It is not the real route but rather a mock-up of what the eight-day race might look like as it is set to be held from July 24-31 in 2022.
Eaton has published the fantasy route details along with descriptions and profiles on his Baroudeuses blog; Riding off the front for women's cycling, and he has given Cyclingnews permission to share it with our readers.
With just one [week] until ASO announces its route for the Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift, I thought it would be fun to predict what the route may look like.
Stage 1: Paris Invalides > Paris Champs Élysées (ITT)
Starting with an individual time trial would be a great way to get the first edition of the new Tour de France Femmes underway. This 12-kilometre route through the streets of Paris starts on the Esplanade des Invalides and passes historic Parisian landmarks such as the Louvre and the Palais Garnier, before finishing with an almost entire circuit of iconic Champs-Élysées.
As the 2022 Tour de France Femmes will begin on the same day as the men’s Tour de France ends, it would makes logistical sense to start the women’s race in the nation’s capital and to share the finish line on the legendary Champs-Élysées. A time trial before the final stage of the men’s race would also allow for an earlier and longer transfer to the start of stage 2.
This is a stage for the time-trial specialists and the likes of Olympic champion Annemiek van Vleuten and European champion Marlen Reusser would surely have their eyes on the first yellow jersey of the Tour de France Femmes!
Stage 2: Châteauroux > Limoges
The first road stage of this Fantasy Tour de France Femmes route begins in Châteauroux and ends in Limoges. With four categorised climbs, including the 2nd category Côte de Saint-Sulpice, the battle for the polka dot Queen of the Mountains jersey would begin in earnest.
With over 2,000 metres of climbing throughout the stage, this would be a challenging day in the saddle, but one which could end in many different ways. A reduced bunch sprint, a solo attack, a GC battle, a win for the breakaway… who knows how this stage would pan out?
Having hosted four stage finishes of the men’s Tour, Châteauroux is no stranger to the world’s biggest bike race. Likewise, Limoges has hosted a total of 25 stage starts/finishes throughout the history of the Tour. These two villes étapes would therefore be well suited to welcoming the best women riders in the world.
The teams of the better climbing sprinters such as Lotte Kopecky, Coryn Rivera and Elisa Balsamo would likely want to control the day for a reduced bunch finish, but don’t discount the GC riders and attacking baroudeuses from lighting the race up early over this undulating terrain!
Stage 3: Périgueux > Rocamadour
A day for the puncheurs along the beautiful roads of the Dordogne and the Lot. Starting in Périgueux, the first half of this stage is mostly flat, but, beginning with the Côte de Domme, the course gets lumpier and lumpier as it goes on.
There are bonus seconds available on the short 4th category Côte de Saint-Projet to try to draw out early attacks ahead of a tricky run-in containing three uncategorised climbs and a final winding ascent up to the stunning medieval village of Rocamadour.
This stage suits true puncheurs like Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig and Marianne Vos, and if the attacking starts early, they could try to use this finish to make a move for the yellow jersey!
Stage 4: Albi > Carcassonne
The first ‘flat’ stage of this Fantasy Tour de France Femmes route begins in Albi and would likely end up with a bunch sprint in Carcassonne.
Albi and Carcassonne are Tour de France regulars, having hosted 19 stage starts and 18 stage finishes between them over the years. They would therefore be great options to be villes étapes in the first edition of the relaunched Tour de France Femmes.
The fast sprinters like Lorena Wiebes and Emma Norsgaard would be eyeing up this stage as a great chance of adding a Tour de France Femmes stage to their palmarès!
Stage 5: Remoulins Pont du Gard > Valence
On paper, this stage from Remoulins to Valence is one for the sprinters, but the 2nd category Col du Devès could provide a sting in the tail for those hoping for an easy run-in to the finish.
This mostly flat route begins in Remoulins and passes over the Pont du Gard before the racing kicks off at kilometre zero. The ancient aqueduct over the Gardon river has been replicated on lead sponsor Zwift’s France map, and ASO could therefore return to the Pont du Gard following its double inclusion in the 2019 edition of the Tour de France.
This stage would provide an immediate opportunity for any sprinters who miss out on stage 5 to try to make amends and capture a career-defining stage win in the Tour de France Femmes!
Stage 6: Grenoble > Alpe d’Huez
The first day in the high mountains features one of the most iconic climbs in world cycling: Alpe d’Huez. At 13.8 kilometres in length and with an average gradient of 8.1%, it is a true brute of a climb which would be sure to separate the best from the rest.
With Zwift on board, it would make complete sense to see a stage finish atop the real-life mountain that they have replicated in-game as the Alpe du Zwift.
As this would be the first mountain stage, it’s likely that ASO wouldn’t want to overdo the number of Alpine mountain passes and risk having the general classification all but decided with two stages still to go. Therefore, an explosive 62.5 kilometre route could be the perfect option for stage 6 of the 2022 Tour de France Femmes.
This would be a day for the pure climbers, and one rider who would surely put everything on the line for victory is Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio. As the reigning UCI Cycling Esports world champion, she is a seasoned Zwift rider and undoubtedly knows the fearsome Alpe like the back of her hand!
Stage 7: Bourg-en-Bresse > Dole
A final ‘flat’ stage between Bourg-en-Bresse and Dole as the race moves back north.
There is more elevation throughout this stage than the profile lets on but the most likely scenario would be a sprint finish, and this stage would therefore be key in the battle for the green jersey.
Will Marianne Vos be the one to secure the points classification with a stage victory in Dole? The sprinters will be keen to make the most of their last opportunity for stage victory at this Fantasy Tour de France Femmes.
Stage 8: Vesoul > La Planche des Belles Filles
My Fantasy Tour de France Femmes route concludes in the Vosges mountain range, taking on four categorised climbs, including the wall-like Col des Chevrères, which would offer bonus seconds at the summit, and finishing atop the legendary Planche des Belles Filles.
The mountain was first included in the Tour de France in only 2012 but has quickly earned its place in Tour folklore. Devilishly steep, kicking up to 24% near the finish, this climb would be the perfect place to host the finale of the 2022 Tour de France Femmes.
The rumour is that La Planche des Belles Filles wants to host stages of both the men’s and women’s Tours in 2022, so here’s to hoping that materialises!
The GC would be decided here. Will Annemiek van Vleuten claim the yellow jersey, or will Demi Vollering, Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig or someone else be crowned first winner of the Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift?
Although this route is purely fantasy, the Tour de France Femmes is not. Next year, the best riders in the world will take to the start of a race which will hopefully be a massive stepping stone in the fight for gender equality in cycling.
Eight stages is so far away from the 21 that the men race but to see ASO organise a stage race for women and have it share the legendary Tour de France name is nonetheless an important development.
However, the work is far from done for those who have spent so long campaigning for gender equality in cycling. We have to keep piling the pressure on race organisers and the UCI to ensure that the Tour de France Femmes is not used as a token gesture but rather signifies the beginning of a monumental shift towards women’s cycling being treated as equal to the men’s side of the sport.
I simply can’t wait for the Tour de France Femmes in 2022 and am so excited to see what route the race will be taking on when it is announced on 14 October!
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