Lorena Wiebes started the Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift in fine style, winning stage one in Paris. The Dutch sprinter won again in stage five… but in stage six she crashed, lost time, and didn’t get the chance to sprint for the win. Zac Williams happened to be at the exact place where the Team DSM rider fell, capturing this dramatic sequence of images showing the accident in surprising detail…
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The original leader of the Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift, Lorena Wiebes, finished stage six in 110th place, 7:34 behind the winner. A crash on a fast section of road ended her hopes of being able to contest another sprint for stage honours. There was a show of respect in the peloton, as riders eased the pace momentarily awaiting news about the fallen riders.
Wiebes is second in the points classification, but with Marianne Vos also leading the general classification, the Team DSM sprinter has been the ‘caretaker’ of the green jersey. Despite missing out on points at the finish of another dramatic stage, the winner of stages one and five is still second in the sprinters category with 191 points (while Vos, the winner of stages two and six leads with 267pts).
“With 22 kilometres to go on the penultimate descent Lorena Wiebes unfortunately came down in a crash that resulted in her losing contact with the main bunch.” That’s the explanation on Team DSM’s site. “Following checks on the road she was about to push on and finish the stage.”
Injured but able to ride, Wiebes remounted her bike surprisingly quickly but by then the peloton was over a minute ahead.
Crashes happen but it’s not often that a photographer happens to find himself on the exact stretch of road where the accident is.
Zac Williams has been following the race and supplying a daily portfolio of fantastic images from the #TDFF. He also happened to be on site on the stretch of road where Wiebes crashed. Below is his explanation of what he saw and how he managed to capture this amazing sequence of a crash.
“We had already hit two spots today on the course,” says Williams about how he got these photos from stage six. “Both were honestly really average; I left thinking that I didn’t have a single picture I wanted to share from the day which I was disappointed about. Days like this are more common for photographers that you’d think on stage races.
“I was pinning all my hopes on the finish to be totally honest.
“Then, we were entered the final circuit where we could do one more stop before the finish and we descended this relatively innocuous bit of road through some trees, it was a nice S-bend but nothing mind blowing by anyone’s standards of beauty or technicality.
“Francesco (one half of Tornanti CC who I’m travelling with for TDFF) and I walked from our car to the outside of the S-bend before the right-hand corner and found a spot off the side of the road with a nice line to shoot through the corner.
“The breakaway riders came through and there was nothing out of the ordinary to see.
“The bunch followed about 30 seconds later and I spot Vos in yellow on my side of the road and think ‘Bingo!’ Here’s something.
“All of a sudden, I see Wiebes starting to fall a few wheels back from Vos in the background of my viewfinder. I see someone had clipped her front wheel and she’s not saving it, so I switch to tracking her in the heat of the moment and bang – she hits the deck, hard!
“Then Lotte Kopecky, with nowhere to go, rides into her and crashes over the top.
“It all happened in a split second, and I half thought that a bike or rider was going to hit us, but they stopped short of our spot and came to a stop a few metres in front of us.
“I was frantically shooting the two of them on the ground, I knew it was a hard crash but after a few seconds I could sense that they were both okay, so I decided to continue to shoot the situation as it unfolded.
“Wiebes had a whole bunch of skin off and was certainly slow to get up.
“It’s remarkable how tough these women are, not only dealing with the pain of the crash but also the immense disappointment, Wiebes must’ve been feeling as she was lining up to challenge for a third stage win.
“After they had all got replacement bikes we headed back to the car both pretty shocked and bewildered by what had unfolded. It’s the last thing you expect in a spot like that, we would never have chosen that section of road in any other situation but that’s just how these things go. Right place, right time.
“Of course, my thoughts are with Lorena and the others who fell and I hope that we see them all on the start line for stage seven.”
– By Rob Arnold
Zac Williams Galleries – #TDFF
Follow this Australian photographer on Instagram: @z_w_photography