Tour de France Femmes – where the race could be won

The jersey winners of the 2022 Tour de France Femmes (l-r); Marianne Vos, Annemiek van Vleuten, Shirin van Anrooj, Demi Vollering
The Tour de France Femmes officially returned to the calendar in stage-race form last year for the first time since 1989

The Tour de France Femmes begins its second edition on Sunday, 23 July in Clermont Ferrand, central southern France.

The eight-stage race features a mixture of flat stages, hilly days, a time trial and a showpiece mountain-top finish on the Tourmalet in the Pyrenees.

Last year’s winner Annemiek van Vleuten is returning to the start line to defend her title in what is her final season in the peloton before retirement.

This page will be updated throughout the Tour following each stage with the winner and a brief report.

Ashleigh Moolman Pasio
Ashleigh Moolman Pasio raced the Tour de France Femmes in 2022 but illness forced her to abandon the race before the final stage

As she did last year, Van Vleuten comes into the Tour off the back of another dominant win in the Giro d’Italia Donne three weeks ago.

Yet the Dutchwoman will again face competition in France from SD Worx compatriot Demi Vollering, who finished runner-up last year, while Lidl-Trek’s Elisa Longo Borghini and French hope Juliette Labous – who rides for Team DSM – are also likely to pose a strong challenge.

Ashleigh Moolman Pasio is another key contender for the yellow jersey, with the AG Insurance-Soudal Quick-Step rider focusing her whole season around the Tour after abandoning last year’s edition before the final because of illness.

The South African climber talks to BBC Sport about the route and explains where the title could be won or lost.

Sunday, 23 July – stage 1: Clermont Ferrand – Clermont Ferrand, 124km

Tour de France Femmes stage 1 profile
The Tour begins in the commune of Clermont-Ferrand in France’s Auvergne-Rhone-Alpes region

“The Tour starts harder than one expects in terms of what we see on paper. It seems to be a sprinters’ stage but having done a reconnaissance on the stage I think there could be quite an explosion.

“In the last 10km there’s a climb and it’s actually pretty steep and from there it’s pretty technical all the way down into the town.

“I think it’s going to be interesting, very exciting, because there will be teams hoping it will be a sprint and going all-in for the sprinters to win the yellow jersey on the first day.

“But I think there’s going to be some more punchy riders or classic racing riders that are also going to want to take full advantage of that last steep climb. It’s going to be a very open race.

“It’s definitely going to be a very nervous stage, it’s the first day of the biggest race on the calendar and there’s a lot of people who have their sights on that yellow jersey.”

Monday, 24 July – stage 2: Clermont Ferrand – Mauriac, 152km

Tour de France Femmes stage 2 profile
The second stage provides the peloton with a chance to attack with a hilly profile to Mauriac

“It’s quite a long stage, 150km, and it starts with an undulating climbing from the word go. It’s the perfect opportunity for an early breakaway. I’m quite confident that teams will try to go early on in the race.

“Then it will be interesting to see what the make up of that breakaway is and it will all depend on what the big teams like SD Worx do in bringing back and controlling that breakaway, or whether we start to see two races unfolding – a race to win the stage and then maybe a little race behind between GC [general classification] riders.

“The last circuit, things can definitely happen. It’s a little bit technical and it has a 5km climb into the finish line so that’s a place that GC riders like myself are going to be focusing. There are some seconds there that could be taken.”

Tuesday, 25 July – stage 3: Collonges-La-Rouge – Montignac-Lascaux, 147.5km

Tour de France Femmes stage 3 profile
Stage three of the Tour de France Femmes takes the riders west to the commune of Montignac-Lascaux

“There is quite a lot of up and down all day long, it is 1,800m of ascent but that is over 147km.

“Although there is climbing, I think the sprinting teams will be quite motivated to keep it together. If it breaks up a bit on the climb, I’m sure there’ll be a point where it all comes back together, especially because going into the final, there’s not that much climbing.

“There could be a breakaway early on but I have a feeling that teams with good sprinters will try to bring it all back and I do think that this stage will be a bunch sprint.”

Wednesday, 26 July – stage 4: Cahors – Rodez, 177.5km

Tour de France Femmes stage 4 profile
Rodez has been regularly used as a finish in the men’s edition of the race with the roads providing perfect territory for a breakaway ambush

“The first three stages are going to be nervous, they’re going to be aggressive, they’re going to be hard – and then you hit this stage, which is really long and the first part is quite flat.

