The first edition of the Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift is set to take place between 24th July and 31st July 2022. The route was presented last year by Marion Rousse, the director of Tour de France Femmes, alongside Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme. It's set to be a monumental moment in women's cycling as the female peloton finally are given the opportunity to compete in an event with such prestige.
However, the Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift does not mirror the course of the men's race. Instead, the race will take place over eight stages and cover 1,029km in total. While there was initially criticism regarding the length of the event, the general consensus in the peloton appears to be that this is a good place to start, and that the women's WorldTour field does not yet have the staff or numbers to field teams for a 3-week event.
A shorter race could also lead to more exciting, explosive and punchy racing. The organisers have created a varied route which incldes two mountain stages, two hilly stages and four flat stages with some gravel sectors also thrown in here and there for good measure. We can expect the likes of Annemiek van Vlueten and Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig to be targeting the overall GC, while riders like Lorena Wiebes and Marta Bastianelli will have their sights set on the flatter stages. Regardless of the outcome, the event is going to be a pivotal moment in the sport; here's everything you need to know.
Stage One: Eiffel Tower - Champs Elysées (82km)
In contrast to tradition at the men’s Tour de France, the Tour de France Femmes kicks-off in Paris with a short and punchy 82km stage. After departing from the Eiffel Tower, the stage features twelve laps of the iconic Champs Elysées circuit, including the first king of the mountain's sprint after 62km. The sprinters have the best chance of winning the first yellow jersey and it will be important that teams ensure they have well-drilled lead out trains at the ready. For GC riders, this day will be about avoiding any crashes in a stage which is likely to be nervous and hectic considering the high stakes.
Stage two: Meaux - Provins (135km)
Stage two between Meaux and Provins covers a much longer distance than the opening stage in Paris, spanning 135km. A QOM sprint after just 15km means we could see a fiery start to the race as many will be targeting the polka dot jersey. The run in to the line sees a false-flat which could suit some of the punchier sprinters, rather than those with the fastest legs. It's not a stage where we are likely to see any GC splits and it will be about keeping safe for those targeting the overall.
Stage three: Reims - Epernay (133km)
Stage three is the most challenging to this point with five classified climbs. The Mont Bernon (1km at 4.6%) could be the decisive point of the day, it provides a suitable launch pad for the puncheurs to attack with just 5km left. However, there is still plenty of tough terrain the riders will need to tackle beforehand. The Côte de Mutigny comes with just over 15km remaining, it features ramps over 12% and will shed the weakest climbers.
The three climbs earlier on the stage could make good terrain for a strong breakaway to stay away, too, so we can expect a fight to get in the move earlier on in the day. Stage three emulates stage three of the men's Tour de France in 2019, where Julian Alaphilippe won solo to claim the first yellow jersey of his career.
Stage four: Troyes - Bar-Sur-Aube (126km)
Six climbs and four gravelled sections are packed into the final 60km of stage four. This strade-bianche style stage is one of the toughest of the whole race – not due to elevation gain but due to the high risks attached to the unpredictable off-road terrain. Positioning will be crucial and good bike-handling skills will also be an important factor. Punctures and crashes might spoil the chances of some GC contenders, and we can expect the likes of Lotte Kopecky (2022 Strade Bianche winner) to come to the fore in this stage, searching for victory. Teams will need to think strategically about protecting their GC riders while also allowing others to go for opportunistic stage wins.
Stage 5: Bar-Le-Duc - Saint-Dié-Des-Vosges (175km)
At 175km, stage 5 is by far the longest of the race. A flat opening section will likely be the stage for a fight to get in the breakaway, as the GC riders will enjoy a calmer start to the day. While there are three KOM sprints throughout the stage, these aren’t likely to prevent a sprint finish in Saint-Dié-Des-Vosges. The climbs are relatively short and the gradient is manageable – the most difficult aspect of the stage is its length.
