Tour de France Femmes: 10 riders to watch
The peloton will be packed with star talent at the Tour de France Femmes, including Annemiek van Vleuten, Marianne Vos, and Elisa Balsamo.
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The 2022 Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift will be a festival of women’s cycling with the world’s top riders all looking to reach their peak performance for the eight-day race.
On offer will be the opportunity to become the inaugural winner of the ASO-organized race and with it take the fabled yellow jersey.
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As in the men’s race, there’ll also be a green points jersey, a polka-dot jersey for the best climber, and a white jersey for the best young rider to fight it out for as well as stage victories.
Here are 10 riders that will be aiming for glory of some kind during the Tour de France Femmes.
Annemiek van Vleuten (Movistar)
The Dutch rider is the big favorite for the overall title and the all-important final yellow jersey. With the retirement of Anna van der Breggen at the end of last year, Van Vleuten is one of just two grand tour winners that will line up in Paris this Sunday. The other is Marianne Vos, but she’s unlikely to be at the top of the overall standings in this race.
Also read: Annemiek van Vleuten will retire at the end of 2023
This season has proved that Van Vleuten is far from unbeatable, but she fired a big warning shot to her rivals with a dominating win at the Giro d’Italia Donne earlier this month. She beat Marta Cavalli by almost two minutes and hardly looked in trouble over the 10 days of racing.
Van Vleuten would probably prefer that the climbs were even bigger but there’s enough in them for her to dish out some pain to her rivals. Perhaps the biggest challenge will be coping with the accumulated fatigue compared to those who have saved themselves for the Tour de France Femmes alone.
Demi Vollering (SD Worx)
Since turning professional in 2019, Vollering has quickly become one of the top stage racers in the women’s peloton and she will be a big favorite for the yellow jersey. Vollering has taken a very different path toward the Tour de France Femmes compared to Van Vleuten. Rather than racing her way to the event, she has chosen to train her way into it.
Also read: No Giro for Demi Vollering as she keeps a low profile before Tour de France Femmes
Aside from the Dutch national road race and a Swiss one-day event this week, Vollering has hardly raced since the end of May. It could pay dividends for her at the end of the Tour, but it could also backfire if she’s missing the racing spark she needs early in the event.
Vollering lives in Switzerland and knows the climbs of the final weekend very well. She’ll be hoping that the local knowledge will help her find the extra edge over her rivals.
Elisa Longo Borghini (Trek-Segafredo)
Despite her illustrious palmarès, Longo Borghini hadn’t won a stage race until this year when she took the Women’s Tour in June. While the parcours is very different, she’ll hope it’s a good omen for July.
Also read: Elisa Longo Borghini falls just short in late hunt for Giro d’Italia Donne podium
The Italian decided not to skip the Giro d’Italia Donne this summer but used it as a preparation race for the Tour de France Femmes. Though she didn’t get the stage wins she was hoping for at the Giro, she looked in solid condition as she rode to fourth place. Longo Borghini will need to have sharpened her form in the two weeks between the two grand tours if she wants to get close to the yellow jersey.
Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig (FDJ-Suez-Futuroscope)
Like Longo Borghini, Uttrup Ludwig used the Giro d’Italia Donne as an opportunity to test her legs and build her form toward the Tour de France Femmes. The Dane has had a complicated 2022 campaign, but she appears to be coming into form again at just the right time.
Uttrup Ludwig had a good start to the season but found herself sidelined for more than a month after she caught COVID-19 at the beginning of April. It took time for her to recover from it and meant that she had to miss the Ardennes classics.
Also read: Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig misses Ardennes with COVID-19
Since returning to racing in mid-May for the string of Spanish one-day and stage races, she has been slowly building her level. Winning the Danish national title for the first time last month was a sign that she was moving in the right direction. She took sixth at the Giro d’Italia Donne while working to help her teammate Marta Cavalli claim second. The roles will be reversed at the Tour with Cavalli playing the domestique role.
