Why the Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift is bigger than bike racing

The return of the women’s Tour de France is going to be game-changing. From inspiring young girls who ride, to getting closer to parity with men’s racing, we spoke to insiders in the world of women’s cycling to find out what it means

For years, women’s cycling has been gaining momentum. From the UCI introducing the Women’s WorldTour, minimum wages and maternity leave in 2020, to the inaugural Paris-Roubaix Femmes one year later, the sport is growing and professionalising at an exciting rate. The Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift is the perfect opportunity to capitalise on this: a big platform to show the world what the women’s peloton can do.

As cyclists and cycling fans, we’ll be treated to eight days of dramatic, punchy racing which we can watch from start to finish live, rooting for our favourites, shouting at the TV from our sofas. For the riders and people who work in the women’s peloton, the race is going to be a historic moment, too. It’s an accumulation of plenty of hard work, determination and fight to be given the opportunities to race at the highest level.

We spoke to some of the biggest names in the sport to get an insight into the impact the women’s Tour de France will have on the future of cycling.

Lizzie Deignan, 33 years old, rider for Trek-Segafredo

“I think it will have a huge impact. I hope so, anyway. It's bigger than cycling, people have heard of the Tour de France. For instance, when I was growing up, I'd never heard of the Tour of Flanders or any of those other Classics. I wasn't from a cycling family, but I was aware of the Tour de France. It speaks to a bigger community, more sponsors. I just think it's a big opportunity, a big platform that we don't have outside of it.”

Pfeiffer Georgi, 21 years old, rider for Team DSM

With it being televised, I think it's just going to increase the professionalism of women's cycling, that line to line coverage. You can actually see that the work that riders do, it's not just the result sheet, which is what we've had in the past when races aren't shown and then no one knows the teamwork that goes into it. I think the more that is shown, the more professionalism you get. I think it's just going to increase the whole level. It's just a step towards parity with the men. And there is no reason why we couldn't have had these races before.”Image: Zac Williams/SWpix

Chantal van den Broek-Blaak, 32 years old, rider for Team SD Worx

“We are growing so quickly now and want to show the world how good we are and what we are able to do. So it's a goal for me to be in good shape. The team goal is to win and I will be in the helpers role and hopefully I can go for stage wins but, if not, then I will help and give my best. But for sure I'm going to show my legs.”

Julia Soek, 31 years old, former professional rider, now sports director for Le Col-Wahoo

“It’s a big thing for women’s cycling but we did already have a Tour in the past. Of course, it’s going to be one of the biggest events of the year and also with the media and the live coverage I would say it will be huge.

I think it’s good to have the Tour, it’s part of the history of cycling so it’s good to have it. But I feel like we can create our own concept, women’s racing is really interesting, we just need live coverage to show that, to show ourselves. We have our own story to tell, we don’t have to be the same as the men because we’re not men. A three week Tour for me is not necessary, women are not the same as men and I feel like it might not be that interesting anyway. Women’s racing is short, intense and attractive, we don’t need three weeks through the French nature. The Tour is so prestigious and we are happy we are able to race there. I’m really happy we have more live coverage.”

Audrey Cordon-Ragot, 32 years old, rider for Trek Segafredo

“I'm so proud that the French organisation is finally moving on for women's cycling. That’s something I’ve been fighting for so many years. I'm proud that this sport is growing so much in France. I think we were so backwards until now. I was pretty jealous of the British, actually, because when I went to London in 2012 for the Olympics, I saw Lizzie [Deignan] on a big poster in the middle of London. I was like, that's what I want for France. That's what I want. I have the feeling that we’re there now. I know it’s 10 years later, but we’re there.”

Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig, 26 years old, rider for FDJ - SUEZ - Futuroscope

“I think it's good that we have an event that people can associate with. Everyone knows about the Tour de France. My grandma knows. You ask anyone here: what is the Tour de France? And they know. When I'm asked like, you're a professional, so do you have the Tour de France? Until now, I said no. Now I can say yes, I do the Tour de France. It's going to be shown worldwide, people are going to be seeing it and that is the key to growing women’s cycling. So it's just normal to see women on bikes, so young girls, they see that's my hero, you know, and they want to be cyclists.”Image: Zac Williams/SWpix

Danny Stam, 50 years old, sports director for Team SD Worx

“I think we'll make another step up. It's really cool that the Tour de France is back. In my opinion, it's strange it took so long, but we say step by step, and I think it will be a big benefit for women's cycling that we have the Tour de France. We also must not think that we need to have The Tour for three weeks or whatever. We also need to realise that the women's peloton is not the men's peloton and that we have not so many riders and we have not so many teams.”

Marjolein Van 't Geloof, 26 years old, rider for Le Col - Wahoo

“It will change a lot. Even if you saw Paris Roubaix last year, everyone knows the race so they will watch it. That's what I think will happen in France. If people know, the women's race is starting, they will keep watching. So that will be a big thing for women's cycling, because then people start to recognise certain riders and they start to be supportive of teams.That just changes the whole thing about women's cycling, which is already happening.”

Niamh Fisher Black, 21 years old, rider for Team SD Worx

“It is super cool. I think I'm in a very lucky position in the way the sport is going. I'm just I've got so much of my career ahead of me. The Tour de France Femmes is a huge thing because whenever I've raced La Course before, that's the race that I get the most support from New Zealanders. New Zealanders recognise the Tour de France straightaway and you can't ever take that stigma away from the Tour de France. Now to have a women's race and to be able to say that I can potentially race this race is amazing. It's just growing the recognition of the sport even further around the world, especially reaching countries like New Zealand and Australia, where cycling is a little bit of a smaller sport. I think it's hugely good for the sport.”

Anna van der Breggen, 32 years old, sports director for Team SD Worx

“This is different. This is bigger. And that's something I think women's cycling deserves.”

Cover image: ASO/Pauline Ballet