The hotly anticipated route for the second edition of the Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift was unveiled in Paris on Thursday with plenty of new developments following this year’s launch.
After linking the 2022 race up with the end of the men’s event with an opening stage in Paris to coincide with the final day of the three-week competition, the Femmes have branched out for 2023. The race will kickstart in Clermont-Ferrand, over 400km south of the French capital, as the race looks to start building its own identity.
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- Tour de France Femmes 2023 route announced: Tourmalet and Pau time trial feature
The move south opened up a world of possibilities in terms of the route and the eight-day race, which starts on July 23, will feature some iconic locations in cycling history as it heads to the Pyrenees.
VeloNews has looked at the route and picked out three stages that you won’t want to miss.
Stage 4: Cahors to Rodez
To get to the halfway point of the 2023 Tour de France Femmes, the riders will have to tackle the longest stage of the race. At 177km, the ride between Cahors to Rodez is a couple of kilometers longer than this year’s epic from Bar-le-Duc to Saint-Dié-des-Vosges, which topped out at 175km. Unlike that long day out in the Vosges, which had very little to talk about other than its distance, there is plenty to look at in this ride to Rodez.
Rodez may be a familiar name to regular watchers of the men’s Tour de France in recent season. It has featured as a start town on three occasions, and it was used as a finish town during the 2015 race. On that day, a small peloton caught the remnants of a breakaway inside the final meters of the stage with Greg Van Avermaet beating Peter Sagan to the line.
The stage features five short and punchy classified climbs, plus a steep rise to the finish line in Rodez itself. Three of the five classified climbs come in the last 35km before the final, unclassified, rise just two kilometers out. While the opening part of the stage is likely to be relatively calm, this saw blade finale should see the race explode as the finish line nears. The likes of Marianne Vos should succeed in terms of stage glory, but it’s a day for GC riders to be wary as it is easy to get caught out in a final like this.
Stage 7: Lannemezan to Tourmalet
After two tough stages in the Vosges mountains to finish the debut race this season, race organizer ASO has really dialed back on the big mountains for 2023. It came after comments from some riders that the double-header of summit finishes at Le Markstein and Super Planche des Belles Filles was too challenging.
Stage 7 is the only major mountain stage in next year’s route but it will still hit hard with climbs over the Col d’Aspin and a finish on the Col du Tourmalet. Both climbs are intertwined with the Tour de France’s mythology and will hopefully be a big draw for fans to watch on the roadsides and on television. While the Tourmalet is closing in on its 100th appearance in the men’s race, a stage finish on the Pyrenean climb is quite rare. It has only hosted three stage finishes in its entire history. Thibaut Pinot took a memorable win on the climb ahead of compatriot Julian Alaphilippe.
At 90km, it will be a short stage but it’s just 20km shorter than the stage that Pinot won and it should give it a very explosive nature. With no other major mountain stages, riders will need to go all out to make time or avoid losing too much time. For some riders, this will be the last chance to stake their claim for the final podium.
Stage 8: Pau to Pau
One of the major issues that some riders had with the inaugural Tour de France Femmes route was the lack of time trial, so ASO has added one in. Defending champion Annemiek van Vleuten was one of the riders that called for a TT and she was particularly happy when it was unveiled.
The 22km time trial will be the final stage of the race and will decide who has the honor of being the champion at the second edition of the event. The route is fairly flat with a few small rises to contend with in the middle and at the end, though they’re not sufficient enough to force riders out of their TT bikes.
Van Vleuten will be hoping that she can take another yellow jersey win in this stage, but the flatter nature of the route definitely opens up the stage win to several riders, such as her compatriot Ellen van Dijk.
— Le Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift (@LeTourFemmes) October 27, 2022