For years the women’s peloton rode the one-day race La Course in Paris on the Tour de France’s finish day, but this year the riders will start in an official version of the Tour de France. The Femmes edition starts in Paris on July 24 – the peloton cycles twelve laps between the Eiffel Tower and the Champs Elysées – and finishes eight days later in the Vosges on La Planche des Belles Filles. Indeed, the mountain on which Jonas Vingegaard came second two weeks ago.
Team Jumbo-Visma Women has the ambition to win at least one stage. During the Giro d’Italia at the beginning of this month, Marianne Vos showed good shape, so the confidence is high. According to race coach Lieselot Decroix, the most significant chances are on days three and four. The team extensively explored these stages in May, as were those of days five and six.
“We are assuming that the third stage, from Reims to Épernay, will not end in a bunch sprint, as it might on the first two days”, Decroix says. “For that, the finish of stage three is too tough. We’re counting on a small group sprint. The course of the final fits Marianne perfectly. She has often proven to be very strong on short, tough climbs.”
On day four, the riders will cycle 126 hilly kilometres through the Champagne region, from Troyes to Bar-sur-Aube. They will encounter gravel strips along the way. The longest is 4.4 kilometres long. “This will be an exciting stage”, Decroix continues. “I expect hectic racing and also bad luck is lurking; the chance of crashes and punctures is simply greater on gravel sections.” Team Jumbo-Visma also has high hopes for this stage. “The gravel sections are relatively flat; the riders have to make the difference during the climbs.”
A race’s first edition means that even the most experienced riders in the peloton experience a first. Marianne Vos is no exception. In her youth, she headed for the Tour year after year with her parents and brother. The family camped in the Alps and Pyrenees and Vos collected riders’ autographs together with her brother. If her parents discovered which hotels the teams were staying in, they would go watch the mechanics at work.
“When I was a little girl standing on the sidelines cheering on the riders, I could never have imagined that one day I, myself, would be riding in the world’s biggest cycling race”, says Vos. “It’s really going to happen now. I feel healthy race tension and look forward to it very much.”
A lot of lobbying made the Tour de Femme possible. Vos also participated in it. She started a petition in 2013 to revive the Tour de France Femmes, which was last ridden in 1989 and didn’t make enough money at the time. She did so along with other great riders like Emma Pooley and Kathryn Bertine. Within a short time, the petition was signed nearly 70,000 times. ASO invited Vos and her supporters to a meeting. It took a while, but now, nine years later, the time has come: The Tour de France Femmes is a fact. On y va!