The Tour de France Femmes is back on the women's racing calendar with a start in Paris on the same day as the men's race terminates.
From the capital the women's peloton will then wind its way down to the Vosges with a stop off in Épernay and a few gravel roads around Troyes.
The race finishes after eight stages with a summit finish on the Super Planche des Belles Filles that will fragment the race and leave only the GC contenders standing.
It will be the first time that race organiser ASO has put together a female Tour de France, although various guises of a similar race ran between 1984 and 2009.
The 2022 Tour de France Femmes will begin on July 24 and finish on July 31.
Tour de France Femmes 2021 route
|Stage one||Paris (Eiffel Tower) to Champs-Elysees||82km|
|Stage two||Meaux to Provins||135km|
|Stage three||Reims to Épernay||133km|
|Stage four||Troyes to Bar-sur-Aube||126km|
|Stage five||Bar-le-Duc to Saint-Dié-des-Vosges||175km|
|Stage six||Saint-Dié-des-Vosges to Rosheim||128km|
|Stage seven||Sélestat to Le Markstein||127km|
|Stage eight||Lure - Super Planche des Belles Filles||123km|
Stage one: Eiffel Tower > Champs-Élysées, 82km
The first stage of the female Tour de France will be bookend by a start and finish at France’s two most iconic sites: the Eiffel Tower and the Champs-Élysées.
A flat stage that is almost destined to be won by a sprinter, the peloton will ride 12 laps of a 6.8km circuit before finishing on the famed cobbled stretch in front of the Arc de Triomphe.
The fight for the maiden female yellow jersey is sure to be hotly contested, meaning a breakaway is highly unlikely to succeed.
Stage two: Meaux > Provins, 135km
Out of the capital and into the flat lands to the east, stage two begins in Meaux and traverses a region known for its production of brie.
It won't be a relaxing day though, with the finish in Provins requiring an aggressive punch for any rider who wants to win. Day one's leader could be superseded after just 24 hours.
Stage three: Reims > Épernay, 133km
Commentators will be swapping the cheese facts for their champagne tales as the city of Reims gets stage three underway.
It's likely that an inevitable small breakaway will be kept within touching distance throughout the opening few hours ahead of a punchy finishing circuit that includes the tough ascent of the Côte de Mutigny - a 900m climb that averages a stinging 12.1% gradient.
Potential overall winners will be coming out to play here, keen to stretch their legs ahead of the crucial stages that beckon.
Stage four: Troyes > Bar-sur-Aube, 126km
It won't get the title of the Queen stage because cycling tradition dictates that that title must be awarded to the toughest mountain day, but the fourth stage could well be the hardest - and most entertaining - day.
An undulating course is only part of the story, with four gravel sections totalling 12.9km raising the possibility of carnage, especially for those not accustomed to uneven terrain.
If the maiden female Paris-Roubaix was anything to go by, those with eyes on the overall prize might want to attack early. Book this afternoon off work.
Stage five: Bar-le-Duc > Saint-Dié-Des-Vosges, 175km
What the parcours lacks in apparent difficulty is compensated by the length, the 175km being the furthest of the route. It will therefore be the longest ever professional women's road race stage, surpassing the 170km that the peloton undertook at the 2020 Giro Rosa on stage four.
The GC should be taking shape by now and the fast riders will be hoping and expecting that this long day in the saddle will eventuate in a bunch sprint.
Stage six: Saint-Dié-Des-Vosges > Rosheim, 128km
Beginning in the same town as the previous day's finish (to which the entire Tour entourage will rejoice), stage six is a classic puncheur's course that could swing in favour of the climbers, the breakaway or even the sprinters.
There are four categorised climbs along the route, with the final one coming just nine kilometres from the finish in Rosheim - the perfect springboard for a late attack.
Stage seven: Sélestat > Le Markstein, 127km
The final weekend is all about the mountains, and the seventh stage is arguably the race's hardest and most spectacular.
Taking in three of biggest climbs in the Alsace region, the attacking could begin as early as 35km when the peloton begins the 9.3km climb of the Petit Ballon.
A speedy descent is followed by the ascent of the Col du Platzerwasel, before a lengthy downhill section precedes the Grand Ballon: a 13.5km test that averages 6.7%.
The Vosges will ignite drama and reduce the yellow jersey battle to just a handful at best.
Stage eight: Lure > Super Plance Des Belles Filles, 123km
ASO's inaugural female Tour de France terminates with the race's only summit finish on one of France's most iconic climbs: La Super Planche Des Belles Filles.
Two other category ascents will decimate the peloton before, but it's likely that the real racing will begin on the finishing climb's slopes.
Will the yellow jersey hold on and defend attacks from others, or will there be final day theatre that changes who will become the Queen of France?
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.
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