The reintroduction of a women’s Tour de France in 2022 is a welcome step forward for the sport. It offers female cyclists the chance to win the coveted yellow jersey, perhaps the most recognised and famous prize in cycling. The Tour de France Femmes starts on the same day the men’s Tour de France finishes (July 24) with a short, fiery sprint stage on the iconic Champs Élysées circuit.
This means the first wearer of the maillot jaune will likely be one of the fastest finishers in today’s peloton – think Lorena Wiebes (Team DSM) Elisa Balsamo (Trek-Segafredo) or Marta Bastianeli (UAE Team ADQ) – but the hills come thick and fast towards the end in a back-loaded route. It will be in the final three stages that the GC contenders get the chance to shine with long climbs and summit finishes aplenty. While the race doesn’t head into the high mountains like the men’s race, the route is punchy, attritional and will set the stage for exciting and tight-fought racing.
So, who will take home the yellow jersey after the final stage which finishes atop the steep, gravel climb of La Super Planche des Belles Filles? We’ve outlined the main contenders to win the overall classification of the Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift this year.
Tour de France Femmes 2022 favourites
Annemiek van Vleuten - Movistar
Van Vleuten is a rider who needs little introduction. For almost a decade she has been at the forefront of the sport, going to battle with legends of women’s cycling such as Anna van der Breggen and Marriane Vos over and over again and often coming out on top. The Movistar rider’s palmarès are nothing short of breathtaking, she’s won the Giro d’Italia Donne three times – the longest stage race on the Women's WorldTour calendar – has multiple World Championship titles, has conquered the cobbles to win at the Tour of Flanders twice, as well as secured victories in Liège-Bastogne-Liège and Strade Bianche Donne. To top things off, she has an Olympic gold medal to boot.
Image: ASO/Romain Laurent
This year, Van Vleuten will come to the Tour de France Femmes fresh off a dominating performance in the Giro d’Italia Donne, where she won the overall GC by almost two minutes. The parcours of the women’s Tour de France suit the Dutch woman, she’ll enjoy the gravel sectors on stage four with her capabilities on the white roads proven by her Strade Bianche wins, and will truly come in to her own as the race hits its highest point on stage seven with the Grand Ballon climb. La Super Plance des Belles Filles won’t scare Van Vleuten either, she consistently performs well on similar Ardennes-style climbs.
The 39-year-old might prefer it if the race was heading higher into the mountains so she could gain some time on longer climbs, but she could still force gaps on the hills the peloton will tackle on stages seven and eight. It should also be noted that many of Van Vleuten’s main competitors for the Tour de France Femmes title skipped the Giro d’Italia Donne, so she is yet to test herself against some of the biggest names in the peloton.
Demi Vollering - Team SD Worx
Perhaps the main rider who could spoil Van Vleuten’s fun at this race is Team SD Worx’s Demi Vollering. The 25-year-old has taken a radically different approach to her more experienced rival in the run-up to the Tour de France by opting to not ride the Giro Donne, instead training at altitude with her teammates. In fact, Vollering will go into the Tour having not raced since the National Championships one month before, so her current form is a relative mystery compared to Van Vleuten’s.
Image: Zac Williams/SWpix
However, we can look through the younger Dutch rider’s palmarès and her performances in the earlier part of the season to get a good indication of how she will fare in this race. Vollering secured a podium position in every single one of the Ardennes Classics at the start of the year, and then went on to win the overall classification of Itzulia Women (as well as every stage.) The fact the women’s Tour de France does not cover any high mountain passes gives Vollering even more chance of getting the better of her rivals, she will favour the punchy parcours that mimic those of the races she has done so well in before. On paper, Vollering also has a stronger team than Van Vleuten to support her in the more challenging stages and this could be an asset if Team SD Worx manage to isolate AvV at crucial moments of the race.
Dutch gravel national champion, Vollering will also enjoy the white roads which come early in the race. Overall, it would have been difficult to design a course more suited to the young talent, and with the likes of Anna van der Breggen in the team car advising her, she has all the ingredients to take the win here.
Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig - FDJ-SUEZ-Futuroscope
Danish dynamite Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig has had a tough season so far, forced to miss all of the Ardennes Classics due to contracting Covid-19 after the Tour of Flanders. Speaking to Rouleur a few weeks ago, though, Uttrup Ludwig said that her lack of racing wasn’t a concern and that it simply made her more motivated for the races later in the season. She explained that her freshness, both mentally and physically, could be an asset at the Tour de France Femmes.
