Photos courtesy ASO
Finally, the good people who organize the Tour de France got it right. They found the solution to the post-Tour de France letdown and the egregious lack of a true pro women’s stage race alongside the Tour. This year, Tour de France Femmes will serve up eight stages of racing. It’s going to be excellent. Here’s your guide to follow along.
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How to watch Tour de France Femmes
American fans can catch the action on NBC’s streaming service, Peacock. Or, you can watch Tour de France Femmes on cable via CNBC. Canadians can catch the race on Flobikes, another online streaming site.
Tour de France Femmes schedule
July 24: Stage 1 | Paris - Paris, 81.7km (flat)
July 25: Stage 2 | Meaux - Provins, 136.4km (flat)
July 26: Stage 3 | Reims - Épernay, 133.6km (hilly)
July 27: Stage 4 | Troyes - Bar-Sur-Aube, 126.8km (hilly)
July 28: Stage 5 | Bar-le-Duc - Saint-Dié-des-Vosges, 175.6km (hilly)
July 29: Stage 6 | Saint-Dié-des-Vosges - Rosheim, 128.6km (hilly)
July 30: Stage 7 | Sélestat - Le Markstein, 127.1km (mountains)
July 31: Stage 8 | Lure - La Super Planche des Belles Filles, 123.3km (mountains)
Race Preview: Tour de France Femmes
Have you watched the Tour de France before? Well, this is like a condensed version of the three-week men’s race, which actually could make things far more exciting. Instead of a 21-day plod around France with dull transition stages, cagey tactics, and a somewhat anticlimactic finish in Paris, the women’s race should be action-packed, start to finish.
If you imagine the race like the arc of a good thriller novel, it makes perfect sense. We’ll be introduced to the key characters in the first couple of sprint stages. Then, complications will arise as the race forges on into the hilly Vosges region.
Oh, what’s this? Gravel roads in stage 4? Plot twist! This will be a must-watch stage with about 13km of Chemin Blanc — white dirt roads.
Finally, we’ll be treated to a denouement in the final two stages of racing. Not many major stage races end with a summit finish, so you can expect the overall contenders to go for broke on stage 8.
Riders to Watch
General Classification (GC)
Annemiek van Vleuten (Movistar): The Olympic and multi-time world champion is the hands-down favorite. She’s coming off an overall win in Italy’s Giro Rosa by nearly two minutes. She’s an ace time trial rider, so even though there aren’t any individual tests this week, she’ll be comfortable on the flat and rolling stages. But more importantly, she’s a ruthless climber, perfectly suited for stages 7 and 8.
Kasia Niewiadoma (Canyon-SRAM): Apologies to Niewiadoma, but van Vleuten is probably a more likely pick for the polka-dot jersey. That would be boring though! Let’s hope this Polish climber can challenge for the Queen of the Mountains classification. She’s an ace climber, and a fearless attacker. Perhaps she can pad her points lead on stage 4’s five categorized climbs then hang with the GC riders in the final mountain stages.
Points Classification (best sprinter)
Elisa Balsamo (Trek-Segafredo): Dang it, Annemiek, stop spoiling the jersey competitions for the other riders! Van Vleuten also won the green jersey in the Giro Rosa, so she’s a threat for this classification. However, I think Balsamo, who is more of a pure sprinter, will have enough chances to take the best sprinter prize. Plus she’ll have the mighty Trek-Segafredo team at her beck and call for the fast finishes in stages 1 and 2.
Best Young Rider Classification
Magdeleine Vallieres (EF-Tibco-SVB): It’s difficult to predict the best young rider in any stage race, but it is exciting to see who comes into their own with a big result. I’m putting my money on this 20-year-old Canadian because she’s coming off of a solid showing at the Giro Rosa, meaning she’s got good racing in her legs and some experience at the highest level of the sport.
Who’s your pick for the Tour de France Femmes? Let us know in the comments. Or, if you have questions about the race, drop us a note below and we’ll get you an answer!