The first Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift route was revealed in Paris. Here’s a closer look at the eight stages and more.
Stage 1 starts in Paris just ahead of the men’s arrival and uses the Champs Elysées circuit and marks a moment as the women used to get a criterium in La Course, now it’s just an 82km opener with seven more days to come.
Stage 2 goes across Brie country in 135km to Provins with a finishing circuit that ends with a slight uphill sprint.
Stage 3 is in champagne country from Reims to Epernay, whose mayor is a keen cyclist and this is no coincidence. He helped design the route with the steep vineyard roads used in 2019 when Julian Alaphilippe attacked solo to take the stage win and yellow jersey. Here the the same finish, with the Mutigny and Bernon climbs, is back to reward puncheuses.
Stage 4 is 126km and includes the chemins blancs, literally “white paths” and these are gravel tracks in the vineyards. Crucially they’re both long and hilly, the sectors last for several kilometres each and it’s another chance for the puncheuses to put the pure climbers under pressure. The stage finishes with two climbs before the finish.
Stage 5 and the race gets closer to the Vosges mountains with the longest stage in the race of 175km.
Stage 6 and some Alsace vineyards, this is picture-postcard country and some nice roads to ride, let alone race.
Stage 7 and things get mountainous with a trip into the Vosges and the Petit Ballon, Platzerwasel and a passage across the finish line before tackling the Grand Ballon as almost a summit finish and then a dash across to the Markstein ski station finish line.
Stage 8 and the Super Planche des Belles Filles summit finish. But to get there there’s the Ballon d’Alsace first, the race can reprise history here as this was the first big mountain used by the Tour de France back in 1905 and now the women’s race gets to make history here too*. Today it’s a regular road with wide hairpins followed by a descent and some approach roads before the Super Planche, as in the extra gravel track up the ski slope on top of the already infernal finish.
TV: there will be 2.5 hours of live TV coverage each day so the start won’t be live but on a 120km stage the final 100km could be. It’ll be on the same channel you watch the Tour de France, assuming your home broadcaster excises their option to show the race.
Prizes: the prize pot is €250,000 with €50,000 to the winner, less than the men’s Tour but more than other week-long races run by ASO like the Dauphiné.
History*: yes but remember this is not the first women’s Tour de France, the event ran during the 1980s already and preceded the men’s race. It’s been reprised and made into a stand alone race and about time.
Sports-wise there’s a balance to the route, all-rounders can use the Epernay and Bar-le-Duc stages to put the pure climbers under pressure ahead of the final weekend with two big mountain stages that are subtly different, Stage 7 has some more gradual ascents while the finish of Stage 8 at La Planche is every-woman-for-themselves, there’s no hiding on the 20% sections.
This isn’t a Tour de France, obviously it doesn’t tour France in eight days. In wine terms this is a white wine tour with the Champagne and Alsace en route, the point here isn’t oenology but a way to show the race sticks a small sector. As a course for a week long race it works well, each day builds on the previous stage and the addition of the chemins blancs should spice up things up before a box office finish in the mountains. So it’ll have the brand identity of the Tour de France with the name, a yellow jersey but the Planche des Belles Filles, as hard as it is, doesn’t resonate as much as Alpe d’Huez, Mont Ventoux or the Tourmalet, it’s a nice route for a week but not a legendary one. Will this put off some viewers used to these names as gauges and waypoints? Or does it offer a blank canvas free from constant comparisons? But these are subtle questions, the main thing is it’s back, it’s happening and it’ll have plenty of TV coverage.
The format of following on from the Tour means a month of cycling on TV. This might mean an extra weeks’ work for the media already tired from covering the biggest race but it means the race is guaranteed a spotlight. The arrival of this event is having big pull-effect on sponsors and and accelerating investment in the women’s sport. As the race establishes itself it’ll be interesting to see the route design in the coming years, if enough host towns start queuing then ASO will have the luxury of being able to choose themes from year to year, perhaps the Alps one year, Brittany and the Atlantic the next and so on.
For the Tour de France men’s route, see here.
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Looks like a good sporting course to enjoy watching the women race.
Thanks for the write up.
Thank you for including a summary of the TDFF
Think there is a typo in the stage 3 para.
“steep vineyard roads used in 2019 qhwn Julian Alaphilippe”
Fixed the fat fingered foul-up, thanks.
Also, “assuming your home broadcaster excises their option to show the race” – let’s hope they don’t. :o)
Had to read that twice to get it!
Thanks for the write up.
I’m actually more excited for this than the men’s TdF! The route, as you say, is nicely balanced…and while it doesn’t feature the high mountains and iconic climbs of the men’s race, I think that given the relative lack of depth of the women’s peloton, using the slightly shorter & gentler climbs of the Vosges will make for a more competitive and interesting race.
Also great to see the sizeable prize pot. It feels like after a number of years of seemingly trying to ignore women’s cycling, ASO are starting to take it very seriously indeed!
“..the main thing is it’s back, it’s happening and it’ll have plenty of TV coverage.”
It’s about time! Now the UCI needs to require WT teams (like UAE is now doing) to run a women’s team as part of the cost of getting into the top-tier of cycling. Perhaps a minimum percentage of the team’s overall budget? Teams should be required to commit 10-20% (at least to start) of their total budget to get woman’s teams going. With all the marketing-speak about how women control so much of consumer spending one would think this a no-brainer for the sponsors and might bring back a lot more general consumer goods companies rather than corrupt governments and/or natural resource extraction operations or the bike industry.
I can see some merit in this, but it would also be a shame to push out the teams and sponsors (Ale, Liv and others) who committed to the sport a few years ago and have helped it grow.
