Marta Cavalli has revealed that while she has physically recovered from injuries sustained in a horrific crash at the Tour de France Femmes last July, she has not fully gotten over a lingering discomfort when riding in the peloton.
Racing as the team leader for FDJ-SUEZ at the UAE Tour Women, Cavalli was caught in the crosswinds and echelons during the windswept stage 3 that finished atop the decisive Jebel Hafeet, which left her out of contention for the GC.
In an interview with L’Equipe (opens in new tab) following the race, Cavalli said, “I didn’t feel comfortable on my bike when the wind started blowing sideways. It’s a good lesson, and now I know where I have to work to improve.”
Cavalli was forced to abandon the Tour de France Femmes after being involved in a crash on stage 2 into Provins, where she sustained head and lower body trauma.
After a lengthy recovery, she returned to racing in October at Giro dell’Emilia, Tre Valli Varesine and Tour de Romandie, and she said she was 100% recovered from the incident. However, she also said that she had not yet reached her best form, which saw her win Amstel Gold Race and Flèche Wallonne earlier that spring.
UAE Tour was her first event of the season with FDJ-SUEZ, a sprint-heavy race with one GC-deciding opportunity atop Jebel Hafeet on the third stage of the four-day race.
After losing some time in the crosswinds on stage 2 into Al Mirfa, Cavalli was distanced again the next day in the crosswinds that swept along the wide, exposed roads as the peloton raced at high speeds toward the Jebel Hafeet, a 10km ascent with an average gradient is 9%, and with sections as steep as 11%.
Her teammates rallied to support their leader but were unable to bring her back to the front of the race in time for the final ascent.
“Marta made a good climb, but she still feels a blockage linked to this fall in the Tour de France last year,” said Cédric Barre, the team’s director at the UAE Tour. “She is apprehensive in a peloton.”
In the end, Cavalli finished 4:21 down on stage 3 winner and overall race winner Elisa Longo Borghini (Trek-Segafredo).
“Marta is not cured. We finish this race and will take the time it takes to help her. We’ll take care of her,” team manager Stephen Delcourt said.
But her discomfort in the peloton and her results on the stage do not tell the whole story because, from the base of the Jebel Hafeet to the finish line, Cavalli posted one of the fastest segments at 33:30, according to L’Equipe.
This indicates that her climbing form is indeed where it should be heading into the European calendar. “Marta is a great champion, a great professional, she gives everything for the team, she will get over it, I have no doubt about that,” said her teammate Victorie Guilman.