I am happy with the concept of the women's Tour de France – it's very good. I was hoping that the women would start on the same day as the men finish to make that connection on the Champs-Élysées. It's nice to have a stage like that to start our eight-day women's Tour de France in such a prominent location.
I like that the organisers can offer a four-week Tour de France with a clear link between the two events, and I think it was smart to organise the men's and women's races in this way, and with our start on the Champs-Élysées.
Personally, I always got into a rhythm of watching the Tour de France every afternoon, and then, after three weeks, I felt a bit sad when it finished. Many people probably share this feeling and wonder what to do with their afternoons next, upon the conclusion of the men's event. Hopefully, we can get them watching the women's Tour de France. I also like that the race isn't positioned on a random date during the year but has a clear link to the Tour de France in July.
I also feel that it was good to position the event during the year after the Olympic Games when some riders might typically take a bit of a sabbatical. I'm not the kind of rider who does that, and next year will be awesome, especially with new goals coming up with the women's Tour de France.
I need to have a great new goal that keeps me motivated and that there is no copy and pasting from the previous season. This year, I had a big goal for the Olympic Games, and now, with the women's Tour de France coming next year, it makes me excited.
I feel that ASO took us seriously when they designed the route, and I like the length of the stages. I was hoping for some famous climbs, so the organisers delivered on that with the stages through the Vosges that include the Petit Ballon, Grand Ballon, and especially with the final stage on La Planche des Belles Filles.
It's great that we will race on a famous climb, which gives the women's Tour de France more depth. People will understand what we are doing when we can say that we finish on La Planche des Belles Filles. So many fans have watched it during the previous editions of the men's Tour de France, so they know it's a hard climb.
There's no time trial, and perhaps there needs to be a time trial in the Tour de France but, on the other hand, it's also just the start of the women's event. Let's not be too critical because it's a good programme with eight stages that have something for everyone: climbers, classics riders, punchy riders, and sprinters. I think it's the perfect way to start.
It's great that they announced the stages now, so early on, and I hope the Giro d'Italia Donne will follow this example because it's essential to preview the courses with plenty of time in advance. Being injured now has me already thinking about when I will do the recon for the women's Tour de France stages and how to prepare for it. I'm already making my plan for this interesting route.
It's also vital that it's an event that can be commercially interesting, so I was pleased to hear the organisers mention that, from their perspective, it needs to generate commercial interest. I'm really behind that idea. I'm convinced that it will be interesting for many people from a commercial point of view.
I think the fact that the organisers wanted to create the women's Tour de France is a significant achievement for women's cycling. It's important that the public has asked for this race and that we can entertain the viewers. People want to watch our races now, and it's a good sign that fans get frustrated when there is no television coverage of our events.
I come from a women's cycling where we were on television for about one second. For example, when I won the Tour of Flanders in 2011, there was just a short finishing shot on the television.
The development of live coverage of women's cycling is even more important than the fact that we now have a long-awaited women's Tour de France. Our races are televised now, so much so that it seems strange when they're not on television. That is a big achievement, and that's the way to move forward, and on top of that, we now also have the races organised for us, so in that sense I'm happy that we have a women's Tour de France.
Overall, I think the route and the racing will be hard. I know people have mentioned that it doesn't cover the whole three weeks like the men's Tour de France, and of course, we can't cover all of France in eight days. The organisers have put together an event with all of the ingredients for a great race and a nice course.
Let's let all the negative people quiet down for a bit. It's an awesome start and hopefully we can develop the women's Tour de France even more in the future.
Annemiek van Vleuten (Movistar Team Women) is a two-time winner of the Giro Rosa, a two-time winner of the individual time trial at the World Championships, both in 2017 and 2018, and winner of the road race title at the World Championships in 2019. She also won the gold medal in the individual time trial and silver in the road race at the Tokyo Olympic Games. You can visit her website here.
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