• The 1st edition of the Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift will hold its Grand Départ on Sunday July 24 in Paris at 1:40pm, at the foot of the Eiffel Tower, with a first stage that follows the circuit on the Champs-Elysées a few hours before the Tour de France.
• Sprinter Lorena Wiebes is dreaming of wearing the first Maillot Jaune, just like world champion Elisa Balsamo and women’s cycling legend Marianne Vos.
• The race, made up of eight stages, will head east on Monday and will finish on the Super Planche des Belles Filles. Dutchwoman Annemiek van Vleuten is the major favorite, although the competition is set to be particularly fierce, especially from the SD Worx team. The leading 18 riders in the UCI world classification will all be taking starter’s orders.
An inaugural setting of the Eiffel Tower and Champs-Elysées
On the day before the Grand Départ, the 144 riders on the 1st edition of the Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift met up in Meaux, at the Théâtre du Luxembourg, to attend the pre-race briefing. This town, the most largely populated in the Seine-et-Marne department, will host the start of the second stage on Monday, perhaps in the presence of Tadej Pogacar, as revealed by his partner Urska Zigart, selected at the last minute by Team Bike-Exchange Jayco following cases of covid in her team. By Sunday, the women’s pack will have returned to Paris to tackle the roads on which the 81.6-km long first stage will take place. “We’ll be setting off in front of the Eiffel Tower followed by 12 laps of the circuit on the Champs-Elysées,” explained race director Franck Perque. “On this stage, we should see the sprinters’ teams leading the way. The winner of the stage will have the privilege of wearing the first yellow jersey”. As from Monday, the pack will head east, with the high points of gravel track sections on Wednesday and a weekend in the Vosges Mountains, where the climbers will do battle to see who wins the general classification. On Sunday July 31, the Super Planche des Belles Filles is where the event will conclude its 1033.6 kilometers of racing.
Lorena Wiebes: “We will give everything to get the yellow jersey”
The first Maillot Jaune is likely to be worn by a sprinter on Sunday evening and as such, speedster Lorena Wiebes is the major favorite. The Dutch rider boasts the most victories this season (15), four of which were achieved only last week on the Baloise Ladies Tour. In a show of ambition, she has painted her nails yellow on one hand and green on the other, because the DSM rider also has her sights set on winning the points classification. Firstly, however, her focus is on the first stage, which is seemingly tailor-made for her. “I’ve been aiming for victory on the Champs-Elysées since I discovered the route,” she admitted. “Starting in front of the Eiffel Tower and riding along the Champs-Elysées will be a special feeling. We will give everything to get the Maillot Jaune. I think I’ll be fighting for it with Elisa Balsamo [Trek-Segafredo], Marianne Vos [Jumbo-Visma], Lotte Kopecky [SD Worx] or Emma Norsgaard [Movistar]. It’s going to be chaos. I’m expecting there will be plenty of attacks, especially since there are two intermediate sprints and climbing points to be won. Everyone will be keen to make their mark”.
Annemiek Van Vleuten: “It’s a little sad to see me as the only favorite”
Following the third triumph in her career on the Giro at the beginning of July, Annemiek van Vleuten (Movistar Team Women) is the main favorite for the general classification in the eyes of the world. “That’s what people say, but all the teams are at the top level,” were the more modest words of the world number one, head and shoulders above the rest on Liège-Bastogne-Liège in spring. “It’s going to be tough and the competition is fierce. Marta Cavalli [from FDJ-Suez-Futuroscope, her runner-up on the Giro] has shown she is in very good form, Mavi Garcia [UAE Team ADQ] is as well, not forgetting, of course, Demi Vollering and Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio [SD Worx]. It’s a little sad to see me as the only favorite. I think that we saw on the Giro that there are more pretenders to the crown than that”. The 39-year-old Dutchwoman is “very excited to be starting this new race”. However, from what she says, the Maillot Jaune is not an obsession for her, with her retirement approaching at the end of 2023. “I’m not the type of rider who dreams about jerseys, trophies or victories. My goal is to always be in the best form at the start of the race. I think that is the case for this Tour. I’m in very good form, perhaps even better than on the Giro,” admitted the Olympic and three times World Champion with a smile.
SD Worx pays homage to Pieters
SD Worx, the leading team in the UCI classification, will be wearing a special jersey for the first stage as they pay homage to Amy Pieters, World Champion in 2019, who came out of a coma at the end of April, four months after a terrible fall during training. “She designed the jersey before her accident because she wanted to create one for her cycling store,” explained her team-mate Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio. “She’s making good progress in her recovery. She’s still an integral part of our team and we want to do our very best for her on Sunday whilst wearing this jersey”. Another tribute would be to win a hatful of stages and triumph in the general classification, which is an ambition that SD Worx seems capable of accomplishing. With two pretenders for the Maillot Jaune (Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio and Demi Vollering), a formidable sprinter (Lotte Kopecky), a former world champion (Chantal van den Broek-Blaak) and the current European time-trial champion (Marlen Reusser), the Dutch team could light up the Tour at the slightest opportunity, quite like the Jumbo-Visma team has done on the Tour de France. “We have a chance of winning on all the stages,” claims Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio, who will retire at the end of the year. “The idea is to put on the best show for the fans”.
Trek-Segafredo: a team of champions
The American team will have a strong case to make on the first stage with world champion Elisa Balsamo wearing race number 1. However, the Italian will willingly trade in her rainbow jersey for a yellow one. “Of course, it’s my dream,” said the rider who has recently won two sprint stages on the Giro. “But it will be very tough because all the other girls will want it too. A podium finish would already be an excellent result on the Champs-Elysées and I want to help Elisa Longo-Borghini for the general classification”. Half of the team will start wearing a distinctive jersey because Dutchwoman Ellen van Dijk is the current European Champion and Audrey Cordon-Ragot is the French champion. Speeding up and down the Champs-Elysées with the tricolor jersey is “the icing on the cake” for the rider from Brittany. “It was my genuine goal to start this race wearing this jersey,” she said, savoring the moment in advance. “It’s difficult to have personal objectives in a team like this. My goal has almost been accomplished; now, I just have to enjoy it to the full and be in communion with the spectators who are going to be encouraging me a lot. And if the team manages to grab some victories, then that will be great”.
Broadcast in 190 countries
The race will be broadcasted in 190 countries. In France, France Télévisions will be the official broadcaster and Eurosport in Europe. Two and a half hours of each stage will be televised live every day, apart from the first stage which will be broadcast in its entirety. The race can also be followed live in its entirety on the official web site, with commentary in French and English.