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Tour de France Femmes Race History
The Tour de France Femmes has a long and convoluted history. The first race that could be considered a Women’s Tour de France was the La Grande Boucle Féminine Internationale, held in 1955. That race was won by the Brit Millie Robinson, who would also go on to be a women’s hour record holder. Held over 5 stages, the race ended up being a one-off event.
Almost 30 years passed before another attempt at a women’s Tour de France was organised – the Tour de France Féminin. 1984 saw the Société du Tour de France host 18 stages alongside the men’s race. They used the same finishes as the men but raced over shorter distances. The American Marianne Martin won the first edition before the Maria Canins vs Jeannie Longo era started. For the remaining 5 editions of the Tour de France Féminin the pair locked up the top-2 positions. Canins won twice and Longo the final 3 editions. The race wasn’t considered a monetary success so had its Tour de France association removed and renamed the Tour of the EEC Women.
The Société du Tour de France continued to run the first 2 EEC Women editions before handing over to the Amaury Sport Organization (ASO), a precursor to the organisational changes to the men’s Tour de France. All 4 editions of this latest incarnation were won by different riders – Marsal, Schop, Van Moorsel and Van de Vijver. Over almost 10 years of racing, only the 1990 race didn’t have a double-digit amount of stages.
This is where things start to get messy. In 1992 and 1993 there were two races with a claim to be the Women’s Tour de France. The Tour Cycliste Féminin began in 1992 and had the same winner as the Tour of the EEC race – Leontien van Moorsel. The race was beset with sponsorship issues and long transfers between the town that were able to host stages. Things weren’t helped when ASO sued the Tour Cycliste Féminin on trademark grounds in 1998. The name of the 1955 race was revived and it became the Grande Boucle Féminine Internationale.
Fabiana Luperini and Joane Somarriba both won the race 3 times. Leontien van Moorsel unofficially on 3 wins too across the early multiple editions. Brits dominated the late races, with Nicole Cooke a double winner and Emma Pooley winner of the last race in 2009. A certain Marianne Vos appeared on the podium in that race. She should be the only rider to have raced one of the old editions to also race the rebooted Tour de France Femmes in 2022.
In the meantime, La Course by Le Tour de France has filled some of the void since 2014. Originally a race for the sprinters on the Champs Élysées, although Anna van der Breggen defied them one year, the race began to move around France from 2017. Major climbs like the Col d’Izoard and Le Grand-Bornand saw epic racing, the latter in particular a great head-to-head between Van Vleuten and Van der Breggen. The later years saw punchy climbs, breaks and small group sprints. An alright stopgap, La Course was always hamstrung by the desire that it should last for more than one day.
Tour de France Femmes 2022 Route Map
Tour de France Femmes 2022 GC Contenders
Going for the first Giro-Tour double since Fabiana Luperini in 1997 is Annemiek van Vleuten. She attacked on Stage 4 at the Giro Donne and was probably surprised that it was race defining move. It led her to only need to land smaller blows in the final stages which she comfortably managed against Mavi Garcia and Marta Cavalli. She’s the favourite as always. However, the interesting dynamic here will be how she fares against an SD Worx team that has kept its powder dry by not racing the Giro Donne.
For SD Worx, the battle will be about whether fresher means they will be able to animate races more or whether they’ll be slightly undercooked compared to Van Vleuten due to the fewer race days. After looking dominant at Itzulia Women, where Demi Vollering won all 3 stages and the GC, there was a rare blip on the 3rd stage of the Vuelta a Burgos. That day Vollering lost 49 seconds and despite winning the summit finish the next day, it cost her the GC. It’s an area her rivals will try to replicate. Demi will have the most elite of teammates to support her in Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio. There are hints of a fractious relationship between the pair but in her last season, the South African will want to leave her mark on her first Tour de France Femmes. She should now be healed fully from her cracked rib that was causing issues still at the Women’s Tour, where she finished 5th in GC.
