The Tour de France Femmes isn’t too far away, so who will be claiming the yellow jersey on the summit of the Super Planche des Belles Filles on July 31?
The start list reads like a who’s who in women’s cycling, with plenty of top riders planning their entire season around this inaugural eight-stage race.
A fair few haven’t disguised their desire to grab the maillot jaune, while others will be looking to hoover up stage wins in north-east France.
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So without further ado, here are some of the stars to keep a close eye on...

YELLOW JERSEY HOPEFULS

Annemiek van Vleuten (Movistar)

It’s always a toss up with whether to start with the yellow-hunting Annemiek van Vleuten or stage-shooting Marianne Vos when discussing the best female riders in the peloton. But van Vleuten - who turns 40 later this year - shades it having hit the headlines of late with both her victory in the Giro Donne earlier this month and her announcement that 2023 will be her last year in the peloton.
An all-rounder who has seen it all and participated in most of it, Van Vleuten has bounced back from her injuries sustained at Paris-Roubaix last year in style. The reigning Olympic time trial champion won Liege-Bastogne-Liege this season, was second at Strade Bianche and also came home as runner-up at the Tour of Flanders. Her Giro win shows she is hitting form just at the right moment, and she won’t want to end her glittering career without a yellow jersey.
She’s won La Course twice - in 2017 when it was held across two days, and in 2018 when it was a single stage that mirrored the men’s race that day.

Annemiek van Vleuten

Image credit: Getty Images

Demi Vollering (SD Worx)

Van Vleuten may have had a relatively straightforward ascent into pink at the Giro Donne, but she expect a stiffer battle for yellow in France with Demi Vollering primed for a GC battle.
In truth, we know little about the Dutchwoman’s shape heading into the Tour. The 25-year-old has been hidden away, presumably in the mountains, preparing herself for a brutal final weekend that features five Cat. 1 climbs. It is here where the yellow jersey will be decided – and here where Vollering will be hoping to overhaul Van Vleuten.
She has already made no secret of her desire to wear yellow, although she appeared to suggest to Eurosport that the 2022 edition might come too soon...

'Leadership comes naturally' - Vollering on ambitions in cycling

Elisa Longo Borghini (Trek-Segafredo)

Elisa Longo Borghini has already won the overall title at a multi-stage race this year: the Women’s Tour, held around the roads of Britain. There was only one mountain stage held in Wales, and the mountains didn’t quite have the same menace as the Super Planche des Belles Filles, but she won that particular stage along with the title by a mere second, so can clearly hold her nerve when it matters.
Add in the win at Paris-Roubaix when she outfoxed the field and went it alone in the closing stages, and it is clear Longo Borghini is in form, and has the tactical nous required to make the right decisions under pressure.

'Stubborn and determined' - Longo Borghini on her drive to succeed in cycling

SPRINT STARS

Marianne Vos (Jumbo-Visma)

The reigning cyclo-cross world champion, who shares a nickname with the great Eddie Merckx ('The Cannibal'), is known as one of the best all-rounders there has ever been. Interestingly though, her year to date results aren’t spectacular with a second in Gent-Wevelgem and seventh at Strade Bianche all she has to show for herself - albeit after winning another cyclo-cross world championship at the start of the year.
But cometh the hour, cometh the… champion and Vos won two stages at the Giro d’Italia Donne to potentially ride herself into form at precisely the right moment. She has a strong team around her, and like Van Vleuten has two La Course victories to her name.

Marianne Vos of Netherlands and Jumbo Visma Team

Image credit: Getty Images

Lotte Kopecky (SD Worx)

A relative youngster at just 26, Kopecky has already made enough of a name for herself to arguably be the favourite from what is an incredibly strong rostrum of SD Worx riders. She is another to head to the Tour de France on the back of the Giro, with sport director Lars Boom saying of the Belgian: “If you have the Giro in your legs and you come out well rested, [she] might be able to do something extra towards the Tour de France.”
Kopecky is having a great season, having won Strade Bianche and the Tour of Flanders. Add in a second at Paris-Roubaix and a fourth in Gent-Wevelgem and the pedigree is certainly there - but can she maintain that form to pick up victories at the big one?

Kopecky

Image credit: Getty Images

Elisa Balsamo (Trek-Segafredo)

The other Elisa, Balsamo is the current world road race champion. She’s also the Italian national champion and has had a stellar season despite having been riding on the track as recently as Tokyo last year.
A win at Gent-Wevelgem along with two stage victories at the Giro mean she is certainly in the conversation of who are the favourites for sprint stages. She out-sprinted Vos to grab the rainbow jersey last year and looks primed for an assault on the Tour's speed stages.

Elisa Balsamo | Classic Brugge-De Panne 2022

Image credit: Getty Images

Where is Lizzie Deignan?

There is no Lizzie Deignan in the Trek line up, with the British rider sidelined as she takes time off while pregnant with her second child. She has been speaking about the Tour though, and said it is simply “the biggest platform in men’s and women’s cycling, and it’s a global opportunity to showcase our sponsors and show what women can do.”
She’ll no doubt be a very interested spectator along with the rest of us as the women roll out in Paris for Stage 1…
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Stream the Tour de France Femmes live and on-demand on discovery+. You can also watch all the action live on eurosport.co.uk.
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