The first edition of the Tour de l’Avenir Feminin for U23 riders began on Monday. Over the course of five stages on French roads, these promising riders will take on a time trial, a flat stage, two days in the mountains and a hilly stage.
AG Insurance – Soudal Quick-Step riders Marthe Goossens, Julia Grégoire, Febe Jooris and Jade Linthoudt will be defending the Belgian tricolor jersey, Maureen Arens is set to represent the Netherlands, Gaia Masetti will compete for Italy, while Noëlle Rüetschi will be in action for Switzerland
Team manager Christian Kos shared his thoughts about the strong AG Insurance – Soudal Quick-Step contingent at the start of the race: “It is a significant development to see events like this added to the calendar for the U23 category. Seven of our riders, both from the elite and U23 teams will be participating under their respective national flags. This is a positive first step towards establishing a proper U23 category, similar to what has been in place for the men for years. This allows young riders to develop at their age and skill level, instead of having to compete against strong riders like Marianne Vos or Annemiek van Vleuten in every race.”
“Such races bring immense value to young female cyclists, giving them the space to grow within a smaller environment, to evolve as riders, and also as individuals. For most riders, a World Tour team is not necessarily the optimal setting for their development.”
“When they are going straight to the World Tour, they don’t compete, they try to finish. That’s not part of development. You need to learn to ride as a team, to explore tactics, to make mistakes, because making mistakes helps you develop.”
“Some riders of 18 or 19 years of age really need more time to be stronger to compete better and to develop themselves also as a person.”
“Along with the development of under-23 racing, banning World Tour teams from participating in to race low-level UCI races (as exists in men’s cycling) will enable talented young riders to grow, as it would allow similar level riders to compete against one another. Most UCI .2 level races are dominated by World Tour Teams.”
“I hope that in the near future, the UCI decides to close 1.2 and 2.2 races to the World Tour, so that smaller teams can put their riders in and more riders can put their nose in the wind to show themselves, because there’s really a big bunch of talent coming up now, but they have to get the chance to prove themselves,” explained General Manager Natascha den Ouden. “That’s why it’s so important that more and more World Tour teams have a specific under-23 team. It’s a stepping stone.”