The best sprinters in the world will clash in the opening stage of the Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift that kicks off on the famed Champs-Élysées in Paris on Sunday.
It will be a sprinting spectacle as Marianne Vos, Lotte Kopecky, Lorena Wiebes, Elisa Balsamo, Emma Norsgaard, and Marta Bastianelli pursue the stage win and the first yellow jersey in the eight-day race held from July 24-31 across northeast France.
"It's important to win on the Champs-Élysées, but I know it won't be easy. We will go 100% for it," Kopecky told Cyclingnews. "It's important to have this yellow jersey for every team, even for one day. It's so important, so if we can get yellow, we will try."
The women will line up at the Eiffel Tower and then follow the route along the north side of the Seine before racing onto the official circuit. They will complete 12 laps of the primary circuit that passes around the Jardin Des Tuileries at the Place de la Concorde and then up the Champs-Élysées, around the Arc de Triomphe and back down the Champs-Élysées.
Kopecky joins her SD Worx teammates after recently competing at the Giro d'Italia Donne held at the start of the month. She did not secure victory there but is nonetheless confident in her preparation for the Tour.
"If you don't win, then you're not happy, but this Giro was in preparation for the Tour. I knew that I needed to keep calm and trust the process. Wiebes, Balsamo, Vos and Norsgaard are good in these stages, and it will be a hard battle in Paris."
Vos exited the Giro Donne early after winning two stages and further increased her record career stage wins at the Italian Grand Tour to a remarkable 32.
"I will try in the bunch sprint on the Champs-Élysées. It's going to be very difficult. It's a short stage to start with, and everyone will be excited. I think it's going to be very tough and hard to position well, but we will try our best. Let's see how it will end," said Vos, who won the inaugural edition of La Course on the same circuit in 2014.
Vos' Jumbo-Visma teammate Jonas Vingegaard is one day away from winning the men's Tour de France that will conclude on the Champs-Élysées on Sunday, just after the finish of the women's opening stage.
"It has been great to watch the guys racing and how they worked as a team collectively so well. They will focus on bringing the yellow to Paris, but it's a big motivation for me and the lead-in to our Tour de France."
Despite securing seven wins this season, Balsamo, the reigning World Champion, downplayed her chances of success stating that her Trek-Segafredo team will aim for a top-three in Paris.
"Of course, tomorrow will be an epic stage with many crowds on the roads. We try our best, and I think being on the podium on the Champs-Élysées will be a big result. Also, I want to enjoy the race and try my best."
Wiebes is possibly the fastest pure sprinter in the peloton and is supported by a strong Team DSM lead out. While the green jersey will be important to her later in the race, stage 1 is purely about taking the win and the yellow jersey.
"First, we want to get the yellow tomorrow, and then we will look to the green jersey. There are some intermediate sprints tomorrow, but we won't risk going for those if it means not winning the stage," Wiebes told Cyclingnews.
"We have a strong lead out and are very used to each other. I think we can do a great job tomorrow on the Champs-Élysées. I'm looking forward to it. I think it will be a nice battle tomorrow."
Wiebes was still a junior rider when Vos won the circuit race at La Course eight years ago in Paris, but she said she reviewed video footage of both the women's and men's sprints that have happened along the Champs-Élysées.
"I've been looking forward, for a long time, to racing in this place. The timing will be important for the sprint because it's a long, straight road. We have a team for that and can time it well. The speeds will be high, a chaotic day, but we have the team for it."
Bastianelli admitted that she doesn't have a powerful lead out to rival Wiebes' Team DSM; however, the UAE Team Emirates rider will not miss out on a chance to stake a claim on the stage 1 win and yellow jersey.
"It will be hard because there are important sprinters with organised teams for the sprint. It will be hard for me, but why not? I will try."
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Kirsten Frattini is the Deputy Editor of Cyclingnews, overseeing the global racing content plan.
Kirsten has a background in Kinesiology and Health Science. She has been involved in cycling from the community and grassroots level to professional cycling's biggest races, reporting on the WorldTour, Spring Classics, Tours de France, World Championships and Olympic Games.
She began her sports journalism career with Cyclingnews as a North American Correspondent in 2006. In 2018, Kirsten became Women's Editor – overseeing the content strategy, race coverage and growth of women's professional cycling – before becoming Deputy Editor in 2023.