Emma Norsgaard outfoxed the other women's Tour de France sprinters by escaping on a breakaway and then holding off the pack at the finish to win stage six on Friday.
Norsgaard missed a large chunk of the season after breaking a collarbone in the Strade Bianche in March and she wept throughout her post-race interview.
"I want to thank everyone around me for still believing in me after being out the whole spring," said Norsgaard, who turned 24 on Wednesday. "I'm super emotional. It's the biggest victory ever."
? A breathtaking final KM for @emmanorsgaard1, who gave herself the best late birthday present of all.
? Un dernier KM haletant pour @emmanorsgaard1, qui s'offre le plus beau des cadeaux d'anniversaire, quelque peu en retard. #TDFF2023 #WatchTheFemmes @GoZwiftFR pic.twitter.com/v09NbwFta2— Le Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift (@LeTourFemmes) July 28, 2023
The Dane was a part of a trio that escaped after 29km and nursed a slender lead almost to the end of the 122.5km run from Albi to Blagnac.
The peloton once again misjudged the pursuit and just failed to catch all the members of the escape group.
As the pack swallowed the other breakaways with less than 500m to go, Norsgaard sprinted.
She held on to finish one second ahead of Charlotte Kool and race leader Lotte Kopecky, who beat her handle bars in frustration after another near miss.
"I'm not a sprinter any more I have to realise it," said Norsgaard. "I might be fast, but I cannot keep up with the real sprinters. I took a chance today and reached for the stars."
?? "I took a chance today and I reached out for the stars and yeah, here we are!" - @emmanorsgaard1 ????
Interview with stage 6 winner, Emma Norsgaard ??
?? "J'ai pris un risque aujourd'hui, j'ai visé les étoiles, et me voilà !" - @emmanorsgaard1 ????
Interview de la vainqueure… pic.twitter.com/NmPNvEgA7u— Le Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift (@LeTourFemmes) July 28, 2023
It was a second stage victory for the Movistar team at the Tour after Liane Lippert won stage two.
On Saturday, the team will be focused on helping defending champion Annemiek van Vleuten through a short but brutal Pyrenean stage that contains two famed tour climbs: the Col de l'Aspin and the Tourmalet.
The Tour ends with a time trial on Sunday.
"I feel sometimes guilty that they have to sacrifice their own ambitions," said Van Vleuten at the finish. "Today she had an opportunity and she went for it and pulled it off. It gives me goosebumps."
Defending champion Van Vleuten, who is third overall, has a 12-second advantage over her main rival Demi Vollering, last year's runner up.
"For me, it starts tomorrow," said Van Vleuten. "I'm ready."
Vollering was hit with a 20-second penalty on Thursday for drafting behind the Worx team car that was deemed to be driving dangerously. Worx team head Danny Stam, who was driving the car, was on Friday thrown off the Tour as punishment.
Meanwhile, Norsgaard said she was not going to let the prospect of Saturday's tough climbs inhibit her after her victory.
"I'm going to celebrate for sure," she said.
??The rankings after today's stage // Les classements après l'étape du jour ??#TDFF2023 #WatchTheFemmes @Gozwift pic.twitter.com/TCeV8kQveC— Le Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift (@LeTourFemmes) July 28, 2023
??Jerseys after Stage 06 / Maillots distinctifs après l’étape 06
??@CedrineKerbaol #TDFF2023 #WatchTheFemmes @GoZwift pic.twitter.com/Am5b4fncxJ— Le Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift (@LeTourFemmes) July 28, 2023