“It’s going to be a race of attrition, it’s going to come down to who’s played the start of the race smartest; eaten, kept themselves ready for the final – because the final is hard.

“It’s not only got climbing, it’s really technical; technical descents which could also play a role in the end result. I love this stage because it’s very much like a classic. You almost feel a bit like you could be in the Ardennes.

“Riding into Rodez, it’s pretty spicy, little punches all the way to the finish line. It’s going to benefit the rider who calculates it best on this stage, keeps themselves well hydrated, fully fuelled, saving energy, and then it’s going to be super explosive in the last part of the race.

“I think we’ll see some action in the GC.”

Thursday, 27 July – stage 5: Onet-Le-Chateau – Albi, 126.5km

Tour de France Femmes stage 5 profile
The peloton travel to Albi, situated on the Tarn river, for the fifth stage of the Tour

“What makes this Tour different to the last is that it’s very difficult to find a ‘classic’ sprint stage because every day there’s climbing.

“How it plays out is going to be quite interesting because, as we saw last year, riders who are more on the punchy side and not necessarily super confident in their long game when it comes to climbing might really be looking to take advantage of every single opportunity to take some extra seconds.

“On paper this should come down to a sprint, but you never know. There is a section between 80km and 100km which has some steep little punches in it, so it could be some riders are looking to take an advantage and it lasts all the way to the finish.

“It all depends on how organised the sprinting teams are and whether they work together.”

Friday, 28 July – stage 6: Albi – Blagnac, 122.5km

Tour de France Femmes stage 6 profile
The Tour travels towards the Pyrenees to Blagnac with what is likely to be a final opportunity for the sprinters to take a stage win

“If we haven’t really seen a sprint stage to this point, then for sure there will be high motivation from the teams to control it and keep it together for that sprint.

“SD Worx is the team we’ll all be watching and they might have in their mind to keep things calm as much as they can because the next day is the Queen stage with the Tourmalet.

“I think it’s possible that we will have some wind in the final. That’s going to be interesting. Coming into the final 15km it is quite exposed and a straight stretch of road, so motivation might be high to split it up in crosswinds.

“As GC riders it will be in our best interests to take it as easy as we can on this day while keeping in mind that things can go seriously wrong in crosswinds. It’s going to be a point to be super attentive.”

Saturday, 29 July – stage 7: Lannemezan – Tourmalet Bagneres-de-Bigorre, 90km

Tour de France Femmes stage 7 profile
The riders will finish atop the Tourmalet, which has a long history with the Tour de France

“I think this is a really cool stage because we have the Col d’Aspin first and then the Tourmalet, two well-known climbs.

“It’s a shorter stage and I think it’s going to be really exciting. This is where the race is going to be made.

“Having said that, you could have a scenario where some ‘punchy’-style riders have created a buffer for themselves coming into this stage, so the classic climbers will have to really put them to the wire if they have an advantage.

“The Tourmalet is a really special climb, a mystical climb. Often you climb into the clouds. It’s steep all the way to the finish line.

“It will be interesting to see on the Aspin because the last 3km are quite steep so you might see that as a launchpad going into the Tourmalet that there is a small breakaway.”

Sunday, 30 July – stage 8: Pau – Pau, 22.6km (ITT)

Tour de France Femmes stage 8 profile
The race finishes with a 22km time trial in Pau, using some of the same roads featured in the 2019 edition of La Course by Le Tour de France won by Marianne Vos

“It’s good that we have a time trial in a grand tour – it almost seems like a grand tour isn’t really a grand tour unless there’s a time trial in it. It’s very much a complete race.

“Having seen the course, it’s not a classic time triallist course, it’s still quite open. A time trial on the last day of a tour is also very different from a one-day time trial.

“The start is quite technical, lots of left-right, left-right, so it’s very difficult to get into a really good rhythm. Then we have a 2km to 3km section which is quite flat and straight and that’s really the only part that is super suited to getting into the aero position.

“Shortly after that you go up a punchy climb and from then it’s not a straight road, it’s constantly a little bit down, twisty, and before you know it you’re heading back to the finish, which again has a bit of a punch to the line.

“I think it’s still going to be quite exciting on the last day. I don’t think it’s necessarily going to be a decider but there are going to be certain riders who are going to be under pressure to be able to maintain their position.”

Interview by Sophie Hurcom

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