Britain’s Lizzie Deignan hailed it as an “important day for cycling” after the route for the first women’s Tour de France in 33 years was unveiled in Paris.
The women’s Tour will be revived next year with an eight-stage race that winds through northern France, starting on the Champs-Elysées on July 24, more than three decades since the event was last held in 1989.
The route will combine a mix of gravel sections, unpaved roads and two mountain stages, with the final day finishing on the Super Planche des Belles Filles in north east France – a notoriously difficult climb that first featured in the men's Tour in 2019.
In a sign that organisers are keen to push the boundaries of female cycling, riders will face a unique 175km stage on day five, which exceeds the maximum stage distance of 160km that women are permitted to ride at WorldTour level unless with special dispensation.
“It is a key indicator that the sport is still progressing as we are now able to compete in the most well-known bike race in the world,” said Trek-Segafredo rider Deignan, who won the inaugural women’s Paris-Roubaix earlier this month. “Each stage is dynamic, different and interesting. There are so many challenges thrown into just eight days of racing!
“The inclusion of a stage with gravel sectors will mean it’s likely to be a complete rider who wins the Tour de France Femmes – but I expect the first yellow jersey to go to a sprinter, but then also to change hands many times along the way which will be exciting for the fans.”
The women's version will start on the same day the 109th edition of the men's Tour ends and is scheduled two weeks after the longest women's race on the calendar, the Giro Donne (July 1-10).
More than 300 towns apply and pay to host a stage of the men's Tour every year, but race director Christian Prudhomme conceded he had been forced to approach candidates himself for the women's edition. “The biggest challenge is to broadcast the race. I think we've done a good job, with the race starting the same day as the men's race ends in Paris," said Prudhomme.
Zwift, the global online fitness platform, has already come on board as title sponsors of the event, which will be broadcast in 170 countries, contrary to the 190 countries where the men’s Tour is televised. "The goal is to organise a race that will stay, that will still exist in 100 years, that I can watch when I'm old and using a walker," added 60-year-old Prudhomme.
Meanwhile, the men’s Tour will start with a 13-kilometre time trial in Copenhagen, Denmark with the first week featuring a stage over the cobblestones in northern France, then a brief trip into Belgium, Luxembourg and Switzerland.The final week features two brutal summit finishes at Peyragudes and Hautacam before a 40km time trial on the penultimate stage and the traditional finale in Paris.
Two-time Tour champion Tadej Pogacar, who is the favourite to defend his title next year, has already underlined his intent to follow the women’s race, saying: "Probably when I finish my Tour, I'm going in a camper to see the women's Tour. It's a historic moment for cycling, it's going to be a great event."