Pikulik Opens Tour With A Win

Daria Pikulik took a commanding victory on the opening stage of the Tour Feminin l’Ardèche in France, sprinting to claim the first podium place in trademark style, after benefitting from a huge effort from her teammates in the finale.

The win is Pikulik’s fourth of the year and tenth top ten of the season, marking her as the fastest rider in the race and a continuation of her excellent European form after a trying period. “We did a great job today,” the 26-year-old said at the finish. “Everyone knew that we were here to win. It was a perfect plan and we all believed. We can be really proud.”

Human Powered Health controlled the stage throughout to make sure that Pikulik could be in the perfect position in the finale. A well-timed leadout by Lily Williams made sure that Pikulik was at the head of the race through a technical switchback in the final kilometre.

“Lily did a great job to get us first out of that corner and she was so strong I thought I might let her go for the win,” Pikulik joked. “Then somebody jumped on the right and I followed the wheel, so all I had to do was make sure my wheel was first over the finish line.”

Embracing her teammates after  the finish, it was clear how much of a team effort the result was.

“Everyone did their jobs 100 percent,” she explains. “My teammates gave it their best today. Marit was riding on the front most of the day, and then Nina and Lily were so strong in the lead out, it was perfect.”

Japanese champion Eri Yonamine also played a part in the victory from the day’s breakaway. Eri’s presence in the break meant that it was FDJ-SUEZ, hoping for a sprint finish, who had to pull to bring back the break.

“Today everyone did something so it’s a real team win and I’m happy I could be in the breakaway,” Yonamine said. “We had so many options as a result, so if there was a big time gap to the break I could spin easy and then go for GC or – as it happened – be caught and still help Daria at the end.”

With four stages in a row that could end in a bunch kick, opening her account early brings Pikulik confidence.

“We will try and make it a sprint all these days and then after that, it’s all about our GC riders,” she concluded. “Then I will help my teammates in the climbs and do my job in the grupetto of course. I think it’s a really good idea to be a sprinter for this!” she joked.

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