April Tacey (Drops) has overcome a debilitating knee injury to win a second stage at the Virtual Tour de France on Sunday. The British rider spent three months in rehabilitation after suffering a broken knee in December but has recovered just in time to complete in the first-ever event held across three weekends between July 4 and July 19.
"Zwift was really helpful with my rehab and I was able to do some training and races on there," Tacey said in post-race interview after winning stage 4.
"I had three months off the bike and then I started riding again in March, but I was only doing some rehabilitation and a lot of Zwifting, then with some training and races, to get me back into my recovery. I’ve only just started doing efforts in the last month. This event is good to prepare me for the races."
The Virtual Tour de France has attracted the top teams in the world including Boels Dolmans, Canyon-SRAM, TIBCO-SVB, Sunweb, Trek-Segafredo, FDJ Nouvelle- Aquitaine Futuroscope, and Ale BTC Ljubljana, to name a few. It's based on a points system whereby the first rider to cross the finish line scores 50 points, and points are awarded to the top 25 riders. 10 points are also available to the winner of each intermediate sprint and mountain ascent. The team that accumulates the most points at the finish line takes the overall lead.
Tacey won the first-ever opening stage of the Virtual Tour de France last weekend, a result that put her Drops team in the overall lead and allowed her to wear the prized yellow jersey during the second stage.
TIBCO-SVB overtook that lead when Lauren Stephens won stage 2 and the American outfit maintained their first place in the ranking after stage 3 won by Tanja Erath (Canyon-SRAM) and stage 4 won by Tacey.
Tacey was distanced on the final climb of the R.G.V. route, just barely catching back on to the front group of 11 riders with one kilometre to go. She used a perfectly-timed aero powerup in the last hundred metres of the sprint, which gave her the edge over runner-up Anna Henderson (Sunweb) and third placed Lauren Stephens (TIBCO-SVB).
"Coming through the end I used an aero boost," Tacey said. "I was just four seconds off the back over the top of the last climb, with a group of four or five riders. I got back on with 1.5km to go. The aero boost gives you 15 seconds. You have to try and not go too early. I try to be a little bit after [my competitors] go and then use mine so that I have a last little kick toward the finish line."
ASO announced the 23 teams that will be competing in La Course by Le Tour de France in Nice on August 29. Tacey's Drops team did not receive an invitation but she is hoping to compete in the event next year.
"It’s been an amazing opportunity to race the Virtual Tour de France," Tacey said. "To be able to get our name out there and race with the bigger teams, which has been amazing, and it’s been great to pay our sponsors back with this event. It would be great to hopefully next year race La Course."
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