Mavi Garcia did well at the Giro Donne. The Spanish national champion was in the right move on Stage 4 to gain an advantage on all but Van Vleuten and Cavalli. She managed the gaps and ensured that she finished on the podium, especially as her rivals looked to be stronger in the final part of the race. She still held off Elisa Longo Borghini for 3rd place. It’s becoming a bit of a theme that in longer stage races, Garcia tails off a bit near the end as we’ve seen it before at the Tour de l’Ardeche. With the two major stages coming in the last 2 days, I can’t see her on the podium here but she will still do well.
Another rider to miss the Giro Donne was Canyon SRAM’s Kasia Niewiadoma. We’ve not seen her race now since the Women’s Tour in mid-June. She was 2nd on a pair of stages and then 3rd Overall as she chases down the first win since 2019. I’m expecting her to take up that usual spot, just behind the major favourites in GC but there might be an opportunity for a stage win at the end of Stage 2.
FDJ will bring their Giro Donne twosome to the Tour de France Femmes. Marta Cavalli finished 2nd there but in theory, Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig is their leader here. At the Giro, Marta Cavalli looked like the only rider to be able to hang with Annemiek van Vleuten towards the end of the Giro Donne and whilst they might want Uttrup Ludwig to be their star rider, it’s Cavalli who I think will end up finishing higher on the general classification. No time trial stage will suit Uttrup Ludwig as usually, that’s her undoing but the lack of a proper puncheur summit finish might prevent a stage win. I see Cille finishing in the top 10 but Cavalli on the last step of the podium.
Team DSM’s best shot at GC will come from their home French rider Juliette Labous. She suffered in the heat early on in the Giro Donne but finished the race strongly, including an impressive victory on Passo Maniva where she put out 5.1 w/kg for 36 minutes. The biggest time gaps will come in the final two stages and in her current climbing form, Labous should be good. I believe she will finish in the top-10 and there is a decent shout for the top-5 as well.
Trek Segafredo was clear that they went into the Giro Donne looking for stage wins from Elisa Balsamo and any GC challenge Elisa Longo Borghini could do would be fine. For most of the race, she was the clear 4th best rider, behind that tier of Van Vleuten, Cavalli and Garcia, before overtaking Garcia on the climbs later on. She won the Women’s Tour with some aggressive racing and that’s probably where I expect her to find some success in France along with a solid GC placing.
A bit of a star at the Giro Donne was Kristen Faulkner of BikeExchange-Jayco. She took victories at the opening time trial and from a break into San Lorenzo Dorsino on Stage 9. The team had to change tack once Amanda Spratt left the race with a Covid positive and maybe if Faulkner hadn’t had to do a job for Spratt on Stage 4, she could’ve finished higher in the GC. After an impressive Tour de Suisse, it was a real announcement of genuine class. There’s no time trial here but it will be interesting to see what the American rider can do.
It will be dependent on whether Amanda Spratt has recovered enough to race and how her form looks only 2 weeks after having Covid. She has said on Instagram that she may race but will refocus her goals after Covid hit her hard.
Tour de France Femmes 2022 Sprinters
Obviously, the best sprinter will be Lorena Wiebes. The Team DSM rider has been almost unbeatable, pretty much only when a break is ahead of her has she lost this season or the crash at the Women’s Tour. She will be the favourite to take the first of the rebooted Tour de France Femmes yellow jerseys in Paris on Stage 1. The Champs Élysées should come down to a sprint and there will be no surprise if she wins. There are potentially 4 opportunities for sprint stage wins, of varying difficulty, and Wiebes could genuinely take all 4 of them.
The only rider to beat Lorena Wiebes in a head-to-head recently is Trek’s World Champion Elisa Balsamo. She has won the Italian national championships and stages at the Tour de Suisse and Giro Donne recently but doesn’t quite have the same aura of invincibility as Wiebes. Balsamo was 3rd in one stage of the Giro, behind Marianne Vos and Charlotte Kool which shows she’s a little closer to the chasing pack than her main rival is.
