2023 Tour de France Femmes preview
📖 The history
The first women’s pro race in France happened in September of 1955 just outside of Paris, with 41 women competing. Five days and 373 kilometers later, Millie Robinson was crowned champion — a title she held for 29 years as the race took a major hiatus. Wild.
Fast forward to 1984 when the men’s race organizers, Amaury Sports Organization (ASO),reintroduced the women’s event. The race’s second edition featured 18 stages and included participants from France, Canada, the U.S., Great Britain, and the Netherlands with American Marianne Martin claiming the title.
- This version of the race continued for five years with Italy’s Maria Canins and France’s Jeannie Longo dominating the field until 1989 when the event was canceled due to financial issues. Sounds familiar.
In more recent years, a one-day La Course race came to fruition in 2014, after an activist group of pro cyclists called Le Tour Entier petitioned to launch a women’s race. The race was criticized for not being up to par with the men’s race and because the aforementioned ASO was not doing enough to promote it. Unfortunately, it was relatively short-lived, too, ending in 2021.
Finally, thanks to all the voices and advocates, including major sponsor Zwift, the Tour de France Femmes was reborn last July. And just like this year, the Femmes began at the conclusion of the men’s race, and were immediately a hit with French and international audiences alike. Well, duh.
- Together with the Giro Donne and La Vuelta Femenina, it’s one of three Grand Tour road races. Since its inception on the men’s side, the Tour de France has been held annually, only stopping during the two World Wars.
🚲 The details
This year’s race will feature 154 women from 22 teams. There’s seven riders per team, one more than the 2022 race. The cyclists will compete over eight days and eight stages on a brand new route that’s reaching new heights with 956 total kilometers of cycling.
- Each stage will task riders with a different challenge. From flat to hilly to gravel terrain, expect the overall leader to change a few times throughout the race as cyclists with different strengths literally flex their muscles.
- Speaking of flexing, this year’s final two stages will take place at the iconic Tourmalet summit with an individual time trial finale in Pau. Cue Miley Cyrus.
Different riders can win each individual stage, but to become the overall winner or general classification (GC), a rider must earn the lowest combined time for all stages of the race. The overall leader wears the yellow jersey, which is usually worn by a number of different riders throughout the race before the final victor is crowned.
- Yes, cycling is an individual sport, but the team leaders would be nothing without domestiques, the teammates who offer mechanical and technical support along the way. Teamwork makes the dream work, after all.
The reward for all that biking? A slice of the €250K (~$280K) prize pot, while the overall winner will ride away with €50K (~$56K), a paltry sum compared to the €2.3M (~$2.58M) grand total awarded through the (admittedly longer) men’s race. But progress is progress.
💪 The top contenders
🇳🇱 Annemiek van Vleuten, Movistar Team: The aforementioned reigning champion is the overwhelming favorite to win her second consecutive (and likely last) title as she comes off back-to-back titles at the Giro D’Italia Donne earlier this month and a win at the La Vuelta Femenina in May. All she does is win, win, win.
🇳🇱 Demi Vollering, Team SD Worx: If there’s anyone that can cause van Vleuten trouble, it’s her fellow Dutchwoman. The SD Worx captain has impressed in 2023 so far, taking home the title at the Vuelta a Burgos Feminas in Spain and coming in second at both the La Vuelta Feminina and Itzulia Women. There must be something in the water.
🇩🇰 Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig, Team FDJ-Suez: The Danish star is looking to roll to the podium after winning a stage at last year’s Tour, despite a bad crash that forced her teammate out of the race. Earlier this season, Uttrup Ludwig edged the defending Tour champion van Vleuten for the final podium spot at Strade Bianche Donne. Spicy.
🇺🇲 Veronica Ewers, Team EF Education-TIBCO-SVB: “Sweet V” represented the red, white and blue proudly at last year’s race, finishing in ninth place in the general classification after a top 10 placing in two of the eight stages. Despite being a college soccer player, Ewers sure has found her ride.
🇨🇦 Alison Jackson, Team EF Education-TIBCO-SVB: The Canadian enters this year’s race after a historic victory at the Paris-Roubaix Femmes back in April, the biggest win of her career so far. As one of the six Canadians representing the maple leaf this week, watch for “AJ” to bring the moves and the power.
📺 How to tune in
Last year’s race reached 23.2M viewers, and as women’s sports trends show, it’s likely that even more will be tuning in this year.
Catch all the action on Peacock, CNBC and NBC in the U.S. and FloBikes (subscription required) in Canada or watch the highlights on GCN Racing and Tour de France’s official YouTube pages. Happy watching!