Image: Getty/Dario Belingheri
Since her return to racing, the Danish rider has shown a steady return to form, winning her National Championship title and finishing inside the top-six overall at both the Vuelta a Burgos Feminas and the Giro d’Italia Donne. Her team, FDJ-SUEZ-Futuroscope, have also been vocal about the confidence they have in Uttrup Ludwig, explaining that they will be throwing all of their weight behind her to support her bid for the yellow jersey. While she wasn’t able to match the likes of Van Vleuten at the Giro, it could be that the Dane has timed her peak form perfectly to coincide with the women’s Tour de France. If she can have a strong race, it will continue the outstanding performances of Danish riders seen in the men’s Tour de France a few weeks before.
Elisa Longo-Borghini - Trek Segafredo
Trek-Segafredo’s Elisa Longo-Borghini is another rider who decided to race both the Giro d’Italia Donne and the Tour de France Femmes, undeterred by the chance of bringing fatigue into the Tour. The Italian champion proved at the Giro that she is in good shape, finishing fourth overall on GC after tackling some stages that didn’t necessarily suit her strengths. Like Vollering, she will be relieved not to see the Tour de France Femmes head into the high mountains, as she will relish the punchy and short climbs that require explosive but sustained effort. Longo-Borghini has proved her ability to be consistent over week long stage races on multiple occasions, taking the win in the Women’s Tour earlier this season as well.
Image: Zac Williams/SWpix
She will be supported by the likes of Audrey Cordon-Ragot – who will be able to offer some knowledge of the roads as a French rider herself – Shirin van Anrooij, and Ellen van Dijk who comprise a team with some serious firepower. Longo-Borghini’s only downfall could be that the team has other commitments with their sprinter and world champion Elisa Balsamo. If Longo-Borghini is drafted in to lead-out duties for her compatriot in the earlier sprint stages, this might tire her out when the mountains come later on. Still, as she showed when she stormed to victory in Paris-Roubaix Femmes with a perfectly timed attack, Longo-Borghini’s tactical nous and race craft does set her apart from her rivals.
Kasia Niewiadoma - Canyon//SRAM
While she has fewer victories on her palmarès than some of the other favourites for the Tour de France Femmes, Canyon//SRAM rider Kasia Niewiadoma’s consistency over the last few seasons makes her a viable contender for the overall victory at this race. Could it be that, since she has waited so long for the taste of success, Niewiadoma will be rewarded with the biggest prize of all this season?
Image: Zac Williams/SWpix
Her performances at the Women’s Tour hint that this is a possibility, as she finished second on both of the race’s most difficult stages. She looked to be climbing exceptionally well and, since she skipped the Giro d’Italia, Niewiadoma would have had even more time to dedicate to training and improving her shape since racing in the UK.
Niewiadoma’s win in the Amstel Gold Race in 2019 was proof that, if things go right on the day, she can beat the likes of Van Vleuten, Vollering and Uttrup-Ludwig. With a stellar team behind her, including Elise Chabbey, Tiffany Cromwell and Pauliena Rooijakkers, Niewiadoma has a good chance to take the yellow jersey for some, if not all, of the Tour de France Femmes.
Mavi García - UAE Team ADQ
UAE Team ADQ’s Mavi García has been in the pro racing game for the shortest amount of time when compared to the other riders on our list. The Spanish rider started competing professionally at the age of 31, and has been going head to head with the best of the best since 2019. With her top-10s in the Ardennes Classics, second place in Strade Bianche Donne last year and four national titles, García is proving that experience does not need to be a barrier to high-performance cycling.
Image: Getty/Dario Belingheri
Most recently, at the Giro d’Italia Donne, García was the best of the rest behind Van Vleuten. While she couldn’t pass her competitor, she was able to stay close behind the Dutchwoman on the toughest climbs and, should Van Vleuten be on a bad day at the Tour, García will be ready to take advantage of this and go for her own chances. She may only be let down by a lack of support compared to some of the bigger teams who can control the race, but it could be that García can surf the wheels and profit off their work – she is a rider who will perform best in reduced groups.
Juliette Labous of Team DSM is a strong, young talent who can perform well in the mountains, winning the Queen Stage of the Giro d’Italia a few weeks ago. Evita Muzic is another option for FDJ-SUEZ-Futuroscope if Uttrup Ludwig is having a bad day, as is Marta Cavalli. Ashleigh Moolman could get the opportunity to pursue her own chances should Vollering not be up to the task for Team SD Worx, and Pauliena Rooijakers of Canyon//SRAM may also have a leadership opportunity in the German team.
Cover image: ASO/Romain Laurent