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2022 Tour de France Femmes in review: What we loved about it and what could have been better

Five reflections from the first Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift, and looking ahead to its future

Robyn Davidson
2 Aug 2022

Annemiek van Vleuten proudly wearing the yellow jersey after scaling the gravel beast of La Super Planche des Belles Filles was the exhlilarating result of eight days of hard, emotional and transfixing racing at the historic Tour de France Femmes.

The race produced many defining moments, from Lorena Wiebes’ Champs-Élysées victory to Marianne Vos resplendent in yellow; from photos of young girls at the roadside wearing polka dot shirts far too big for them and smiling with joy to teammates holding hands as they crossed the final finish line on Stage 8.

The Tour de France Femmes was a thrill to watch and marked an important point in time for women’s cycling.

Yes, there has been a women’s Tour de France before but the ‘Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift’ is the inaugural edition of its kind, under a new name and under the auspices of the Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO), which organises the men’s Tour.

As we patiently start the long wait for the second edition next year, here are five reflections from the first Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift.



1. Annemiek van Vleuten does an Annemiek van Vleuten

Russ Ellis (Cycling Images)

After such hard preparation beforehand, the Dutchwoman was hit with an untimely stomach bug that prevented her eating and drinking, hampering her performance in the early stages and causing her to lose time on the general classification.

But of course, this is Annemiek van Vleuten. She does not suffer with illness. Illness suffers with her.

As the day began in Sélestat on Stage 7, she sat 1’28” down on the yellow jersey of Marianne Vos. Three Category 1 climbs and one dominant stage victory later, the 39-year-old had grabbed the maillot jaune with both hands and had an advantage of over three minutes on second place Vollering.

The job wasn’t finished, though. One more day remained – a test culminating in two Category 1 climbs, the second of them a fitting finale for the entire Tour on La Super Planche des Belles Filles.

Van Vleuten had to deal with multiple bike changes, but managed to fly past her rivals at the bottom of the 8.7km Ballon d’Alsace and slotted herself back into the group of contenders with ease. It was the stuff dreams are made of… or nightmares if you’re a fellow rider.

Breaking away and breaking rivals’ morale is her speciality, and this time she did so 6km from the line, celebrating a second straight stage win with a first pump at the end, depleted.

She just couldn’t retire at the end of the 2023 season without winning the Tour de France Femmes at least once. And who would bet against twice?

2. Fans celebrated while women inspired the future generation

Russ Ellis (Cycling Images)

On the Champs-Élysées, which saw the first stage of the women’s Tour and the final stage of the men’s edition, Danish flags stood tall on nearby buildings and crowded the course. 

On Stage 2 from Meaux, Cyclist stopped to speak to a family from Denmark. After hearing about the Tour de France Femmes four days prior, the Christensens had made some last-minute travel plans and were now waiting for the peloton to pass by.

They had brought a piece of their country with them, wearing Danish flags and bringing their dog, Simba, to watch the action. When Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig waved towards them, they told us it felt ‘amazing, it means so much to us. I can’t wait to say in 20 years that I was there.’

Even on La Super Planche des Belles Filles, children watched at the roadside as Van Vleuten pushed and threw herself forward to scale the last unrelenting climb of the Tour.

If you can see it, you can achieve it. That’s the importance of representation.

3. FDJ’s fighting spirit was incredible

Russ Ellis (Cycling Images)

FDJ-Suez-Futurscope suffered a horrendous crash on the second day of the Tour de France Femmes. Marta Cavalli had to be taken to hospital for further checks after crashing and then being hit by another rider. Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig in her new Danish national champion kit also suffered a crash.

But boy, did they bounce back.

Launching her attack with 300m remaining on Stage 3 into Épernay, the fan favourite Uttrup Ludwig celebrated by jumping into the arms of her waiting team staff, surrounded by TV equipment and phone cameras.

To make it even better, her FDJ squad came to celebrate as she stood on the podium, cheering on their stage winner in a heart-warming display of what it means to be a team.

4. The lack of full stage coverage was disappointing

Russ Ellis (Cycling Images)

We didn’t see the race-winning move. When Van Vleuten and Demi Vollering (SD Worx) attacked on the first climb of Stage 7 – the Petit Ballon – we had to make do with social media updates to follow the action.

By the time live images finally graced our screens, 60km of the 127.1km stage had already been raced – nearly half the stage – and Van Vleuten and Vollering were already 1’41” ahead of Elisa Longo Borghini (Trek-Segafredo) and 7’45” up on the peloton.

Services such as Eurosport, GCN+ or NBC Sports can only show the images they’re provided by the host broadcaster, which is frustrating when you compare that to the flag-drop-to-finish coverage the men’s Tour de France has.

We know the demand is there. France TV reported on Twitter that at its peak, 2.8 million people tuned in to watch Uttrup Ludwig’s Stage 3 victory.

However, one brilliant aspect of coverage was the introduction of ‘live’ (-ish) race radio. We could hear inside team cars and be a fly on the wall as directeurs sportif gave instructions and information to their riders on the road.

This unique feature was a welcome addition.

5. We need to keep the momentum going

Russ Ellis (Cycling Images)

So what’s next? Well, we’ve been here before.

Men’s race director Jean-Marie LeBlanc withdrew support for the Tour de France Féminin in 1989, citing costs combined with limited media coverage.

The Grand Boucle Féminine Internationale ran from 1998 to 2009. Its existence was stopped because of – wait for it – costs, the result of a lack of media coverage and sponsorship. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

The less said about La Course the better.

But now the Tour de France Femmes has Zwift as its title sponsor, ensuring some form of current stability for ‘at least the first four years’ of the race.

Given the previous point about limited TV coverage, it can feel paradoxical to suggest that watching more women’s cycling can keep the momentum going. We’re already watching as much as we can, right? But more attention proves the audience is there.

With sponsors Le Col and Wahoo, British team Le Col-Wahoo purchased 10,000 GCN+ passes to gift fans in the UK.

On their website, they wrote, ‘We want to help inspire tomorrow’s champions and show more people just how thrilling women’s road racing is. We want the long-term advocates and supporters of women’s racing to see their dream of a women’s Tour de France realised.’

We need to keep shouting and keep making noise because women’s cycling is, frankly, bloody brilliant and it’s here to stay. There is no going back. This time, it feels like something has shifted.

Perhaps it’s the assurances of financial backing or the way social media allows people to address organisations like ASO directly when they feel like the women’s peloton isn’t getting a fair deal.

But please do continue watching and supporting the women.

We can’t wait for the next edition of the Tour de France Femmes.


For all our coverage, head to our Tour de France hub