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The eight-day Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift kicks off Sunday and Lizzie Deignan is expecting an entirely dynamic race with a well-balanced route and improved television coverage that will highlight the depth to women’s cycling and the talented super domestiques that may not receive the recognition they deserve.
Deignan is sitting out the race this year as she is expecting her second child but the Trek-Segafredo rider will be in Paris to witness the race’s first stage.
She is tipping Giro d’Italia Rosa champion Annemiek van Vleuten (Movistar) for the overall win but with stages designed for the sprinters, classics stars and climbers the former Paris-Roubaix winner is expecting the race to go down to the wire.
“I think that Annemiek van Vleuten is the out-and-out favorite considering the Super Planche des Belles Filles because she’s the best climber in the peloton but I do think that the race will be pretty dynamic before that though, so I think that someone like Demi Vollering, who has a really good SD Worx team, will be very strong and will be set up well for that final stage. And then I think Marta Cavalli, probably. She should be in fine form in the Ardennes and then was on the podium in the Giro Rosa, so I think that those three are the best climbers,” Deignan told VeloNews in a phone interview on Friday afternoon from her home in the United Kingdom.
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When asked for a surprise package, Deignan picked her trade teammate and this year’s winner of Paris-Roubaix, Elisa Longo Borghini. The Italian won the Women’s Tour earlier this year and then backed that up with fourth overall in the Giro d’Italia. According to Deignan, her teammate has the tactical experience and advantage to exploit any mistakes or weaknesses in her rivals.
“She has the potential to make a bit of an upset because the team is so strong so in the classics stages and the run up to the final stage she will be able to capitalize on any mistakes by the other GC riders,” Deignan said.
When it comes to the sprints and the green jersey the race is spoilt for choice with a world class sprint field set to line up for the race in Paris on Sunday. Lorena Wiebes has already won 15 races this year and looks destined to add to that tally over the coming week but she will face strong opposition from a number of directions.
“In contrast to the men’s Tour de France, the contest for the green jersey will be a really interesting competition because Marianne Vos, Elisa Balsamo and Wiebes will be really matched. Lorena Wiebes is the out and out fastest sprinter but there’s more points available in the intermediate stages where Marianne and Elisa will have a chance to catch up on points. I think that will be a really interesting competition,” she said.
The race is likely to be decided on the final stage and on the climb to Super Planches des Belles Filles but Deignan believes that the race will opened up before that. The British rider pointed to stage 7 from Sélestat to Le Markstein Fellering. The stage has three first category climbs; the Petit Ballon, Col du Platzerwasel and Grand Ballon before a rolling section to the finish at Le Markstein.
“There’s that triple header in that hilly stage before Planche des Belles Filles, and it’s a real test because there are three consecutive climbs. It depends on the heat a little bit but I think the jersey will be won on the final day but the GC will be made, in terms of the top five, will be made the day before. Overall, I think that it should lead to a pretty dynamic and close race. The fact that GC will be made towards the back of the week means that the race will be pretty tight up until that point. There are opportunities for every type of rider.”
One aspect that Deignan is most looking forward to is the fact that with increased television coverage and streaming fans will be able to see more coverage of the race. Some WorldTour races show just a minimum requirement of women’s races with highlights bolted on at a later time. The Tour de France Femmes is expected to show roughly 2.5 hours of live racing per-day. That aspect in itself will allow fans to see how races develop and give more attention to the domestiques who are not always given the credit or the attention that they deserve.
Often their work is not shown on television because by the time live coverage starts the race is down to just the race favorites.
“I’m looking forward to the opportunities that it presents for the domestique riders in the peloton. Often in the WorldTour we have these highlights packages but I think that you’ll see a bit more storytelling and I think that you’ll see these incredible domestiques shine a little bit more. Someone like Christine Majerus who is so vital in so many of SD Worx’s victories. I think that will become more obvious to the fans as to why.”