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The yellow jersey is securely in Demi Vollering’s hands after she put almost two minutes into Kasia Niewiadoma at the top of the Tourmalet, and a further 38 seconds into Annemiek van Vleuten. Even a twenty-second time penalty couldn’t give the rest of the field enough of a buffer to prevent Vollering from fulfilling the dream she has held since the top of the Planche des Belles Filles a year ago in this year’s Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift.
For the rest of the podium, however, there is potential for change after tomorrow’s time trial. After her gutsy ride, Niewiadoma is 38 seconds ahead of Van Vleuten, but the Polish rider will have to deliver a solid time trial to maintain her second place against the Olympic champion of the discipline.
Her DS, Magnus Backstedt, seems to have faith in Niewiadoma’s ability to hang on, though: “Kasia’s spent a lot more time on the TT bike this year, more than she’s ever done. She’s better on the time trial bike than she’s ever been. Whether that’s enough for tomorrow? I guess only tomorrow will tell,” he said.
“We’ve done a big day today here, recovery is going to be key and ultimately it’s different doing a time trial at the end of an eight day stage race compared to what it is when you’re doing an individual standalone TT. So at the moment, she is good, she’s clearly in physically very very good shape so we’ll just have to go out there and do the best she can and what will be will be.”
Van Vleuten, though, claims that any podium position besides the top one means little to her: “I will see. I think I’m here to win the Tour de France and to be second, third or maybe fourth to be honest, it’s beautiful, but after winning last year you want to win and it’s obvious that Demi Vollering was another level today,” she said whilst warming down after the stage.
The profile of the time trial appears mostly flat or rolling with the exception of a short, steep climb halfway through and a rise to the line. Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio, who sits in fifth behind former yellow jersey Lotte Kopecky – who herself is just seven seconds behind Van Vleuten – likes her chances on the 22.6 km course.
“I feel pretty confident on that route,” she said. “I mean it’s been a while since I’ve done a time trial at a stage race but I think it’s quite a well-balanced course; technical, a lot of sort of time trial specialist stuff but also climbing and technical descending so I think there’s still some shuffling to happen on the time trial tomorrow.”
Kopecky, who valiantly kept her yellow jersey safe until around 4km to go, has been the Belgian national time trial champion on multiple occasions but has a less decorated record in the discipline elsewhere. While she is very unlikely to make up her gap to Van Vleuten, her sliding room is limited to just four seconds between herself and Moolman-Pasio. The South African must put eleven seconds into Van Vleuten if she is to finish on the podium.
“It’s quite close between Annemiek and I,” said Moolman-Pasio. “I think Kasia’s not all that much ahead of us and I don’t know about Demi but I think the podium is still in reach.”