Yellow Thursday Launches the Rotterdam Grand Départ

The Grand Départ of the Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift 2024 will take place in Rotterdam. Riders and invitees took part in the Yellow Thursday event on April 18th to officially launch the celebrations, ahead of the prestigious race on the women’s cycling calendar. Representatives of Rotterdam, The Hague and Dordrecht officially launched a wide array of activities that will accompany the Grand Départ on both sporting and social levels.

Demi Vollering (SD Worx-Protime) was also present, as she gears up to defend the Maillot Jaune this summer. “To start in Rotterdam gives me a lot of motivation and power,” Vollering said. “The start in Rotterdam is really special for me. I grew up close by and I recognise a lot of roads from the course. I have a lot of friends who live here in Rotterdam, so I shared the course with them and they’ve been looking how close it is to their homes so they can come.”

The Dutch star hopes to build on these good feelings to successfully defend her victory in the 2023 edition. “You need to feel it deep inside you, the desire to win. To start in Rotterdam and to finish on a beautiful mountain like Alpe d’Huez gives me a lot of motivation, a lot of power!”

Vollering will enjoy two days of action on home turf with stage 1 (Rotterdam > The Hague, 124km) on Monday 12th August, to be followed by stages 2 (Dordrecht > Rotterdam, 67km) and 3 (Rotterdam > Rotterdam, 6.3km, ITT) on Tuesday. The peloton will then head to Belgium (Valkenburg > Liege , 122km).

“To start from the Netherlands is anything but a coincidence”, the Director of the Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift Marion Rousse said. “It’s a home for cycling and it’s great to be able to greet the champions on their soil. It’s worth noting that the first foreign start of the Tour de France was also in the Netherlands. We like to build these bridges. And we’ll encounter a huge popular success. The bike is essential to the Dutch, it’s part of their life. They have a unique culture and it always shows in the audience as well.”

Leontien van Moorsel, a four-time Olympic champion across road and track disciplines at the turn of the century was also delighted to be present. “When I was asked to become an ambassador for the Grand Départ, I didn’t just want to put my name out there, I also wanted to make a difference”, the 6-time Dutch sportswoman of the year said. “Since many women in Rotterdam don’t know how to ride a bike, I wanted to lead a project that would help them gain independence, and also something that they can pass down to the next generation.”

Van Moorsel is the leader of the Rotterdam Peloton: 154 women who do not know yet how to ride a bike are preparing themselves to ride the time-trial course on August 11th. The city has also begun a crowdfunding initiative for inhabitants who cannot afford a bike, encouraging the inhabitants to donate their old bikes to the Fietsbank. “It is very important because 22% of Rotterdammers don’t have a bicycle, including almost 10,000 children”, sports alderman Faouzi Achbar explained.

“The first Grand Départ of the Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift outside of France is more than just a sports event for our region”, Ahmed Aboutaleb, mayor of Rotterdam, highlighted. “It tells a story of inspiration and shares a dream to motivate people to get on their bikes too. For health and happiness and because cycling gives you freedom and makes your world bigger.”

“On 12th August, The Hague will turn yellow with a finish in the beautiful and renewed Kijkduin”, alderman Hilbert Bredemeijer said as he looks forward to – “a sports festival to inspire the people of The Hague, the Hagenaars, to jump on their bikes themselves”. They will be enticed by “a wonderful and active programme that kicks off on May 25 with a Sprint Race on Lange Voorhout”. Dedicated activities will be organised in the schools and in various town squares in the run-up to the race.

“The Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift is a wonderful event that totally suits Dordrecht”, alderman for sport Marc Merx enthusiastically said. “We see this as a great opportunity to get even more people moving with all kinds of activities and we focus especially on young people and women. We are proud that cycling champion Lucinda Brand wants to help achieve our goals as an ambassador.”

The Yellow Thursday also highlighted the polka dot jersey, which will be a goal for many from the first day of the race. “The first climb classified for the mountain classification is quite astonishing,” explains Christian Prudhomme, director of Tour de France. “I even think it’s unique for a cycling race: we’ll be below sea level! A new tunnel passes under the Meuse. The champions of the Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift will be among the first to use it, and they’ll have to come up to the surface, bearing in mind that some parts of Rotterdam are already below sea level. It won’t be the Galibier or the Alpe d’Huez, to be climbed on the last day, but it’s going to be a real battle, something unique!”

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