Daria Pikulik claimed her fifth win of the season in typically dominant fashion to cap off another dominant team display by winning stage 3 of the Tour Feminin l’Ardèche.
It was once again a display of total team unity – Eri Yonamine and Barbara Malcotti controlled the peloton throughout the day before Nina Buijsman and Marit Raaijmakers guided Lily Williams and Pikulik through the finale.
“The girls did such a good job for me again today. The leadout was perfect,” she exclaimed afterward. “Right now we know each other really well and understand how each other rides. It’s good to learn. This race in Ardèche will help us progress at the WorldTour level. Everyone can be proud of today.”
After expertly positioning Pikulik, Williams kept sprinting and held on for sixth place. Williams has been an integral part in all but two of Pikulik’s eleven top ten placings in 2023 – and has been part of the roster every time Pikulik has tasted victory.
“I love lead out duty,” she says of her role. “Every part of the lead out is important, but getting to be the last one means I also get to do a sprint,” she said. “It’s so much fun having someone on your wheel who you know can win.”
Wednesday’s stage 2 also finished in a bunch sprint but Williams and Pikulik were not present. Concerned by a motorbike that was within the peloton, paired with a risky finale, much of the group missed the 90-degree turn with 300 meters to race, causing a crash the pair were caught up in.
“I think most of us were angry about [the stage 2 finish],” Pikulik explains. “So we took this energy that was left from yesterday and kept it in our legs today and it really motivated us. We can be glad that we were all in one piece from that and so today was perfect.”
It’s a mindset that as a sprinter, Pikulik has learned to harness when having to make split decisions and movements racing at speeds exceeding 60 km/h.
“It’s about keeping the position,” she explains. “I have to keep it in my head that I need to keep the position and no one can destroy me, so I’m like ‘If you want to fight with me, don’t try, because I will win.’ I was thinking like this today.”
Racing in temperatures in the high 90s means that the entire team structure has its part to play in a victory.
“The staff of course, I thank them for making our days better in this hot weather with water and ice socks, they really take care of us,” ended Pikulik.
Tomorrow’s stage 4 parcours is predominantly flat but a gradual rising drag for 10km into Hauvterives may have a shedding effect that favors the more powerful riders who can hold on until the end. Look for Williams to feature once again.
Tour Feminin l’Ardèche stage three result
1 PIKULIK Daria – Human Powered Health 02:58:15
2 VAN DAM Sarah – DNA Pro Cycling Team ”
3 ZANARDI Silvia – BePink-Gold ”
4 QUAGLIOTTO Nadia – Laboral Kutxa-Fundacion Euskadi ”
5 BRAAM Danique – Duolar – Chevalmeire ”
6 WILLIAMS Lily – Human Powered Health ”
7 LIBOREAU Lucie – Arkéa Pro Cycling Team ”
8 DRUMMOND Michaela – Farto-BTC Women’s Cycling Team ”
9 VETTORELLO Giorgia – BePink-Gold ”
10 JENCUSOVA Nora – BePink-Gold ”
Tour Feminin l’Ardèche points classification after three stages
1 PIKULIK Daria – Human Powered Health 30 points
2 DRUMMOND Michaela – Farto-BTC Women’s Cycling Team 28
3 ZANARDI Silvia – BePink-Gold 20
4 VAN DAM Sarah – DNA Pro Cycling Team 18
5 QUAGLIOTTO Nadia – Laboral Kutxa-Fundacion Euskadi 13