Demi Vollering overcame various obstacles en route to claiming her maiden Tour de France Femmes title with a dominant showing in the final time trial, a 22.6km loop beginning and ending in Pau, on Sunday.
Marlen Reusser (SD Worx) clocked 29 minutes 15 seconds to win the time trial, with her team mate Vollering finishing second fastest in stage eight to claim a comfortable victory, though the race was far from smooth sailing for the Dutch rider.
In stage five, Vollering got a 20-second penalty for riding in the slipstream of her SD Worx team director Danny Stam's car, with Stam later being banned for "dangerous" overtaking and making "inappropriate comments".
Despite the setback, Vollering roared into the lead in the penultimate stage, claiming a commanding victory to enter the finale with a sizeable 1:50 advantage.
Vollering, who finished in second place behind compatriot Annemiek van Vleuten last year, defended her lead with ease to claim a first Grand Tour win.
??@demivollering wins the #TDFF2023!
??@demivollering gagne le #TDFF2023 ! #TDFF2023 #WatchTheFemmes @Gozwift pic.twitter.com/dSg9KGeCnI— Le Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift (@LeTourFemmes) July 30, 2023
?Back-to-back wins, and a 1-2-3 for @teamsdworx on the final day of the #TDFF2023, as Marlen Reusser wins the first ever time-trial of the TDFF!
?Deux victoires consécutives et un triplé pour la @teamsdworx lors de la dernière étape du #TDFF2023, Marlen Reusser remportant le… pic.twitter.com/LFhjrckStg— Le Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift (@LeTourFemmes) July 30, 2023
"I think I still, again, cannot believe it," said Vollering, who has endured several narrow misses in recent years, twice finishing runner-up in La Vuelta Femenina and ending third in the 2021 Giro Donne.
"Of course, I worked hard, but it's just not only working hard, it's believing in it. You have a dream and you work really hard for it, but also you need to keep yourself a bit calm and find a good balance in your life..."
Vollering's team mate Lotte Kopecky of Belgium came second in the overall standings, while Poland's Katarzyna Niewiadoma (Canyon–SRAM) took third place to match her finish in last year's edition.
Movistar's Van Vleuten, who is set to retire at the end of the season, was in third place after stages six and seven but finished 14th in the time trial to end up fourth overall.
"Of course, I'm disappointed that I was not good the last two days," said Van Vleuten, who was looking to add a Tour de France Femmes title to her La Vuelta Femenina and Giro Donne crowns this year.
"I was in the battle and I gave it my all. I didn't make any mistake that I can think was not smart or that I did something wrong so I do not know what happened. I was obviously not myself so that's a bit sad in your last Tour de France."
Your final podium of the #TDFF2023
??@CedrineKerbaol #WatchTheFemmes @Gozwift pic.twitter.com/t1HH3TIQtY— Le Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift (@LeTourFemmes) July 30, 2023