The Queen stage of CIC-Tour Féminin International des Pyrénées finished up the legendary Hautacam climb. The French stage race had a strong start list with riders such as Marta Cavalli, Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig and Ashleigh Moolman Pasio which promised a good ᵉW/Kg performance on the mighty Pyrenees climb.
The majority of the stage was unfortunately neutralised due to parked cars and safety issues. The race practically started at the bottom of Hautacam and everyone’s legs were completely fresh before the big climb. It has been rare to see in the women’s calendar such a hard and big climb but they are becoming more frequent in 2023 with climbs such as Hafeet providing something to the climbers even in February. Annemiek van Vleteun, Gaia Realini and Demi Vollering were not in this race but the start list still was strong for a 2.1 UCI stage race.
Ashleigh Moolman Pasio won the first stage and was wearing the yellow leader’s jersey but there were no bonus seconds at the finish which meant 22 other riders had the same time as her. Today, Moolman Pasio was aggressive from the start and after her teammates from AG Insurance – Soudal Quick-Step emptied their tanks she accelerated and only the FDJ – SUEZ star duo Grace Brown and Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig were able to follow her wheel initially. A moment later a handful of the strongest riders bridged the gap.
The South African was making the race harder for everyone else with her accelerations and high tempo and with still 6 km to go, only Cavalli, Uttrup Ludwig and the 20-year-old German Antonia Niedermaier were left with her. The climb was steep and drafting did not matter as much with the speed under 20 km/h.
Despite attempts by Moolman Pasio, Cavalli was still left on her wheel. In the last kilometre, Niedermaier caught the duo and paced at the front but it was clear Moolman Pasio or Cavalli would win. Moolman Pasio maybe overall was stronger on the climb but not strong enough to drop Cavalli who saved some energy in the draft which helped the Italian in the final metres.
It was the first victory for Cavalli in 2023 as she opened her sprint in the final uphill drag and beat Moolman Pasio, becoming the new race leader. 20-year-old Niedermaier lost only 5 seconds while after these first three riders, there were big gaps.
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This probably was a good chance for many riders to test their watts on a long climb. Moolman Passio did 4.85 ᵉW/Kg for 46:53 min which was more than what the stage winner Cavalli did as the South African spent way more time in the wind. Moolman Passio in 2018 did a little bit better performance on Monte Zoncolan in the Giro d’Italia Stage 9, finishing 40 seconds behind Annemiek van Vleuten and doing 5.00 ᵉW/Kg for 48:48min. The Giro Donne will start in three weeks and for many riders today was a chance to test their power.