2022 is the year for female cyclists! While this won't officially be the first time a 'women's Tour de France' has taken place in some form, it will be significant for so many reasons. Male and female cyclists will share the spotlight this year, as the two races overlap in Paris on 24th July. Le Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift is an 8-day stage race that will begin in Paris, along the famous Champs‑Élysées, before the women’s peloton embark on a further 7 stages in north-east France. So, what else is there to know about the event? Who, and where, should you be watching? Professional rider Brodie Chapman, hoping to compete in one of the Women’s World Teams, gives us the inside track on Tour de France Femmes 2022.
The Tour de France Femmes will kick off in Paris, beneath the Eiffel Tower, starting on the same day that the men’s race comes to an end. From the second the cyclists cross the start line, the full explosive power of the teams will be unleashed. From kilometre one, the spectacle will be unmatched.
After that, the route will be mostly confined to the Grand Est region of France, so while we will not be visiting the mythical passes of the Alps and the Pyrenees we will still be navigating an immensely exciting route, culminating with two huge stages to decide the Tour in the final weekend of July. Who needs the mountains when we have the gravel backroads of the Champagne region? Come visit a vineyard, get a sample and clink glasses as the riders pass.
The stages that I am most excited about are stages three and four:
On paper, this stage does not look like it will be too decisive. However, a closer look at the course profile shows that the final 50 kilometres of the stage to the finish in Epernay will mean teams cannot let their guard down. The penultimate climb of Mont Bernon is only 1km in length, but provides the perfect springboard for a late attack that could go all the way to the line, but if such a move is contained then look for small gaps to open up on the ramp to the finish.
The fourth stage will be iconic, there is no doubt about it. The peloton will be negotiating four sectors of route blanche, or white road, within the back half of this stage. Bike handling will play a huge factor as will the reliability of each team's equipment. Much like in a cobbled classic, every team's director will spend the minutes preceding these key sectors, on the radio to their riders telling them to get to the front of the bunch. It will be truly spectacular and we would see a surprise winner emerge from the chalky white dust to take the win in Bar-Sur-Aube.
The queen stage is on the dusty unpaved at the finish and brutal “La Super Planche des Belles Filles” and it will be a showdown! Keep reading for more on that, as that’s one to watch in person!
The yellow jersey (or maillot jaune) signifies the race leader – the rider who has the lowest overall time every day.
Annemiek van Vlueten: Annemiek is arguably the greatest stage racer to ever race a bike and at 39 years of age she seems to have only just plateaued in her abilities, but with her years of dominance she has demanded a higher level from her competitors. The gap between van Vlueten and second place has narrowed over the last two seasons, but the gap still does exist and it makes her the outright favourite to win this race.
Demi Vollering: Demi is the true apprentice of the recently retired Anna van der Breggen, a rider who won almost everything that was on the calendar. Demi has had a steady rise through the ranks of Dutch cycling and now finds herself at the very top of the sport. It is unlikely that she will leave a single stone unturned in her preparation for this race.
Katarzyna ‘Kasia’ Niewiadoma: Kasia has been at the top for so long now and stayed so consistent, it is hard to believe that she is still only 27. She is fiercely loyal to her team and teammates and we can see in the bunch that this is paid back with an unrelenting devotion from them when the races suit her.
The polka dot jersey is awarded to the best climber, the first rider over key mountain passes and climbs.
This will be a really interesting competition as it may not be decided until the final mountain top finish of the whole race at La Planche des Belles Filles. It is a competition that will naturally include the top general classification (GC) contenders and the level will be so high that if you are climbing well enough to fight for queen of the mountain (QOM) points then you are likely to be protecting a high GC placing. However, there will be QOM points awarded even on the first stage in Paris, so we will see a rider presented with the polka dot jersey at the end of day one.
Annemiek van Vlueten: She will be the climber to beat.
Ashleigh Moolman-Passio: Undeniably one of the best climbers in the women's field right now Ashleigh simply comes to life when the climbing begins and the gradients are steep.
Marta Cavalli: Marta is at times hard to figure out, she presents as a pure climber, but then rode to a ninth-place finish in Paris Roubaix last October. She quietly goes about her business of taking amazing results.
The green jersey is the points/sprinters jersey, awarded to the rider who leads the points classification.
The website for the Tour de France Femmes does not yet outline the specific sprint points on each of the stages, so we should probably assume that it will mirror the structure of the men's tour where fewer sprint points are contested, but for higher points. This means that if you want to target this jersey you have to make each chance to score points count. Our race is also 8 days compared to 21 days for the men, so there is less of an opportunity to come back from an early points deficit.
Lorena Wiebes: If Lorena is delivered to the finish by her DSM lead out she will be super hard to beat and that alone will amass a deadly amount of green jersey points. She will also be a strong favourite to take the first yellow jersey of the race
Elisa Balsamo: She’s the world champion, what else needs to be said? The strong sprinter from the Trek Segafredo Team will certainly be looking to mix it up in the sprints and points classification this year.
Marianne Vos: The Dutch rider on the Jumbo Visma team is often considered to be the greatest of all time.
The white jersey is awarded to the best young rider (under 26 years old).
Niamh Fisher-Black: Niamh's days of flying under the radar are well and truly over since she was signed to the SD Worx team for 2021 and was incorporated into their GC arsenal right away. We can expect a quiet first 5 days from Niamh, but once the peloton gets to the mountains, Niamh will be a huge factor in this race and with that alone could bring a White Jersey for her team.
Évita Muzic: Evita will have only just turned 23 when the Tour de France Femmes begins on July 24th, but she has a huge amount of experience at the Elite level. Like Niamh, has had the honour of being National Champion in 2021 and her talent really shows through when the race goes uphill.
Blanka Vas: In my mind, Blanka is one of the most exciting riders in women's cycling right now. Her talents have been put on display in cyclocross and mountain bike events, but arguably her greatest performance was her fourth-place finish at the 2021 Road World Championships. If SD Works decide to take Blanka to the Tour, she will be incredible to watch.
We are set to have two and a half hours of coverage for each day of racing and ceremonies, so while we would love to have every minute of racing covered, you can still expect to see the crucial part of every stage play out live on TV. GCN+ is likely to be the best place for the dedicated cycling fan to watch the racing, while Eurosport should cast a wider net on the general sports fans. Keep an eye on letour.fr for all the local broadcast partners for your region as well.
Want to watch live? Try heading to La Super Planche Des Belle Filles. It is the painstakingly steep and long climb that will serve as the final act. The 7km climb averages over 8.7% with some nasty steep sections and a hilltop finish. Word has it that this location is excellent for on-ground viewing, with lots of open space and a chance for fans to really get in on the action
This is an amazing opportunity to celebrate this race, bringing women to the forefront of cycling. The vibe will be electric, and the inaugural winner of the Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift will be cemented into the history books on this day.