Vuelta Femenina 2024: what it taught us about how the Tour de France Femmes will be raced

While Demi Vollering expectedly ran away with the general classification, there were signs that emerging riders may be able to provide a significant challenge to her come August

Come the end, there really shouldn’t have been any doubts about the final outcome at the Vuelta Femenina: despite her winless spring, Demi Vollering turned up and put on the show that was expected of her. In winning the season’s first Grand Tour by a margin of almost two minutes, the Dutchwoman reasserted her position as the standout GC rider in the women’s peloton, setting herself up for a successful defence of her Tour de France Femmes crown in three months.

Vollering’s win on stage five, courtesy of a powerful, seated attack inside the final kilometre, was merely the precursor to her win on stage eight at Valdesquí, two triumphs that not only underlined her status as the best and most consistent climber around right now, but a rider without a serious sparring partner.

By the time the Tour comes around – which starts in her home country immediately after the culmination of the Olympic Games – she will be the only rider who fans, pundits and riders alike will be predicting to win yellow, such is her stage racing dominance in the past year.

Demi Vollering

But bike racing has a funny habit of disposing of champions-elect and favourites falling by the wayside, and if there is one new lesson to take away from the Vuelta, it’s not Vollering’s stranglehold on the race, but the performance from Évita Muzic of FDJ-Suez.

Muzic, soon to turn 25, has been on the scene for a few years now and regularly finishes in the top 10 of most stage races. Yet it was her panache and results in Spain this past week, most notably beating Vollering to victory on stage six and being the champion’s closest challenger on the final stage in Madrid, which have most impressed and got people talking about her.

In fifth place overall, she was admittedly 3:15 back from Vollering, and more than a minute adrift of Riejanne Markus and Elisa Longo Borghini in second and third respectively, but in Muzic and DSM-Firmenich PostNL’s Juliette Labous, fourth at the Vuelta, France now has two riders who look capable of winning their home Grand Tour. It might not be this year – and Kasia Niewiadoma and Gaia Realini will indeed be more fancied to challenge Vollering – but it feels a distinct possibility in the forthcoming years.

Evita Muzik

What seems like a probability rather than a possibility, especially off the back of the Vuelta, is that the irrepressible Marianne Vos will be taking stage wins at the Tour. The Visma-Lease a Bike rider, just a fortnight shy of her 37th birthday, won stages three and seven – one a bunch sprint, one an uphill dash to the line. There is one consistent storyline that still has several chapters to be written: Marianne Vos will always win bike races.

And so too will Vollering, it seems. There was no surprise that it was she who walked away with the red jersey, a further demonstration that, like her compatriot Vos, she copes expertly with the pressure of carrying the favourite tag. The Vuelta is ticked off, now she’s setting her sights on the Tour. The Spanish race indicated that she’ll have no problems adding to her win tally. But will Muzic upset the apple cart?

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