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Grande Boucle Féminine Internationale truly international

Nicole Cooke won the women's Tour de France in the last two years

Nicole Cooke won the women's Tour de France in the last two years (Image credit: John Flynn)

The women's version of the Tour de France will start in Gent, Belgium, on June 17, then head to Italy via France. The race will end in Sestriere on June 22, making it a truly international event with three countries being visited in six days.

Gent hosted the finish of the second stage of the Tour de France last year, when Belgians Gert Steegmans and Tom Boonen celebrated a double victory. The teams will be introduced on June 16 at the Vrijdagmarkt, from where the riders will also take the Grand Départ on the 17th.

The first stage will see the riders head from Gent towards Oudenaarde, carefully avoiding the cobbled section of the Koppenberg, but not missing out on other key sections of the Ronde van Vlaanderen, like the Steenbeekdries (which was the eighth helling in this year's Ronde). Then, it is on to the French border near Mouscron, where the riders will hover around, switching countries a few time before the finishing sprint in Wattrelos, France.

The second stage heads back into Belgium after 12 kilometres. After a very flat day, the likely bunch sprint will take place in La Louviere.

Due to the profile, potential attackers should try to get away before the peloton enters France again after 23 kilometres. It is in the initial phase, with a few short climbs, where differences can be made. The second part is again entirely flat, as the stage will end in Fourmies.

Via two more flat stages the race will finally approach the decisive parts in the Alps. On June 21, the peloton has to deal with an uphill finish in Villard de Lans, with the final climb bringing the riders from about 200m of altitude to almost 1200m. And in the final stage, from Guillestre to Sestriere, the race hits the race's highest point, at 2,400m of altitude.

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