Organizer ASO would like us to consistently say ‘avec Zwift’ after the name. This should entice the main sponsor, a virtual cycling platform, to financially support the Tour de France for women for years to come. Because the big question is whether the event will be shown in its entirety and live on television.
On Thursday, men’s tour director Christian Prudhomme and his colleague from the women’s tour Marion Rousse presented the ‘trail’. From 24 to 31 July, the riders will cycle in the northeast of France. As for Prudhomme, his organization has done everything possible to entice the media to pay a lot of attention to the Tour de France Femmes ‘avec Zwift’. He emphatically mentioned Marianne Vos, the Dutch woman who has been pushing for a serious counterpart to the men’s version of the Tour for years. ‘Marianne said: you can organize great races,’ said Prudhomme, ‘but more important is whether you get them in the media’.
Vos’ statement became the guideline for ASO, which, in addition to the Tour, also organizes races such as the Tour of Spain, Liège-Bastogne-Liège and Paris-Roubaix, when planning the route, but also when determining the start date. “We start on the day the men’s tour finishes and in the same place,” explained Prudhomme. ‘That way we ensure maximum attention. You will remain glued to the TV,” promised the former sports journalist about the two hours a day that the women’s race will be shown live.
Before the men arrive on Sunday 24 July, the women will drive twelve laps over the cobblestones of the Champs-Élysées. Nine times before, a women’s race finished there, with nine winners, including Vos. ‘Very special’, she says about it on the site of her Jumbo-Visma team. “I can still remember how big it felt. I only knew the arrival from television and now we drove there ourselves.’
Success of Roubaix
Tour director Rousse realized it after the first Paris-Roubaix for women, which was broadcast live in its entirety at the beginning of this month: women’s cycling is on the rise. ‘There is more media attention and therefore the budgets are larger. That was different during my cycling career.’ The 30-year-old former French champion was a pro from 2010 to 2015 and now best known as a partner of world champion Julian Alaphilippe. Rousse did not seem to appreciate a reference to it on stage by Prudhomme.
With the addition to the Paris-Roubaix women’s calendar, almost all known men’s races have a women’s version. Of the five cycling monuments, that calendar also includes the Tour of Flanders and Liège-Bastogne-Liège, Milan-San Remo and the Tour of Lombardy are still missing.
From 1984 there were already races that counted as the Tour de France for women – in 1992 there were even two, both won by Leontien van Moorsel. But from the start, organization and sponsoring were difficult and the number of stages became smaller and smaller: from fifteen to five stages in the last ‘women’s tour’ in 2009. At the initiative of Marianne Vos, the round became a one-day race from 2014 onwards. The first three editions were on the final day of the men’s tour on the Champs-Élysées.
In the same way, the renewed Tour de France Femmes will start there next year, which then heads east. There is a ride on the program with 20 kilometers of gravel roads through vineyards with champagne grapes where cyclocross riders have an advantage. Ride number seven, over the Petit- and Grand Ballon, has approximately 3,000 meters in altitude.
Thunderous final chord
The thunderous and potentially decisive final chord is in the Vosges on the final climb of the eight-day race with the appropriate name Planche des Belles Filles according to the organization. Horrific, Rousse called the very steep road up, which the men had to cross three weeks earlier. ‘On some parts 24 percent, on average 10, the last part unpaved, nowhere a rest point and that after seven tough stages.’
Above, the winner of the final classification of the Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift may collect a check for 50 thousand euros on a total prize pool of 250 thousand euros. A week earlier, the men receive almost tenfold: half a million for the winner on a prize pool of 2.3 million.