Stage 7's triple-header of climbs offered Urška Žigart (BikeExchange-Jayco) a rare opportunity to show off her climbing prowess after often struggling in the Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift peloton. The Slovenian finished eighth atop the Le Markstein climb.
Saturday was the first time all week that Žigart finished within the first 90 riders after often being spotted at the back of the peloton for the majority of the race.
"That's one of my main struggles, just positioning in the peloton," she told Cyclingnews at the finish. "I don't feel comfortable. I think it comes from the fact that I didn't start as a junior, I started later. So I need to keep working on that because I showed today that I could be up there, but nobody can win from last place."
Her performance today has provided even more incentive to build upon her weaknesses and she has been working with a skills coach this season to improve on her abilities in the bunch and on descents.
"I need to keep working on that, but today is a good motivation that I'm on the right track," she said. "Maybe I also need a bit more confidence, a bit more aggressiveness in the peloton, but I was happy to be there today.
"I still need to practice and that's something to work on in the off-season. I'm motivated."
As pure climbers, riders like Žigart have relatively few chances to race on the terrain most suited for them, which was why getting up the road on Saturday was so important to the Slovenian.
"Of course, that's why I came here to the Tour, for these last two days of big climbs," she said. "We have climbing races, but we don't get a lot of longer climbs in our calendar, so that was a big motivation to show today what I can do."
An off-day for the team's designated leader Kristen Faulkner, whose GC hopes are over, also gave Žigart more of an opportunity to race for herself.
"It was unfortunate that Kristen was not feeling the best, but that meant that I could sit up a little bit in that group in front," she said. "We thought that it would regroup a little bit and then I could work for Kristen, but in the end, the groups stayed as they were. I was just happy to make it to the finish honestly in the end."
Žigart will have another chance tomorrow as the Tour de France culminates atop the Planche des Belles Filles, and will be hoping to recover from today's big effort ahead of the finale.
"I'm a little afraid of how I'll feel tomorrow," she said. "But I guess talking to the girls, everybody was suffering. It didn't matter if you were 5 minutes, 10 minutes, 20 minutes behind, it was a really hard course today. So hopefully I will recover tomorrow and then we will see what we can do."
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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.