Start location: Clermont-Ferrand
Finish location: Clermont-Ferrand
Stage type: Flat
Start time: 12:15 CEST
Finish time (approx): 15:19 CEST
In the inaugural Tour de France Femmes last year, the women’s edition was opened on the Champs-Élysées after the final stage of the men’s race. However, this year, the Tour de France Femmes has established itself as a fully standalone event – breaking the shackles that tie it to the men’s race. In the previous edition, Lorena Wiebes claimed victory in the expected bunch sprint on the Parisian cobbles. However, this year's opening stage in Clermont-Ferrand promises a greater level of unpredictably, with its short, punchy climbs favouring the puncheurs in the peloton, rather than the sprinters.
The route for the opening stage follows an out-and-back format, starting from the heart of the city, the Place de Jaude. This pedestrianised square is adorned with a statue of Vercingetorix, France's first national hero, which was created by Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi, the same artist who designed New York's Statue of Liberty. From there, the peloton will venture out into the picturesque countryside. The opening kilometres are predominantly flat, but the terrain gradually becomes more undulating for the remainder of the stage as the riders make their way back to Clermont-Ferrand.
Stage one profile sourced via ASO
Due to the storied Puy de Dôme which lies just outside the city, Clermont-Ferrand has seen relatively few stage finishes in the Tour de France. In decades past, the Tour organiser has often opted for the more captivating finale on the steep slopes of the volcano. However, in recent years, access to the climb has been restricted to cyclists due to the installation of a tram track that transports visitors to the volcano's peak. It is only this year that the city has granted permission for the Tour de France to include a stage on the climb, ending a 35-year hiatus. Apart from the Puy de Dôme, the city has only hosted two other stage finishes: André Le Dissez's victory on the Charade Circuit in the 1959 Tour and Raphaël Géminiani's triumph in his hometown in 1951.
This upcoming stage will mark the third time in history that a Tour stage concludes in Clermont-Ferrand. The women's peloton will battle it out for victory on Avenue Carnot, situated near Clermont Auvergne University. While the flat 450-metre finish might suggest an opportunity for the sprinters, the steep slopes of the Côte de Durtol, located just 9km from the finish, will likely dampen their chances. This climb on the outskirts of the city spans 1.7km and boasts an average gradient of 7.2%, making it the perfect launchpad for a punchier rider to distance themselves from those who excel in fast finishes, and ultimately, put themselves in the yellow jersey.
This stage is one of the flattest days the women's peloton will face, however, it still involves over 1,000 metres of climbing. The Côte de Durtol, situated close to the finish is no mean feat and features a technical descent on the other side, making this stage difficult to predict. A stage win and the coveted yellow jersey are at stake, leaving us uncertain about whether it will end in a sprint finish or if there will be an attack on the stage's one and only categorised climb.
SD Worx-Protime have Lorena Wiebes in their roster, who is the best sprinter in the women's WorldTour and will be there to contest the stage. Not only can she sprint, but she also has the ability to power up short, steep climbs. Given that there are no obvious sprint stages in this Tour, she is likely aiming to repeat history with an opening stage win, just as she did in 2022.
However, if Wiebes is going for the sprint, so is Charlotte Kool (Team DSM-Firmenich). She is another sensational sprinter and will be looking to secure her first Grand Tour stage win. The Dutch rider has had an impressive season so far, with several victories under her belt, and will be entering the Tour with great confidence in her fantastic form.
For Movistar, Emma Norsgaard could go for the win if given the opportunity. However, with the defending champion, Annemiek van Vleuten, in their team, it will depend on whether the team is entirely dedicated to supporting Van Vleuten or if some riders have been given the freedom to go for their own ambitions.
Fresh from the Giro Donne, Silvia Persico (UAE Team ADQ) could also go for the opening stage. British champion Pfeiffer Georgi (Team DSM-Firmenich) will be another rider to watch on stage one. She excels on undulating terrain and could be a strong candidate to attack on the final climb.
Elisa Balsamo (Lidl-Trek) is another potential contender. After her crash on stage one of the RideLondon Classique, she hasn't returned to racing, and this will be the first time we've seen the Italian since. Prior to her injury, she had a strong Classics campaign, securing two second-place finishes at Trofeo Alfredo Binda and Classic Brugge-De Panne.
Other riders to keep an eye on will be Audrey Cordon-Ragot (Human Powered Health), Mavi García (Liv Racing TeqFind), Ashleigh Moolman-Passo (AG Insurance-Soudal-Quick-Step), and Elise Chabbey (Canyon//SRAM).
We think Lorena Wiebes will be the first over the line, putting her in the yellow jersey. She has the support of a strong team and has proven her climbing abilities in recent races, which will help her tackle the 1.7km climb that stands between her and the finish line.