The first women’s Tour de France in 33 years is upon us and it will see the stars of the sport vie for the prestigious yellow jersey over eight days of tough racing.
Starting in Paris and finishing with a brutal final stage at La Super Planche des Belles-Filles, the Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift will cover 1,029km in the Northeast of France.
Rising to a climactic conclusion, the eight days of racing includes four flattish stages for the sprinters, two stages for the puncheurs, a gravel stage ‘a la Strade Bianche’ style and two final, crucial back-to-back mountain stages.
Stage by Stage Guide
Stage 1 – Champs-Élysées (82km)
In a befitting manner, the historic moment of the opening stage of the first Tour de France Femmes since 1989, will take place in the heart of Paris in front of thousands of excited fans.
In a rekindling of previous editions of La Course the peloton will tackle twelve laps of the famed Champs-Élysées circuit.
Stage 2 -Meaux -> Provins (135km)
Racing across the Brie region, on paper stage two is one for the sprinters, although we could see a flurry of attacks in the tricky 20km finishing loop around Provins.
Stage 3 – Reims -> Épernay (133km)
Winding their way through the vineyards of the Champagne region, the peloton will tackle five categorised climbs enroute to the finish in Épernay.
With two categorised climbs in the final 15km – Côte de Mutigny (900m / 12%) and Mont Bernon (1km / 4.6%) it’s a stage for the puncheurs, and one where the Ardennes specialised will likely rise to the fore.
Stage 4 – Troyes -> Bar-sur-Aube (126km)
The halfway point of the tour is celebrated with a tough gravel stage where anything could happen and the GC is likely to see its first big shake up.
With six classified climbs and four gravel sectors, stage four has a real Strade Bianche feel to it and is set to be an exciting day of unrelenting action.
Stage 5 – Bar-le-Duc -> Saint-dié-des-Vosges (175km)
The longest of the eight stages, stage five will see the peloton travel across the departments of Meuse, Meurthe-et-Moselle and Vosges.
Although lengthy, it shouldn’t be a boring day as it’s not the typical ‘transfer stage’. The three climbs, and undulating roads are likely to encourage the breakaway specialists to liven up proceedings.
Stage 6 – Saint-dié-des-Vosges -> Rosheim (128km)
Traversing the Alsatian winelands, stage six is another challenging one as the rolling hills and four classified climbs will likely take their toll.
With two big mountain stages to follow the GC riders will potentially be cautious so it’s likely that we’ll see the breakaway specialists battling for the stage honours.
Stage 7 – Sélestat -> Le Markstein (127km)
Rising to a crescendo, stage seven is the first in a double header of mountain stages that will conclude the Tour and likely decide who will win the yellow jersey.
Starting in Séleshat, the city of handball, the peloton heads towards the trio of climbs the make up the toughest passes of the Vosges department – Petit Ballon (9.3km / 8.1%), Platzerwasel (7.1km / 8.3%) and Grand Ballon (13.5km / 6.7%).
Upon cresting the Grand Ballon, rather than descending the route will follow the ridge line towards the Markstein ski station where the finish line awaits.
Stage 8 – Lure -> La Super Planche des Belles Filles (123km)
This first Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift will end on a metaphoric and literal high owing to the iconic climbs and summit finish that stage eight serves up.
In what looks set to be a brutal but magnificent finale, the peloton will face the mythical climb of Ballon d’Alsace (8.7km / 6.9%) before the gravelled summit finish of La Super Planche des Belles Filles (7km / 8.7%). The final pitches of La Super Planche des Belles Filles hit gradients of 24% and depending on the GC time gaps could prove pivotal in the battle for yellow.
GC Riders to Watch
The scene has been set, but no plot is complete without its protagonists and as expected the Tour has a stellar line up. In terms of pre-race preparations, the peloton has been split with some opting for the Giro-Tour double and others solely focused on the Tour. The proximity of the races – just 2 weeks apart – certainly makes it a tough call and there’s always a fine balance between sharpness and freshness.
Giro winner, Annemiek van Vleuten (Movistar), will be hoping that she can make history by completing the first ever women’s Giro-Tour double. The 39-year-old Dutchwoman blew the Giro apart with her vicious attacks on Stage 4 and finally sealed the top spot and the pink jersey with an impressive ride on Stage 8. She’ll be motivated to repeat this performance again next week and will look to the gravel stage and the weekend of climbing to clinch yellow.
Runner-up in the Giro, Marta Cavalli (FDJ), will also be a rider to watch. The ‘2022 Ardennes queen’ has had a terrific season so far and will look to add another top result to her palmares. The steepness of the likes of Petit Ballon and La Super Planche des Belles Filles will suit the 24-year-old, so expect to see her pushing the pace when the road tilts upwards.
Fellow Italian, Elisa Longo Borghini (Trek-Segafredo), by her own admission had a bad day in the heat of Stage 4 of the Giro. That said, she finished the 10 days of racing on the up and she’ll be hoping that trajectory continues in the Tour. A former winner of Strade Bianchi, the gravel won’t phase her, and she’ll be hoping the Giro has prepared her well for the demands of next week.
3rd last week, Mavi Garcia (UAE Team ADQ), will be looking to go two better in the Tour. Providing the double Spanish champion has recovered from the Giro, she’ll be vying for yellow and the podium spots again next week.
Flying the flag for France, Juliette Labous (Team DSM), is another rider to watch. With a maiden Giro stage win last week and strong climbing throughout stages 7 to 9, the 23 year old from Roche-lez-Beaupre will likely be a contender again next week
Leading the line for Team SD Worx is the duo of Demi Vollering and Ashleigh Moolman Pasio both of whom eschewed the Giro and opted to focus solely on the Tour. Both riders will be hoping that freshness prevails and that together they can play the numbers game to their team’s advantage.
Kasia Niewiadoma (Canyon Sram) also opted for the ‘just Tour’ strategy in a bid to peak for the 8 days of racing in France. Former winner of the Tour de I’Ardeche in 2018, she’ll be hoping she can rekindle this form next week and outclimb her rivals during the double header of mountain stages.
Other riders to watch include Veronica Ewers (EF Education-Tibco-SVB), Amanda Spratt (Team BikeExchange-Jayco) and French woman Evita Muzic (FDJ).
When: 24-31 July
What: 8 day stage race
Riders to watch:
Annemiek van Vleuten ****
Demi Vollering ****
Marta Cavalli ***
Elisa Longo Borghini ***
Juliette Labous ***
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