This year will see the inaugural edition of the Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift. Starting on the July 24 2022, the race spans eight days and the riders will cover 1033.6 kilometres in total distance. The action kicks off in front of an iconic backdrop: the Eiffel Tower in Paris and will come to an exciting climax on La Super Planche des Belles Filles at the end of stage eight.
The opening day of the race is on the famous Champs Élysées circuit which has been the final stage of the men’s Tour de France since 1975. It’s a short, punchy stage which will favour the sprinters in the peloton. With the first yellow jersey of the women’s Tour de France up for grabs for the winner of this stage, nerves will be high and it will be important for GC contenders to stay safe at the front of the race and out of trouble.
Following the expected bunch kick on the Champs Élysées, the second stage of the race is also one who could favour the fastest legs in the peloton. Beginning in Meaux, the riders will tackle a 136.4km stage which includes the first KOM point of the race – a category four climb which lasts 1.7km at an average gradient of 4.7%. From then on, the day is undulating, but the finish is slightly uphill which could mean the puncheurs of the peloton have the upper hand.
The hills begin in stage three with a rolling route to Épernay which could, again, go in favour of those with a punchy finish or suit a strong breakaway. On the following day, stage four is set to be one of the most exciting of the race with the riders facing 12.9 kilometres of “white roads” – chalky tracks that wind through the vineyards. The route also features various steep and punchy climbs.
Halfway through the race comes the longest stage which spans over 175 kilometres (further than the UCI’s recommended distance allowance for women’s races). There aren’t any huge obstacles in terms of climbs on this day, but the long distance will pose a challenge for some who are beginning to feel the fatigue after four tough days of racing already.
The final three stages of the race, as the riders skirt into the Vosges mountain range, are designed to set the stage for a big general classification fight. While stage six is relatively tame in terms of long mountains, the climbs are short, unrelenting and tough. We could even see GC gaps appear here if any of the favourites are having a bad day.
It’s on stages seven and eight that the real mountains come, with the Grand Ballon on stage seven being the race’s highest point at 1,336m. We can expect the likes of Annemiek van Vleuten and Demi Vollering to come to the fore here for a true test of who is the fastest rider in the mountains amongst the women’s peloton.
The finale of the race comes on stage eight with La Super Planche des Belles Filles, a steep, sharp climb that finishes on a gravel section. It set the stage for a thrilling battle between Tadej Pogačar and his rivals in the men’s race a few weeks before, and we can expect a similarly dramatic and entertaining show in the women’s Tour de France, especially as it could be on this climb where the eventual yellow jersey holder is decided. The winner of this race will cement her place in the history books so the stakes are going to be higher than ever.
Here’s our stage-by-stage guide to this July’s edition of the Tour de France Femmes.
Tour de France Femmes 2022 route: The stages
TOUR DE FRANCE FEMMES 2022, STAGE ONE (24/07): EIFFEL TOWER - CHAMPS ÉLYSÉES (81.6KM)
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 Élysées 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.
TOUR DE FRANCE FEMMES 2022, STAGE TWO (25/07): MEAUX - PROVINS (136.4KM)
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.
TOUR DE FRANCE FEMMES 2022, STAGE THREE (27/07): REIMS - ÉPERNAY (133.6KM)
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.
TOUR DE FRANCE FEMMES 2022, STAGE FOUR (28/07): TROYES - BAR-SUR-AUBE (126.8KM)
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.
TOUR DE FRANCE FEMMES 2022, STAGE FIVE (29/07): BAR-LE-DUC - SAINT DIÉ-DES-VOSGES (175.6KM)
At 175km, stage five 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.TOUR DE FRANCE FEMMES 2022, STAGE SIX (30/07): SAINT DIÉ-DES-VOSGES - ROSHEIM (129.2KM)
With plenty of hills, stage six 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.
TOUR DE FRANCE FEMMES 2022, STAGE SEVEN (31/07): SÉLESTAT - LE MARKSTEIN FELLERING (129.2KM)
The first mountains await on stage seven 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.
TOUR DE FRANCE FEMMES 2022, STAGE EIGHT (01/08): LURA - LA SUPER PLANCHE DES BELLES FILLES (123.3KM)
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, while Tadej Pogačar won in the yellow jersey here in 2022.
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.