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Tour de France Femmes: I feel happy ASO took it seriously, says Annemiek van Vleuten

Annemiek Van Vleuten of Movistar Team Women won the GC title at the 2021 Ladies Tour of Norway
Annemiek Van Vleuten of Movistar Team Women won the GC title at the 2021 Ladies Tour of Norway (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

Annemiek van Vleuten will be targeting the newly-launched Tour de France Femmes set to take place from July 24-31 in 2022. A top contender for the maillot jaune, Van Vleuten said that she was pleased that ASO took the event seriously and that her first impressions of the route revealed on Thursday was that it had something for everyone. 

“First of all, I feel happy the organisation took it serious [sic]. I have the feeling that, with this route, they made an effort to organize something good and representative. From a quick look, they did a good job in having something for everyone in these eight days of racing,” Van Vleuten said.

ASO along with newly-appointed race director Marion Rousse revealed the route for the eight-day race at the Palais des Congrès on October 14 in Paris. The eight-day race is set to start on July 24 at Eiffel Tower and onto the Champs-Élysées in conjunction with the final stage 21 of the men's Tour de France.

The route will cover 1,029 kilometres and include back-to-back mountain stages, two stages for the puncheurs, a stage that includes gravel sectors, and four flat stages. The women's race will end atop La Planche des Belles Filles on July 31.

“Of course, I like the mountain stages, but I’m also happy, for example, to see that we start on the Champs-Élysées. It’s a really nice connection with the men’s Tour de France, to start where they finish," said Van Vleuten.

"I like that setup because sometimes people are sad that the Tour de France comes to an end - this time, they can watch the women’s Tour de France. It’s nice that the two races are connected, while not being held at the same time. I like that concept.

“I’m also happy, as I explained, to see different types of stages. Some for the sprinters, some others containing short hills - particularly one of them with a steep, one-kilometer hill near the end… This Tour de France needed to be a shorter version of the men’s Tour de France, featuring all its ingredients."

There was no time trial scheduled for the Tour de France Femmes, a discipline that is well-suited to Van Vleuten, who is a two-time World Champion and current Olympic gold medallist. However, she said the mountain finishes and well known ascents make up for it.

“OK, there’s no time trial, but I’m not sad about that because the two uphill finishes are really interesting for me, personally. What also makes me excited is that they also put effort to take us into famous climbs, with names that everyone knows. If I see the Petit Ballon, the Grand Ballon, Planche des Belles Filles in this Tour de France, it’s a really good move from the organisation. La Planche is a finish which I really look forward to, and one that I don’t know, so I for sure will go do a recon there," Van Vleuten said.

Gravel feels a bit of a lottery, too risky

ASO have chosen to include gravel sectors into the route of the Tour de France Femmes. Stage 4 includes six climbs and four sections of unpaved roads in the last 60km of the 126km race from Troyes to Bar-sur-Aube.

In addition, the final climb of stage 8 on the La Super Planche des Belles Filles has pitches over 20 per cent and finishes on the gravel section beyond the standard summit.

Van Vleuten has been critical of gravel sections added throughout stage race routes, particularly after the inclusion of gravel at the 2020 Giro Donne.

“Overall, the only thing that I don’t like too much - in a stage race - is the gravel roads stage. To me, it doesn't seem that necessary to put into a TDF route. It really increases the importance of the ‘luck factor’, the ‘bad luck factor’, since you can lose the race because you can have a flat tire," Van Vleuten said.

"As I said, in a stage race, I don’t like it too much. It feels a bit of a lottery, too risky for a race like that. Hopefully, we will ‘survive’ and there’s no bad luck for anyone."

Giro Donne and Tour de France Femmes in July

The UCI announced that the Tour de France Femmes (July 24-31) will be part of the Women's WorldTour in 2022 and it will take place in the same month as the Giro d'Italia Donne (July 1-10). 

Van Vleuten said she will have to wait to see the Giro route before making any decision on competing in both, but that the Tour de France Femmes was a target.

Van Vleuten also said that she was generally pleased with the Tour de France Femmes, and that it was an added motivator as she recovers from the injuries sustained in a crash at the Paris-Roubaix Femmes.

“To sum up: super excited overall, happy with the news, and some extra motivation for my rehab. For sure it will be one of my biggest goals next year," Van Vleuten said.

"It will be a challenge if I want to combine the Giro Donne with the Tour de France, but I still have to plan it with my coach and my team, to see if it is realistic, if it is possible, and look at the Giro route. As I said, the TDFF is going to be one of my biggest objectives in 2022.”

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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.