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What We Learned from this Year’s Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift

By Megan Flottorp

The (nearly) inaugural Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift has come to a close, and what a ride it has been! Annemiek van Vleuten’s overall victory served as a well-deserved cherry on top of a career that may be in its twilight but continues to dazzle (at least for one more year). In addition, Marianne Vos, who led the GC for five days, took the ŠKODA Green Jersey, Vollering claimed the King of the Mountains, and Shirin van Anorrij earned the best young rider classification. 

All that said, there was so much to love about this race that we would be remiss to overlook some of the other significant takeaways. So, let’s take note of a few of the things we learned from the 2022 Tour de France Femmes. 

Canyon-SRAM is the team to beat

When it came to overall team classification, Canyon-SRAM Racing was on top. They beat FDJ-Suez-Futuroscope by 14:19 and Trek-Segafredo by 24:34. With their star rider Kasia Niewiadoma (more on her below) claiming third in the general classification, it was nevertheless an impressive team effort that managed to push them into first place. Niewiadoma led alongside Pauliena Rooijakkers with a support team that included Tiffany Cromwell, Alena Amialiusik, Elise Chabbey, and Soraya Paladin.

Marianne Vos is an incredible rider but no one is invincible

Although she was leading the pack at the time, double stage-winner Marianne Vos sounded doubtful about her chance of holding onto it as the women embarked on Saturday’s contest. As it happened, her apprehension was warranted. Her impressive dominance during the race’s opening stages was foiled as she was dropped early during the 127.1-kilometre course between Sélestat and Le Markstein. She eventually crossed the line in a group 24:44 behind the solo winner Annemiek van Vleuten, going from first to 21st. Nevertheless, her formidable performance is worth a round of applause and gained her a ŠKODA Green Jersey win.

Van Vleuten will go down in history as the comeback queen 

Thwarted by stomach problems earlier in the race, van Vleuten returned with what seemed to be turbo power when she seized the yellow jersey in the “queen stage” of the race on Saturday. She took Demi Vollering inside the first hour of racing, the pair dropping the other riders during the first of the day’s three category-one climbs. There was no stopping her at that point, and she ultimately said of her win,

“That’s actually a dream that comes true—winning in yellow on the top… wow. And it was not an easy stage. It was not an easy week. It’s been a super-big rollercoaster for me, and even today, it was not easy. To finish here, solo, it’s the best way.”

Annemiek van Vleuten
The triumphant van Vleuten. © Profimedia

Niewiadoma remains a peloton sweetheart and solid all-rounder 

A consistently strong performance by Niewiadoma landed the Polish rider in third overall, a position she maintained throughout the race’s seven stages. As she told Velonews,

“I was basically riding the last climb thinking about the third place in GC, I wasn’t focusing too much on who’s riding or who doesn’t want to ride because that wasn’t helping me,” she said. “Setting my own pace and trying to basically do my best and close the gap to Demi or at first close the gap to Elisa. When I heard that she dropped, it was a moment for me to go all in.”

And so she did! A third place and impressive finish for a fantastic all-rounder who likely has many winning seasons ahead of her.

The women definitely have what it takes to tackle major stage races

One thing that was abundantly clear about this race was that it gave many riders the chance to fully showcase the extent of their skills. Take, for example, Urška Žigart. The Slovenian rider, who announced a two-year contract extension with Team BikeExchange-Jayco during the race, has been widely applauded for her skill on the hills but doesn’t often get a chance to show them off.

“We have climbing races but we don’t get a lot of longer climbs in our calendar, so that was a big motivation to show today what I can do,” she said after coming in a formidable eighth place in stage 7.

People want to watch women’s racing (we already knew this)

Although we don’t have all the numbers yet, figures released by France TV Sport Press have revealed that vast numbers of viewers in the host country tuned in to the Tour de France Femmes. Furthermore, France TV Sport Press confirmed on social media that France 3 was the leader during the scheduled time slot during stage three, with upwards of 2.8 million people watching Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig outsprint Marianne Vos. Let’s keep that television coverage coming!

Inequality remains (we knew this too but TdFF acts as an indisputable benchmark)

With so much to celebrate, it is also necessary to be mindful of where the discrepancies remain and how we hope to see the race evolve in the future. Logistically, the men’s race was 13 days longer than the women’s and each stage’s distance was also 50 km to 100 km shorter for TdFF. And when it comes to coverage of the action, the men’s race benefitted from start-to-finish coverage of each stage, averaging nearly six hours per day, whereas the women’s coverage came in at just under three hours daily.

Taken together, we still have a way to get women’s cycling the coverage it deserves. Notably, this deficit in coverage (i.e., less publicity for sponsorship) also translates into a striking prize purse difference. The total prize fund for the men’s race was €2.2 million, with Denmark’s Jonas Vingegaard receiving €430,000. The prize money for the women’s race was considerably less at €250,000, with van Vlueten receiving €50,000.

All things considered, we are glad to be where we are

It is true that we can look forward to improvements (hopefully) being made in the near future. As it stands, though, we are happy to see the women’s peloton glowing in the aftermath of what was certainly a terrific event. Here’s to a whole lot more of that fierce and powerful women’s racing goodness!