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Marion Rousse: Leading a lasting Tour de France Femmes

Marion Rousse, race director for the Tour de France Femmes
Marion Rousse, race director for the Tour de France Femmes (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

Marion Rousse is a former professional cyclist and national champion from France. A prominent figure in the world of professional cycling, Rousse has built a successful career as a TV pundit for France Télévisions providing expert commentary during the Tour de France. 

Amaury Sport Organisation (A.S.O.) has appointed Rousse as the director of the Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift set to take place July 24-31, 2022. The A.S.O.-run race will make its return more than three decades after the first editions held from 1984 to 1989. 

In her own words, Rousse speaks about her role as the event's director, the decisions behind the route design, and the importance that a long and successful Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift will have on the progress of women's cycling.

A message from Marion Rousse:

The Tour de France avec Zwift is the biggest cycling race in the world, so to have an equivalent for women was a dream for all the women’s peloton, most of all myself. It gives me great pride, as a former rider and former wearer of the tricolour jersey, to welcome the biggest race in the world to my country.

A.S.O. contacted me at the start of April. I was delighted when Christian Prudhomme called on me to be part of this event. It’s a proposal that you can’t turn down and I’m honored to be part of the great adventure of the Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift. I'm very honoured to be the director, a role that is close to my heart, and one I want to do well. We were lacking a flagship stage race and now we have it, our goal is to make it last and put women’s cycling back in people’s hearts.

I will of course be implicated in various decisions such as the route, the rules and regulations, and everything from a sporting aspect. I will also be in the director’s car during the race, in the same seat occupied by Christian Prudhomme on the Tour de France. I’ll continue my work with France Télévisions but I’ll be particularly mindful about growing the event over time, both to make it last, and to make it increasingly indispensable.

It was important to tie the first Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift into the myth of the Tour de France - first of all by respecting the 100-year history of the event, and then by taking into account cycling’s current evolution and grounding the route in modernity.

So, it was the history, iconic places, recent exploits, and novelties of the Tour de France that inspired this first route and that will inspire the future routes of the Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift.

The route is a success. You could ask why we’re not going to the Alps or Pyrénées but, evidently, starting out from Paris, you cannot go everywhere in the space of eight stages. It has to remain coherent from a sporting point of view.

Women’s races are shorter than men’s, and the average length of each stage is 130km, so we’ve designed a great route - I love it. It suits loads of different rider profiles - sprinters, breakaway hopefuls, classics riders with the gravel roads, and then the difficult final weekend. You’ll see that the Vosges are in no way inferior to the Alps and Pyrénées.

Each stage could be decisive, depending on how the race plays out. The long stage [stage 5] from Bar-le-Duc to Saint-Dié-des-Vosges will be fatiguing, and the gravel stage [stage 4] - which will give pride of place to the escape artists - also comes to mind, as do the Vosges stages [stage 7 and stage 8], which will be the judge of this edition's general classification.

The exposure of the Tour de France Femmes is also one of the numerous challenges we’ve taken on. France Télévisions will produce two hours of live broadcast each day, going out to television stations across 170 countries. Without doubt many media will be present on-site to convey the exploits of the champions. Media coverage is one of the strengths of A.S.O. and that will allow the race to reach a broader audience and promote women’s cycling.

The overall ambition is to create a stable ecosystem that allows us to establish the event in the long term. In addition to the indispensable support of the local authorities hosting the race and the broadcasters showing it, this ambition is only possible with the significant support of private partners, which allows us to establish, right from its creation, the flagship event of the women’s cycling, all while helping it grow in the future.

Women’s cycling has entered a new dimension in the past few years with the professionalisation of teams and riders. We’re very proud with A.S.O. to be a part of this evolution and make history with the first Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift.

When I was younger, I could never have hoped to ride the Tour de France avec Zwift, so it was very important to add the world’s biggest cycling race to the women’s calendar - for the riders but also for all the young girls who dream of one day being able to ride the Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift. It’s a collective victory - for A.S.O., for fans, for riders, and I’m very proud to be part of this adventure.

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Kirsten Frattini is an honours graduate of Kinesiology and Health Science from York University in Toronto, Canada. She has been involved in bike racing from the grassroots level to professional cycling's WorldTour. She has worked in both print and digital publishing, and started with Cyclingnews as a North American Correspondent in 2006. Moving into a Production Editor's role in 2014, she produces and publishes international race coverage for all cycling disciplines, edits news and writes features. Currently the Women's Editor at Cyclingnews, Kirsten coordinates global coverage of races, news, features and podcasts about women's professional cycling.