Kasia Niewiadoma (Canyon-SRAM) has said she is 'extremely happy' to finish third overall at the Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift after 'surviving' the last two days of climbing.
The Polish rider finished fifth and fourth on stages 7 and 8 respectively to defend her podium position at the Tour de France Femmes, something that she has been aiming at for several months.
"To be honest I feel like I still didn't have enough time to let it sink in," she said on Sunday evening. "But finishing in the top 3 in the general classification of the Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift is something that I've been dreaming of ever since I found out that we were going to have this race on our calendar.
"So I'm over the moon, extremely happy and proud of my teammates."
Niewiadoma has not left the top three overall since stage 2 when she joined part of a five-rider attack into Provins, taking the chance on her preferred terrain to take time before the climbs at the weekend.
"Personally I've been enjoying the first couple of days," she said. "I like explosive, punchy climbs so particularly the first six stages I would say was something that I really enjoyed, and the last two stages were more about surviving."
Surviving the climbs has been a particular focus of Niewiadoma's in preparation for this race, taking a six-week break from racing to train specifically for longer efforts.
"I think that for the most part of my career I've been focusing on short, punchy efforts, something that would prepare me extremely well for the Classics," she said. "I was never really focusing on long climbs because I was doubting my abilities to do so
"Having a couple of weeks spent in the mountains where I was just preparing for this race knowing the last two stages were going to be extremely hard, I knew that actually with the right preparation and training I can really improve."
The hard work certainly paid off in what was a brutally hard weekend of climbing, dominated by winner Annemiek van Vleuten (Movistar). Though it's only in its first edition, the Tour de France Femmes has already earned its place as one of the toughest events on the calendar.
"Definitely I would say it was one of the hardest races we've ever done, especially yesterday's stage," Niewiadoma said after stage 8. "Today was all about surviving and all about just pushing beyond the limits."
Among the happiness, there is one disappointment that remains in Niewiadoma's mind. She is not necessarily upset about not winning a stage, but she laments a missed opportunity to at least contend for the win.
"Definitely I wish that I hadn't crashed on the third stage and that I arrived to the last kilometre more fresh and that I could fight for the victory," she said. "I feel like that was in some ways a heartbreaking stage for me."
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Matilda Price is a freelance cycling journalist and digital producer based in the UK. She is a graduate of modern languages, and recently completed an MA in sports journalism, during which she wrote her dissertation on the lives of young cyclists. Matilda began covering cycling in 2016 whilst still at university, working mainly in the British domestic scene at first. Since then, she has covered everything from the Tour Series to the Tour de France. These days, Matilda focuses most of her attention on the women’s sport, writing for Cyclingnews and working on women’s cycling show The Bunnyhop. As well as the Women’s WorldTour, Matilda loves following cyclo-cross and is a recent convert to downhill mountain biking.