 wins shows just how much she’s dominated the sport, but there’s a whiff of the changing of the guard. Demi Vollering joined SD Worx in 2021, and immediately produced some brilliant results in the classics, but she was still miles away from van Vleuten on the longer climbs.  

Like all good pros, she went away and worked her arse off, aiming to improve her climbing ability to one day compete with van Vleuten. Last year, she nearly got there, but van Vleuten demolished Vollering in the Tour de France, winning by 3:48, it was back to the drawing board.  

2023 has been an exceptional year for Vollering, she won Strade Bianche, Dwars door Vlaanderen, Amstel Gold, Flèche and Liège, she was also 2nd in Flanders and De Brabantse Pijl, it was as dominant a display you’ll ever see in cycling, but could she repeat this on the longer climbs?  

The answer was yes. She beat van Vleuten by 56 seconds on Lagos de Covadonga, that was the statement she needed. This was backed up by another huge performance, winning on Lagunas de Neila by 1:35, but van Vleuten wasn’t racing. Vollering was in the place she always wanted to be, the best climber in the world, but what about van Vleuten? 

She started the season slowly; this was part of her plan. Remember, she should have retired at the end of 2022, but decided to go for one more year. This slow start saw her miles off the best in the classics, but she did win the Vuelta after taking advantage of a poorly timed toilet stop by Vollering, but the Giro is when she started to show her true self, but Vollering wasn’t there. That brings us nicely to this race. 

We’ve had one stage where both riders have looked to attack, that was stage 4 to Rodez. At the top of an unclassified climb, van Vleuten tried to attack with the help of a teammate, but she struggled to get on the wheel, so Vollering went over the top and got a small gap. At the finish, van Vleuten attacked but couldn’t distance Vollering, then Vollering went over the top and got a 2 second gap.  

The style of the two couldn’t be more different. Vollering seems to be preferring a small gear/high cadence approach, van Vleuten goes for the biggest gear possible and violently sways from side to side as she tried to get on top of it, it’s as far from aesthetically pleasing as you can get. 

As we head into the big stage, van Vleuten has a 12 second advantage over her rival, thanks to a stupid piece of thinking by the SD Worx DSs, but that gap is nothing on the Tourmalet. The tactical approach from both teams will be interesting, for a change, Movistar should have the numerical advantage. SD Worx are full of talented riders, but in terms of a big mountain stage, I think Lippert will be there to support, but Vollering will be alone in the finale. To combat this, SD Worx should try the Jumbo-Visma tactic of getting riders up the road. It would be perfect for Vollering if the team manage to get Reusser in the break, Movistar need to be very careful in the opening moments of this stage. 

If they do have the numerical advantage, they need to try and use it. The team need to sacrifice Lippert to try and put Vollering under pressure, there’s no point in having two riders high on GC and simply waiting for Vollering to attack. It might not work, but you’ve got to try. The break could well be a big one, but to win this stage you need to be an excellent climber. When the GC group smash up the Tourmalet, they could take over 10 minutes back on a non-climber, we’ll see if anyone from the break is capable of holding on. 


Demi Vollering – she starts as the favourite for me. Not only has she shown to be the best throughout the season, but dropping van Vleuten in the Rodez stage shows there’s still a gap between the two of them. This is a huge moment in Vollering’s career, this is what all the hard work and dedication has been about, finally beating van Vleuten in the high mountains. She’ll be a little worried about Movistar having numbers, but in reality, Lippert is a long way off the level required to put her under pressure. If SD Worx can ride a sensible race, this is Vollering’s day. 

Annemiek van Vleuten – she’ll draw on all her experience in her quest to win another yellow jersey, but I get the sense that we’re ready to see the crown passing to another. The great champions of this sport have all had to deal with this moment, it feels a bit like the end of the Indurain era to me. Van Vleuten will still ride a great race, but I don’t see her winning. 

Elisa Longo Borghini – the Italian is with a group of strong riders fighting for 3rd place on the podium. She started the season off in fine form, winning on Jebel Hafeet, she rarely wins on big mountains. Last year, she separated the big two at the Vuelta, repeating that feat here would be huge.  

Ashleigh Moolman – she had to abandon the race last year, and then decided to not retire so she could have another crack at it. Moolman is a very talented climber, she comes into this stage in a great position, she would love to be fighting for the stage and yellow jersey but might have to settle for being the best of the rest. 

Katarzyna Niewiadoma – 3rd last year, she’ll hoping to repeat that result, but it won’t be easy. Given the form that Moolman and Longo Borghini are in, she’s going to have a fight on her hands. 

Clara Koppenburg – far enough down on GC to get some freedom if she makes the break, and a good enough climber to hold off the peloton if the gap is big enough.

Marta Cavalli – in the same position as Koppenburg. Hopefully, she gets in the break and goes for the win.

Prediction Time 

The Queen is dead, long live the Queen. 

Embed from Getty Images

A win for Queen Demi Vollering I.