Likewise, forcing the men’s teams to do it risks displacing current willing teams like SD Worx etc and allows different sponsors to reach different demographics in different markets.
But we should see more women’s teams coming from the big World Tour squads, UAE buying Alé being the latest. If say the likes of Ineos and EF come in then it’ll help bid up wages and expand the peloton.
“If say the likes of Ineos and EF come in then it’ll help bid up wages and expand the peloton.” What’s wrong with that? Those “who committed to the sport a few years ago and have helped it grow.” can stay involved, it’s not like Liv (Giant), Diamant (Ale, Cipollini, etc.) or HR Worx Holding NV (SD Worx) can’t come up with the budget to play in the big league…they aren’t tiny Mom-and-Pop operations!
Hmm, if you oblige the 18-19 men’s teams to have their teams, there’d be no room left in the Women’s World Tour for their own teams, no?
Their “own” teams means what? If I was the king of cycling and (for some reason) there had to be a WT, it would be limited to a dozen squads so you’d also have a dozen women’s teams. The rest of the peloton (men or women) would then be made up of so-called wild-card teams chosen by the race organizers.
It’s strange, on one hand everyone seems to want women’s cycling to equal men’s when it comes to pay and prestige, but then there’s this “what about?” underfunded teams that pay their races a pittance, as if some tiny gelato shop is sponsoring a women’s pro team and will now be priced out of the sport.
The problem I see is that there are already enough WWT teams for the level of depth that is present (or not present) in the women’s peloton.
Perhaps what is needed is a moratorium on WT teams buying existing WWT teams, so they are encouraged to enter the sport at domestic and Continental level so their investment actually helps grow the base.
Phasing in compulsory requirements for race organisers wanting to stay on the WT circuit should be higher on the agenda. It’s a travesty that the second largest race organiser is allowed to keep all their WT calendar slots despite running just a single women’s race (a one day race at that) every year.
There’s a difference between:
1 every men’s WT team must run a professional women’s team; and
2 every men’s WT team must run a women’s WT team, so that the men’s and women’s WTs are identical.
1 seems preferable to 2, to me.
Tempted to avoid following the men’s race this year, so that I’m not drained by three weeks of late nights in front of the telly by the time this comes around, and can enjoy it properly.
It’s a nice idea to start it on the same day as the men’s race finishes.
does anyone know what the long terms plans are in terms of length? Assuming it goes well [pretty convinced it will tbh], is the plan to gradually increase the number of days maybe?
The only long term talk… is talk of the long term, of wanting to see the race launched but crucially to make it a fixture so it’s back year after year rather than fading away again. Thinking aloud it’s difficult to expand as start earlier and it overlaps with the Tour and that’s problematic, finish later and you need to have a whole second week because mid-week ratings aren’t as good.
Currently (or at least i’ve not seen a rules update to contradict this) the UCI puts a 6-day limit on womens races. This is why the Womens Tour (Tour of Britain equivalent) is 6 days instead of 8 for example, and you can look at the WWT calendar and why this is the longest race. (UCI also still has some outdate distance limits as well!)
You can apply for an exemption from the UCI on this, as the Giro Donne/Rosa does (and Tour Cycliste Féminin International de l’Ardèche, i couldn’t find any other races), and now the TdF Femmes has also done.
So there is room to grow, but it requires extra paperwork from ASO to get clearance from the UCI, let alone actual investment to do so (and let’s be honest, ASO is hardly at the forefront of promotion advancement of the Womens sport by choice, they are being dragged forwards by external pressure not internal interest).
Equally there’s a lot of the womens peloton who are not keen on a 21-day race. They quite like being a bit different on shorter courses and races, as it allows them to race harder and in a more entertaining fashion.
Given the old 80’s race got up to 18 days it could happen, but i think the realistic expectation for growth of the new TdF Femme would be in a few years to see it do 10stages to match the Giro Donne/Rosa, and then maybe push to 14stages/15days.
Personally i’d rather see it stick to 8 Days, pay out a slightly more generous prize pot, broadcast each stage live in full and ASO to broaden these things (acceptable prize money & equivalent TV coverage) to all their events (lest we forget only last month PRFemmes paid out less than bag of crisps to the winner and missed the race winning move as there was not TV coverage of the early cobbles)
The women’s peloton is currently not deep enough to need any more than 6 days to sort out a worthy winner. 8 is probably too long and will lead to some of the middle stages being quite dull.
A more worthy course of action over the first few years might be to develop the race slowly and sustainably with small steps forward each year, e.g.
2023: Make the opening day of TdF-F a split stage with an ITT in the morning and the circuit race after the Tour stage 21 and presentations.
2024: Transfer the TdF-F start to the final Saturday of the Tour, keeping the race 8 days long with a transition day to allow it to go to proper mountains.
Once 2-3 editions have been run as a one week race, then look at a review and where to take it from there.
Be nice to see a TT in a middle day
“The women’s peloton is currently not deep enough to need any more than 6 days to sort out a worthy winner. 8 is probably too long and will lead to some of the middle stages being quite dull”.
Keep up the mansplaining there Dave, I’m sure the women racers just love your views! You remind me of those who said (prior to the ’84 Olympic Games) that women couldn’t run the marathon. Or perhaps they couldn’t race Paris-Roubaix either…as their “lady-parts” would fall out or be destroyed?
To be fair, the men’s peloton only needed 5 days to identify the winner this year. (8 if you’re feeling generous.)
thanks for the preview, as someone who signed the original petition that got us La Course, I’m delighted to see this in my lifetime