ASO’s first incarnation of a women’s Tour de France looks more like a convoluted trip east in the general direction of the Alps rather than an entire tour of the host country, but that needn’t matter when the eight stages are as strong, as ground-breaking and as difficult as they appear on paper.
It has been levied against race organisers in the past that they have disrespected the capabilities of women but that is not something that can be argued of ASO here, for there are two summit finishes, a day on the cobbles, the longest ever professional stage in women’s cycling history, two punchy days that could threaten the race’s leaderboard, and a double dose of sprint-friendly terrain that will bring the fast women out to play.
The absence of a time trial could be viewed as disappointing, but ASO have been wise in this regard: it’s not a slight on the women’s racing to state that even as the strength-in-depth improves and more riders join the elite pool of perennial winners, there remains a substantial gap between the best time triallists and the rest.
ASO have seemingly cottoned onto this and want the race to be as wide open as possible going into the final, crucial weekend of mountain tests. A time trial could have killed the drama before the real showpiece.
It all gets underway with 12 laps of a Champs-Élysées circuit, and the action will properly explode three days later with four gravel sections that will demand concentration and could be the launchpad of a move that has the potential to dictate the outcome of the race.
A 175km journey on stage five will be five kilometres longer than the Giro Rosa managed in 2021, meaning the women’s peloton have never raced so far.
It will be a substantial leg-warmer for the final weekend in the Vosges that includes five major climbs, including a finish atop Super Planche des Belles Filles.
It’s a Tour that is well-structured, designed to slowly build into a thrilling denouement, taking the peloton on a journey in a small part of France, but across varied terrain that will not just test them but conjure up exciting racing.
A total prize fund of €250,000 is nine times smaller than that of the men’s, but it still makes it the richest women’s race on the calendar.
ASO have delivered a varied and challenging route that will be beamed into homes across 50 European countries, and have been sensible in making this feel like a standalone, unique women’s race rather than a lazy copy of the men’s.
It took them far too long to host a proper women’s race (La Course always felt like a token gesture), but it looks like their inaugural edition will set the standard. Chapeau. Now let the countdown begin.
Thank you for reading 5 articles this month* Join now for unlimited access
Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1
*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription
Join now for unlimited access
Try first month for just £1 / $1 / €1
Chris first started writing for Cycling Weekly in 2013 on work experience and has since become a regular name in the magazine and on the website. Reporting from races, long interviews with riders from the peloton and riding features drive his love of writing about all things two wheels.
Probably a bit too obsessed with mountains, he was previously found playing and guiding in the Canadian Rockies, and now mostly lives in the Val d’Aran in the Spanish Pyrenees where he’s a ski instructor in the winter and cycling guide in the summer. He almost certainly holds the record for the most number of interviews conducted from snowy mountains.
No joy for Yates after Giro d'Italia victory: five talking points from stage 14
Yates won the stage, but he wanted to win the race
By Stephen Puddicombe • Published
Men's Velocio LUXE bib shorts review
They're as good as the price demands, quickly becoming the go-to bib shorts
By Chris Marshall-Bell • Published
Has the Women’s WorldTour outgrown the teams that race it?
Strade Bianche is the first race of 2022 Women’s WorldTour, but this year the top level of women’s racing has more days than ever. We ask if the WorldTour is too big
By Owen Rogers • Published
Annemiek van Vleuten will target Giro-Tour double if Giro course is 'interesting'
Dutch Olympic time trial champion says she has been looking how to "recharge" mentally and physically between two Grand Tours
By Adam Becket • Published
Year on year improvements make Tour yellow jersey the goal for Uttrup Ludwig
Stronger FDJ-Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope start the year with realistic ambition for Tour and Giro podiums
By Owen Rogers • Published