The route announcement for the second edition of the Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift came with a lot of anticipation. How would the organisers improve on last year? Would they include a time trial? And would Annemiek van Vleuten get her dream of an hors catégorie climb?
Finally, when race director Marion Rousse unveiled the 956km route in Paris on Thursday, few were left disappointed.
The eight-stage race has something for everyone’s tastes. Rolling out of Clermont-Ferrand, the peloton will tackle côte after côte in the southwest, before travelling down towards the Spanish border, where the high mountains await in the Pyrenees.
There are opportunities for the sprinters, the climbers and even the time trialists, whose discipline will debut in the race on the final day.
Here are three stages you need to watch from next July’s Tour de France Femmes.
Stage four: Cahors > Rodez (177km)
Stretched out over 177km, stage four of the race is set to be the longest stage in women’s WorldTour history. This follows on from last year’s edition, when Lorena Wiebes claimed her second stage win into Saint-Dié-des-Vosges over a 175km course in the Grand Est.
The riders will head out across the flat planes of the Lot valley, before attacking the stage’s punchy crescendo. The final 35km count four challenging climbs, with the final one pitched at over 10%, its peak in sight of the flamme rouge.
It’s likely to be a day for the classics specialists, so expect all the drama of a Liège-Bastogne-Liège or an Amstel Gold.
Stage seven: Lannemezan > Tourmalet (90km)
After this July’s race, yellow jersey winner Annemiek van Vleuten spoke of her desire to see an HC climb introduced into the route, namely Alpe d’Huez.
Instead, the Dutchwoman will have to settle for the Col du Tourmalet, a 2,115m-tall Pyrenean brute scheduled for the race’s penultimate day.
“We have listened to what the riders told us,” Rousse told Reuters after the 2023 route presentation. “The last stage this year was too tough and even if the Tourmalet is a rough climb, the stage will feature fewer metres gained.”
Over 90km - the race’s shortest road stage - the riders will climb 2,500m elevation, tackling the Col d’Aspin first. Though the climbs are long and arduous, the stage is set for an explosive day in the high mountains.
Stage eight: Pau > Pau (ITT - 22km)
The latter was won by French time trial champion Audrey Cordon-Ragot, who told journalists on Thursday that she was “particularly pleased” with how the race’s closing stage has shaped up.
Reversing the route the men tackled in 2019, the race organisers have planned a 22km time trial finale in Pau, a city with close ties to the Tour de France. The course is technical, lumpy and promises to make for a suspense-filled final day.
The Tour de France Femmes will run from 23 July to 30 July 2023.
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