Stage 6: Saint-Dié-Des-Vosges - Rosheim (128km)
With plenty of hills, stage 6 offers a major opportunity for the puncheurs to succeed. The first climb comes early in to the stage, meaning we can expect riders to be warming up on the turbo trainers ahead of the start to prepare themselves for an intense beginning to the day. The second and third classified climbs are much steeper than the first, and could definitely cause some splits in the peloton. Finally, the Côte de Boersch takes place with 9km left and averages 6.1% over 1.3km. If any of the fast finishers get over this test in the leading group, they have a great chance of winning in Rosheim, or it could be a day for the breakaway.
Stage 7: Selestat - Le Markstein (127km)
The first mountains await on stage 7 in a back-loaded Tour de France Femmes. Three of the most challenging climbs in Alsace begin with the Petit Ballon, which averages a brutal 8.1% over 9.3km. This sort of climb is the preferred territory of Annemiek van Vleuten, who goes in to the race as the favourite to take the overall race win. After a brief descent, the Col du Platzerwasel (7.1km at 8.3%) swiftly follows, this gives very little recovery time for riders and we can expect any time gaps from the previous climb to get even bigger on the second mountain of the day. The final climb of the stage is the Grand Ballon, which is where we'll see the strongest climbers move to the fore. At just over 13.5 kilometres, it's a long climb which is going to be a test of endurance for the riders.
Stage 8: Lure - La Super Planche Des Belles Filles (123km)
The final stage has a substantial role to play in deciding the final general classification. The Ballon d’Alsace (8.7km at 6.9%) provides the ideal platform for early attacks. However, La Super Planches des Belles Filles, which averages a monstrous 8.7% over 7km, will conclude the inaugural Tour de France Femmes. The slopes here exceed 20%, with the final gravelled ramp to the finish line touching an absurd 24%. Dylan Teuns defeated Giulio Ciccone here at the 2019 men's Tour de France.
The nature of the route, where the two queen stages occur in the final two days, means we won't be sure of the winner until the riders cross the finish line on the final stage. This could also encourage 'all or nothing' attacks in the final couple of stages.
Yellow jersey/General Classification
Following the retirement of Anna van der Breggen at the end of last season, Annemiek van Vleuten starts as the hot favourite to take the overall win at the Tour de France Femmes. The three-time World Champion and two-time winner of the Giro Rosa excels on hilly terrain and will relish the mountains on stages 7 and 8. She will enter the race supported by her Movistar teammates, including Sarah Gigante and Katrine Aalerud, both extremely strong climbers in their own right. Van Vleuten will need to be vigilant on the earlier gravel and flat stages to ensure she doesn’t lose time to any of her competitors, however.
Annemiek van Vleuten battles it out with Lotte Kopecky in Strade Bianche 2022 (Image: CorVos/SWpix)
Team SD Worx will be looking to make Movistar’s pursuit of the yellow jersey difficult. The number one ranked Women’s WorldTeam have Demi Vollering in their roster, winner of La Course in 2021. The long climbs could be a little too demanding for Vollering in the final stages, however, and it's hard to predict how she will respond on this terrain. SD Worx have options, though, should Vollering not be able to hold the pace in the mountains. South African rider Ashleigh Moolman is extremely reliable on the hills, as is the team’s young talent Niamh Fisher-Black.
Demi Vollering of Team SD Worx (Image: SWpix/Zac Williams)
Trek-Segafredo’s of Elisa Longo Borghini will be a force to be reckoned with in the mountains, and her have the strength in numbers to play a canny tactical game.
French team FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope made their ambitions for the Tour de France Femmes clear as soon as the race was announced last year: they want to win the yellow jersey in their home race. They will start with Danish dynamite Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig as their protected rider for GC, a rider who finished second in La Course last year and won a stage of the Vuelta Burgos. Grace Brown, Marta Cavalli and Evita Muzic will complete an incredibly strong line-up for the French squad.
Elisa Longo Borghini sprints against Kasia Niewiadoma and Grace Brown (Image: Zac Williams/SWpix)
The final two stages could be a little too hilly for Jumbo-Visma’s Marianne Vos, but we know from her palmares (30 stage wins at the Giro Rosa) to never count the Dutch rider out. If she doesn’t manage to contend for the overall, Vos will be hunting for as many stage wins as she can.
