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But the British star on Trek-Segafredo said there’s no reason to settle for the eight-stage course set for the inaugural edition slated to run July 24-31.
The world champion and Paris-Roubaix Femmes winner believes the women’s Tour should eventually evolve to a three-week version equal to what men race each July.
“I do think eventually, yes, that should be the goal,” Deignan said. “There should be a three-week Tour de France for women. Absolutely, there is no reason why not.”
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While many have praised ASO’s full embrace of a women’s Tour, with strong backing from title sponsor Zwift, some voices raised criticism that the race should have been a full three-week grand tour equal to what the men’s peloton races in the Tour, Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a España.
Right now, the Giro d’Italia Donne with 10 stages is the longest road race on the women’s WorldTour calendar.
Deignan took a pragmatic view on the question, and insisted that seeing the Tour de France Femmes on the calendar is nothing but upside for the women’s peloton.
“Starting somewhere is a good point. It’s not that the athletes are not capable of it,” Deignan said of racing a full three weeks. “It’s just everything else that goes on around it. It’s not that easy to create the biggest race in the world. Hopefully, that will come.”
The # avec @!
— Le Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift (@LeTourFemmes) October 14, 2021
Lizzie Deignan: ‘Any change that happens needs to be sustainable’
Deignan also pointed out how busy the women’s racing calendar has grown over the past half decade, and said teams and riders need a bit of time to catch up to the demands of the busier calendar.
She said a decade ago, she and the other top riders were simply expected and able to start and race nearly the entire calendar with the expectation of victory.
Now, with more races and an even deeper peloton, she expects teams and riders to start to specialize more along the lines how men’s team have squads focusing on the classics or grand tours.
“That’s why it’s important that we do have stepping stones, and we don’t just go — boom — straight into a three-week Tour de France,” she said during a media call. “Any change that happens needs to be sustainable, and I think in recent years there has been a good progression in women’s cycling. Sometimes you need to push the boundaries so the teams catch up, so it is a difficult balancing act.
“In the future, the thing that needs to be looked at is developing the jump from junior to elite, so that we do have that beginner pool of athletes to sustain a full calendar,” Deignan said. “Things like the U23 world championships are going to help that, but there still needs to be more races for the under 23 women coming through.”
Women’s Tour de France will take my sport to another level https://t.co/MgksT02bDd
— Lizzie Deignan (@lizziedeignan) June 25, 2021
Deignan was full of praise for how the racecourse looks for the inaugural Tour de France Femmes.
The eight-day edition, set to run a week following the conclusion of the men’s race, starts in Paris and ends with a crescendo in the Vosges Mountains of eastern France.
“I really like the stages, the dynamic aspect of it,” she said. “I think there is something for everybody. I think that it will be a really great watch after something like the men’s Tour. In the women’s race, it will be quite dynamic in comparison to that and quite interesting.”
Will she be racing to win?
She smiled, saying it’s too early to say what the team’s tactics will be. What’s certain is she wants to be there.