Five world-class contenders for the Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift 2023

Here's a closer look at some of the riders that could make up the podium

Top five contenders collage for the Tour de France Femmes 2023
(Image credit: Getty)

There's just one more sleep until the second edition of the Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift gets underway. 

It's a race that arrives with a lot of anticipation, and this year, the organisers have turned it up a notch. For the first time, the peloton will contest a high-mountain finish in the Col du Tourmalet, before taking on a final-day time trial.  

Ahead of the race, here's a closer look at five riders we expect to be in the mix of the GC battle, whether they're jostling for the yellow jersey, or fighting for the final podium spot. 

Annemiek van Vleuten (Movistar)

Annemiek van Vleuten wins the Tour de France Femmes in yellow jersey in 2022

(Image credit: Getty)

The reigning champion is the out-and-out favourite for victory at this year’s Tour de France Femmes. It’s almost as if the route was tailored to fit her; she’s often unrivalled in the high mountains, and is one of the fastest against the clock, as her Olympic gold medal proves. 

This season, Van Vleuten has sacrificed some of her explosiveness to focus more on consistency in stage races… and it’s paying off. She won the first two Grand Tours of the year - the Vuelta Femenina and the Giro d’Italia Donne - and her form puts her on course to complete another impressive treble. 

Supporting her bid this year, the Movistar rider will have the benefit of some quality climbing domestiques in new recruits Liane Lippert and Floortje Mackaij. The pair, formerly of Team DSM, were brought in to bolster the squad at the start of this season, and could prove crucial in the team’s yellow jersey hunt. 

Demi Vollering (SD Worx)

Demi Vollering at Itzulia Women

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Second last time round, the SD Worx rider enters the race as the main pretender to Van Vleuten’s throne. 

Her results this season have been staggering. After winning Strade Bianche in March, Vollering went on to take a historic clean sweep in the Ardennes, before finishing a narrow runner-up to Van Vleuten at the Vuelta Femenina, losing out on the title by just nine seconds. 

By the time the race reaches Pau, the 26-year-old hopes it’ll be her on the top step. “She has a very big chance,” said her team-mate Lotte Kopecky, who has pledged her full support as a lieutenant. “I think all of our riders really believe that she can win this Tour de France.”

Juliette Labous (dsm-firmenich)

Juliette Labous attacking at the Giro Donne 2023

(Image credit: Getty)

With all the build-up centred around the two Dutchwomen, Labous’s talent has gone somewhat under the radar. The Frenchwoman, however, should be right up there in the GC fight. 

At last July’s first edition, she finished as the top-ranked home rider, placing fourth, less than a minute off the podium. She comes into this year’s race in better form, having taken a career-best GC result at the Giro Donne, where she finished second to Van Vleuten, and showed she could hold pace uphill. 

Labous’s goal, she has made clear, is the final podium spot. “If I get the podium, that would be great,” she said ahead of the race. “But if, for example, I come sixth, knowing I’ve given everything, I would have no regrets.”

Elisa Longo Borghini (Lidl-Trek)

Elisa Longo Borghini in her italian national jersey

(Image credit: Getty)

The Italian is one of the peloton’s finest climbers, and will have circled stage seven’s summit finish on the Col du Tourmalet as a day to make a difference. 

That said, there’s not a stage that doesn’t suit the 31-year-old all-rounder. She’s the current Italian road race and time trial champion, and has proved herself in hillier Classics races, like Strade Bianche and the Trofeo Alfredo Binda. 

There is, however, a big question mark over Longo Borghini at this year’s Tour de France Femmes. She crashed out of the Giro Donne earlier this month, abandoning with a suspected concussion (which she fortunately didn’t have), and hasn’t raced since. 

She will also be without her diminutive climbing sidekick, Gaia Realini, who is sitting this race out.

Ashleigh Moolman Pasio (AG Insurance - Soudal Quick-Step) 

Ashleigh Moolman Pasio in a race

(Image credit: Getty)

Moolman Pasio is one of only a handful of riders who can say they’ve beaten Van Vleuten in a stage race in recent years. For the South African, that victory came last October at the Tour de Romandie, where she ruled supreme on the long climb to Thyon 2000

Interestingly, the Swiss climb isn’t unalike the Col du Tourmalet. They’re similar in length, and reach almost the exact same altitude, both just over 2,000 metres tall. Could the 37-year-old repeat the feat? 

Last year, she rode in support of Vollering at SD Worx, but with a whole team now built around her, there's an excitement about what she can do. “I believe I’m on the perfect trajectory to really be the best I’ve ever been,” she recently told Cyclingnews

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Tom Davidson
News and Features Writer

Tom joined Cycling Weekly as a news and features writer in the summer of 2022, having previously contributed as a freelancer. He is the host of The TT Podcast, which covers both the men's and women's pelotons and has featured a number of prominent British riders. 

An enthusiastic cyclist himself, Tom likes it most when the road goes uphill and actively seeks out double-figure gradients on his rides. 

He's also fluent in French and Spanish and holds a master's degree in International Journalism.