Kristen Faulkner (BikeExchange-Jayco)
Faulkner is another rider that has enjoyed a swift rise to the top in cycling after making a late switch to cycling following a career as a venture capitalist. Following some breakthrough performances last season, Faulkner stepped up to the WorldTour for 2022 with BikeExchange-Jayco and has continued to develop as a rider.
Also read: Kristen Faulkner goes solo for an impressive victory on Giro’s ‘queen stage’
Faulkner has been going strong so far this summer with a stage win at the Tour de Suisse last month that saw her come close to overall victory only to be hampered by a crash in the final stage. She took that form into the Giro d’Italia Donne romping to two stage wins and knocking on the door of the top 10.
While she’s unlikely to trouble the fight for the yellow jersey, Faulkner’s performance will be an interesting one to watch.
Marianne Vos (Jumbo-Visma)
Vos is one of just two riders at the Tour de France Femmes that rode the Grande Boucle Féminine Internationale — the last unofficial version of the women’s Tour de France. The only other rider on the start line that raced there is Olga Zabelinskaya. Vos is a past winner of the Giro d’Italia, but women’s cycling has changed dramatically since then and so has she.
Also read: The golden touch: Why Marianne Vos is the greatest cyclist of all time
Though not in the GC mix, Vos should still be a major force in the race mixing it in the bunch sprints and over the hilly days. Her early season was derailed by COVID-19 in the spring, but she has come back with a vengeance.
She won two stages of the Giro d’Italia Donne, extending her victory record to 32, before abandoning ahead of stage 7 to rest up for the Tour de France.
Lorena Wiebes (Team DSM)
Wiebes has been the undoubted queen of the sprints for several seasons now and she’s not letting her grip on that crown go anytime soon. Barring any incident, the 23-year-old Dutch rider will be the big favorite to take the yellow jersey on the Champs Elysees this Sunday.
At 15 wins, Wiebes has almost double the number of victories of any other rider this season with Elisa Balsamo the next rider on eight. Wiebes is not unbeatable, but teams will have to think smart to beat her in the flat-out sprints.
Also read: The fastest woman on two wheels: Get to know Lorena Wiebes
Unlike some of her sprint rivals, Wiebes chose to warm up for the Tour de France Femmes at the Baloise Ladies Tour. She won every single sprint in convincing fashion and came close to taking the overall title but was beaten by Ellen van Dijk in the time trials.
Elisa Balsamo (Trek-Segafredo)
Balsamo is one of the few sprinters that has beaten Wiebes in a straight-up sprint this season and she’ll be looking to do so at the Tour. There has been no such thing as the curse of the rainbow jersey for Balsamo this season and she has put in some of the strongest performances in her world championship year.
Also read: Trek Segafredo’s stellar season continues as ‘teamwork makes the dream work’
Balsamo made her grand tour debut at the Giro d’Italia Donne, where she won two stages and finished second to overall winner Annemiek van Vleuten in the points competition. The development of the friendly rivalry between herself and Wiebes this season has been fascinating to watch and will likely be one of the stories of the Tour de France Femmes.
Pauliena Rooijakkers (Canyon-SRAM)
Canyon-SRAM will be led by Kasia Niewiadoma at the Tour de France Femmes, but Rooijakkers will be an interesting rider to watch at the race. The Dutchwoman has made a step up in her performances this season and has regularly been mixing it with the top GC riders.
Also read: Itzulia Women: Pauliena Rooijakkers ‘really thankful’ for her team after finishing second
She finished second overall to Vollering at the Itzulia Women back in May and followed that up with victory at the one-day Durango-Durango. She last raced at the Tour de Suisse in June, where she finished third overall and won the mountains classification.
Juliette Labous (Team DSM)
Labous has made a big step forward this season and, at just 23, she still has a lot to give. The French rider enjoyed a breakthrough victory at the Vuelta a Burgos in May, beating Evita Muzic and Vollering to the overall title.
Also read: Team DSM announces Tour de France Femmes team
Earlier this month, she got the jump on several of the pre-race favorites to take a stage win on the Passo Maniva at the Giro d’Italia Donne. The ride helped her to finish the race in ninth place overall. She could be a wildcard for the Tour de France Femmes and she will be one of the major hopes for home crowds.