There have been rumblings about it for a decade at least, but a women’s Tour de France, put on by ASO – the same company that owns the men’s race – is finally set to go ahead.
Unfortunately for cycling fans, we will have to wait until 2022 for the first edition of this latest incarnation of the women’s Le Tour (there have been other versions in the past, the Grande Boucle Féminine Internationale was last run in 2009 and won by British cycling legend, Emma Pooley).
That being said, there is plenty to be excited about for the eight-stage Tour de France Femmes Avec Zwift – not least, the chance for eight consecutive days of drama like the 2018 edition of La Course provided.
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First let’s talk about that ‘Avec Zwift’ part. The US company describes itself as a “fitness company born from gaming”, but you probably know them best as the platform you use to torture yourself in the garage / shed. Yes, Zwift, the company that brought indoor cycling to mass popularity, has now become the sponsor of a bona fide outdoor bike race.
The company has signed up to be the Tour de France Femmes presentation partner for four years, which is a healthy and encouraging commitment to women’s cycling, something the company says it is especially committed to.
ASO has been running La Course for several years now, but the event was often criticised for being somewhat prosaic. In most years, the event was a simple city criterium, but when the race headed for the mountains in 2018 it produced incredible drama – with Annemiek van Vleuten overhauling Anna van der Breggen in the final few hundred metres to snatch a sensational victory.
When is the women’s Tour de France?
The first edition of the Tour de France Femmes will kick off in Paris with a stage that ends on the Champs Elysées, right as the men’s Tour finishes on that very same iconic Parisian avenue.
That’s right, as the men’s winner is being crowned on 24 July next year, a whole new race for yellow will be kicking off.
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Will the Tour de France Femmes be on TV?
Yes. The broadcast will be provided by France Télévisions, the same company that provides the live pictures of the men’s race that we tune into on Eurosport every summer. Like the Zwift deal, the arrangement covers the 2022, 2023, 2024 and 2025 editions of the race.
Even more encouragingly, the coverage offered is said to be ‘extensive’, the perfect antidote for post-Tour malaise that usually sets in after the final day in Paris.
Too late for van der Breggen
Anna van der Breggen is retiring from racing at the end of this year and it seems somewhat harsh that one of the greatest cyclists of all-time managed to have a 12-year career that fell pretty much exactly between the existences of two different women’s Tours de France. Van der Breggen was just getting going in her racing career in 2009 when La Grande Boucle Féminine Internationale went out of business, and is expected to have moved to a job in the team car by the time this new iteration begins.
Nevertheless, she has spoken extremely positively about the new race.
“This is a huge moment for professional women’s cycling. The Tour de France is the most famous race in cycling and it’s long been a dream for many of us to compete in a women’s Tour de France. I’m hopeful that the race will help us grow our sport even more by providing us with a media platform to take the excitement of women's cycling to new audiences.”
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