The Tour de France is cycling’s pinnacle; the yellow sun around which the calendar revolves. But, until this year - with the exception of a brief interlude between 1984 and 1989 - women have not been able to compete in this most prestigious of events.
When the first edition of the Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift sets out from Paris on July 24, it will mark a seminal moment in women’s cycling. It will be held on the same day as the stage 21 conclusion of the men's Tour de France.
“[It] will really give a big opportunity for the women to be seen worldwide, to have a wonderful race, so that's really great,” UCI President David Lappartient said in a interview with the press, including Cyclingnews, during the Tour de France’s Grand Départ in Denmark.
“To have the start of this race on the finishing day for the Tour de France, it will give a massive window for the world. So, I'm very happy with it.”
From Paris, the peloton will head east towards the Grand Est region and its short, steep climbs on stages 3 and 4 before heading to the mountains for stages 7 and 8, culminating in a summit finish on La Super Planche des Belles Filles.
In between these hillier affairs are two flat stages that will lend themselves to the familiar battle between the sprinters and the breakaway.
Like its counterpart race, the Tour de France Femmes is organised by Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO) which is also responsible for other races such as Paris-Roubaix, Flèche Wallonne, Liège-Bastogne-Liège, Critérium du Dauphiné and the Ceratizit Challenge by La Vuelta.
“I’m so happy because we’ve been pushing so hard to have this Tour de France for the ladies,” Lappartient said. “I spoke with the Amaury Group. I spoke passionately with Mrs. Amaury and I said it’s time for the [women's] Tour de France to come back and I really welcome this.”
Building from its previous incarnation as the one-day race La Course, the Tour de France Femmes is one of several races in the Women’s WorldTour that has expanded this year, taking the total number of stage racing days to 53, compared to the meagre 38 raced in 2019.
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Issy Ronald has just graduated from the London School of Economics where she studied for an undergraduate and masters degree in History and International Relations. Since doing an internship at Procycling magazine, she has written reports for races like the Tour of Britain, Bretagne Classic and World Championships, as well as news items, recaps of the general classification at the Grand Tours and some features for Cyclingnews. Away from cycling, she enjoys reading, attempting to bake, going to the theatre and watching a probably unhealthy amount of live sport.