It feels like Lotte Kopecky is moving away from being a pure sprinter and into more of a Vos-esque style one. The harder the racing the better for Kopecky and Stages 2, 3 and 4 could offer the best opportunities. Particularly Stage 2 which finishes not far off a long steep drag that will distance many of the other sprinters. Her climbing at the Giro Donne was particularly impressive and there’s a chance she could be consistent enough to win the green jersey here.
Fresh from a pair of victories at the Giro Donne, Marianne Vos will be back for her first women’s Tour de France since 2009 where she finished 3rd. The women’s peloton has moved on since then and Vos won’t be on the GC podium here but will be gunning for a stage victory. There are options where she can work to drop the pure sprinters and have a reduced selection to sprint from.
Marta Bastianelli had a pretty quiet Giro Donne with a best sprint of only 5th. She wasn’t quite as near the front as her early season form might have suggested. Some of the lumpy stages in the middle of the Tour de France Femmes should suit her nicely. She doesn’t have the firepower to compete with the likes of Wiebes in a pure sprint. Despite the questionably Giro form, there is a chance the former world champion bows out this year with a win at the Tour de France.
Emma Norsgaard will take on the sprint duties for Movistar. The Dane didn’t quite hit the heights of what she can do at the Giro Donne earlier this month. A 3rd on the last stage was her best result but she was generally comfortably behind that regular top-3. It wasn’t helped much by being involved in Blanka Vas’ crash near the end of Stage 5. At the Tour de France Femmes she will be behind the likes of Wiebes and Balsamo but the tougher the stage the more it will raise her chances.
AG Insurance-NXTG’s Kiwi sprinter Ally Wollaston has moved up a level this season. The 21-year-old has taken wins at GP de Plumelec-Morbihan and the Lotto Belgium Tour and looks like one to keep an eye on to progress even further. Maybe against this elite company, a top 3 will be tough but there is the potential for an eye-opening result that will bring even more attention to the young sprinter.
Rachele Barbieri has had a great return to the road in 2022 taking 2 wins so far. She was a consistent threat at the Giro Donne with 4 top-10 places. Her best there was 2nd on the last stage in Padova. It feels like Barbieri is somewhere between the 2nd and 3rd tier of sprinters. On her day she can beat the likes of Kopecky and Norsgaard but isn’t that close to Wiebes. I expect top-10s, probably in the top-5 as well. A stage victory would be a surprise but a nice one at that.
Sandra Alonso looks back to form, with 2nd at Spanish Nats behind the solo leader Mavi Garcia. Plus she took a bronze medal at the Mediterranean Games, although admittedly against a small peloton. She will probably alternate with teammate Maria Giulia Confalonieri who has been notching up many top-10s this year. 3 of them at the Women’s Tour and 4 more at the Thüringen Ladies Tour before then. Against the pure sprinters, she will lack some speed but on a harder stage, she will become more of a contender and maybe replicate her 3rd from Gent Wevelgem.
Alex Manly properly burst into our conscience at the Thüringen Ladies Tour. BikeExchange-Jayco were the only WWT team there but Manly proper cleaned up by winning 4 of the 6 stages and the Overall GC too. To show it wasn’t just a one-off, she took that confidence into the Women’s Tour and finished 4th Overall, impressive considering the mountain top finish in Wales. She’s another who should get a stronger result the hillier the stage is for a final sprint. She’s backed up by Ruby Roseman-Gannon who has had a solid first full year racing in Europe. It feels like a lifetime ago when she was dominating the Aussie part of the season. In May she took 3 strong top-10s at the 3 hilly Spanish races and then had 3 more at the Thüringen Ladies Tour behind Alex Manly. Both are an outside bet for stage honours.
Another young Dutch sprinter, Maike van der Duin looks like the strongest option for Le Col-Wahoo. She’s not made the podium yet this year but consistently finishes in the middle part of the top-10. She did win the intermediate sprints jersey at the Women’s Tour but there won’t be any equivalent at the Tour de France Femmes. Only 20 years old, it feels like she’s getting closer and closer to that big breakout result.