Kasia Niewiadoma of Canyon//SRAM Racing will also hope to be in the fight for yellow. The former winner of The Women’s Tour is a versatile rider who will likely be strong on the punchier stages earlier on in the race, but also in the heavy-loaded back end of the route when the mountains come thick and fast. Mavi Garcia of UAE Team ADQ is also an outside bet for the win, as is Team DSM’s Liane Lippert.
Green jersey/points classification
Traditionally awarded to the strongest sprinter in the race, the green jersey looks like it will be as hotly contested in the Tour de France Femmes as the yellow. The flat opening two stages will be fought out between the fastest sprinters in the women’s peloton and there’s many riders who will fancy their chances.
Lorena Wiebes of Team DSM (Image: Simon Wilkinson/SWpix)
Team DSM likely bring the best sprint option. Their roster includes Lorena Wiebes, a rider with 10 wins in the professional peloton already this season at only 22 years old. With Team DSM having a notoriously drilled lead-out train, Wiebes will be set up perfectly to take some stage wins. Recent graduate from Team NXTG and new signing for Team DSM Charlotte Kool could also be a solid back-up plan for the Dutch outfit if anything goes wrong for Wiebes on the run-in to the line.
From Movistar, Emma Norsgaard will be hoping for a stage win with a strong lead out from her teammates. The Danish rider won a stage of the Giro Rosa last year and has asserted herself in recent seasons as one of the brightest young talents when it comes to sprinting. With her team containing the main contender for the overall GC, however, it will be interesting to see how much resource Movistar dedicate to helping Norsgaard in the flatter stages.
The experienced Coryn Labecki (née Rivera) will be hoping to get back to her sprinting best with Jumbo-Visma. It will be interesting to see if Jumbo-Visma opt for Labecki or Vos in the sprint stages – Vos has the potential to win a bunch kick, but Labecki is historically the fastest sprinter of the two.
Marta Bastianelli of UAE Team ADQ started her 2022 season with a win in Vuelta CV Feminas after an impressive lead out from her newly formed team. The Italian is experienced and won’t be fazed by the pressure of competing for a stage win in the inaugural Tour de France Femmes.
Elisa Balsamo of Trek Segafredo (Image: Zac Williams/SWpix)
Trek Segafredo bring the World Champion Elisa Balsamo to the startline – an incredibly strong sprinter, especially after a tough race. With super domestiques Ellen van Dijk and Audrey Cordon-Ragot forming part of her leadout, Balsamo should have all the support she needs to gun for stage wins and the green jersey.
Other contenders for green include Canyon//SRAM’s Alice Barnes and Susanne Andersen of Team Uno-X.
Outside bets/stage winners
Aside from the pure sprinters and GC contenders, there are lots of riders in the peloton who will be opportunistically looking for stage wins on the rolling terrain of stages 3, 4 and 6. Winner of Strade Bianche in 2021, Chantal van den Broek-Blaak will have her eyes on the gravel hills of stage 4, as will riders like Grace Brown who favour a breakaway. Swiss riders Elise Chabbey and Marlen Reusser both are strong riders who can go for long-range attacks.
Marlen Reusser of Team SD Worx leads the peloton (Image: SWpix/Alex Whitehead)
Belgian Champion Lotte Kopecky is an all-rounder who will excel on punchy hills – another option for Team SD Worx who have strength in numbers. Joscelin Lowden of Team Uno-X, secured a top 5 at Brabantse Pijl last year, a race which has similar bumpy terrain to that seen in stages 3 and 6 of the Tour de France Femmes. Juliette Labous of Team DSM excelled in the Ardennes Classics last year and won the recent Vuelta Burgos, she will be spurred on for stage wins by a home crowd. British National Champion Pfeiffer Georgi will also be grabbing any opportunities with both hands if they arise.