Tour de France Femmes 2022 Stage & GC Outsiders
An in-form Lisa Brennauer would have a decent shot here but the 2022 season hasn’t been kind to the German. A deliberate late start to the year was then made even later after contracting Covid. 10th in the TT at the Tour de Suisse showed she was getting there, it was probably hillier than she would normally like anyway but then she had to withdraw when a member of her team caught Covid. All-in-all it makes Brennauer a bit of a wildcard. She’ll have lower expectations and pressure and could always spring a surprise.
Arlenis Sierra is always one to watch out for on a tough stage. One of the best sprinters on truly hilly stages, Sierra could find herself a strong contender for Stage 4, with the rolling hills and gravel sections distancing many from the peloton. She probably won’t be able to sprint on the pure sprint stages due to Emma Norsgaard riding here as well but there are definitely some stages late on that suit the Cuban very well.
EF Education-TIBCO-SVB brings a good collection of options. There are a pair of American climbers in Krista Doebel-Hickok and Veronica Ewers. Doebel-Hickok probably didn’t quite achieve what she would have liked at the Giro Donne. It was still her highest GC placing there but I suspect after 4th at Vuelta a Burgos, she wanted more. At her best, she’s a strong pure climber. Veronica Ewers is maybe showing that’s she more of a strong one-day race climber rather than a GC tilt. Her win at the Navarra Elite Classics was impressive and 2nd at Durango-Durango showed that the Spanish one-day races were a target. 8th in GC at the Women’s Tour with some climbing against some strong opposition was about right. I can see Stage 6 is one for Ewers. The team also has Letizia Borghesi who is part sprinter and part puncheur. She has done well enough in pure sprints to finish 8th at Scheldeprijs and she floats around the top-10 too. I see her getting her best results on tough hilly stages that end in sprints.
With the main FDJ pair looking for GC goals, it will be interesting to see if Grace Brown or Vittoria Guazzini get left off the leash at all for some stage hunting. We’ve seen Grace Brown used as the first weapon so far this season, Brown can launch an attack that will have to be closed down by other teams or she will just disappear up the road for good. She’s strong in her own right going uphill and could sneak into the top-10 whilst assisting her leaders. It’s a shame there’s no TT for Vittoria Guazzini but she’s done well in hilly one-day races like GP de Plumelec-Morbihan where she finished 2nd. She comfortably won the Bretagne Ladies Tour back in May and was 2nd in both U23 European Championship races recently. She may be seen as less of a threat than Brown to other teams and allowed to ghost away in a break.
We’ve seen Anna Henderson take on an attacking role this year, where she nearly pulled off a win on the first stage of the RideLondon Classique, only to be caught in the last 500 metres. She will form part of the lead-out for Marianne Vos along with Coryn Labecki but I also think she will be allowed to get into breaks. She could be an early wearer of the polka dots jersey, even if a GC contender ultimately wins it via the major climbs later in the race.
The Canadian Simone Boilard is having a career year in 2022 and is now a regular top-10 finisher. She will be outgunned by the likes of Wiebes and Balsamo but I can see Boilard making the top-10 in those sprints. Her 3rd place stage finish at the Bretagne Ladies Tour shows that she has some resilience for the tougher days and could finish highest on some of the middle stages.
Probably the most impressive youth rider of the 2022 season is Shirin van Anrooij. Whereas Guazzini was runner-up in both U23 Euro races, Van Anrooij won them both. She has shown she can flat sprint with 5th at Omloop van het Hageland, hill sprint like a puncheur with 9th at Strade Bianche and then climb well too with 7th on the summit finish to Lagunas de Neila at Vuelta a Burgos. It’s easy to forget she’s only 20 years old but the Dutch rider looks to be leading the next generation.
Thalita de Jong had a great early season racing smaller races whilst she waited to join Liv Racing Xstra. Since then, she’s been in more of a team role so there are fewer stand-out results. The former cyclocross world champion will no doubt relish the gravel on Stage 4 but De Jong is certainly capable of getting into some strong breaks and showing off the team colours.