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The dust is settling on the inaugural Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift with Annemiek van Vleuten riding away with an historic yellow jersey after demolishing her rivals.
There have been plenty of attempts to create a women’s Tour de France down the years, but there has not been one for over a decade and the last official version had been held in the 1980s.
The Tour de France name has big currency in the sporting world and many hoped that it would spill out into the new women’s race, but nobody really knew how it would be received. With huge crowds and spectacular racing, it has been a resounding success, but there’s always room for improvement.
VeloNews surveyed the Tour de France Femmes peloton to see what the riders thought of this year’s race and what they would like to see change for future editions.
Annemiek van Vleuten (Movistar)
“Having the Tour de France, you can feel more possibilities are happening, more money is coming into cycling, more live television, more commercial marketers are interested in us. That is how you develop to the point where more and more women have a minimum salary to go full time. To gain more contenders, more fights, and not only Dutchies on the podium
“Next year I would hope that we can finish on the Alpe d’Huez. Being Dutch, that would be super cool to have that back. Also, in the history of the Tour de France Femmes it was also a big battle on the Alpe d’Huez. So it would be really cool to have that back.
I would like to see them take out the gravel because that can cause some bad luck for the GC contenders. I don’t think that should be part of a stage race where it might be decided by some bad luck. I think in a big tour a time trial should be part of it, because our calendar is lacking in time trials and it is quite an important discipline. I think it’s important for it to be a part of a Tour like this.
I hope from this we can build more and more this event and to make it a bigger success.”
Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig (FDJ-Suez-Futurocope)
“I would like to see a time trial, I think a lot of people would like a time trial. I think just the amount of people and the huge circus of the Tour has been amazing. I didn’t expect all of this and I think for all of the women riders, it has been a bit of a shock and a bit of a ‘woah’ experience because it’s just very different from any race that we’ve ever done before. It has been a cool ride and we soak it in, and we come back fighting next year.”
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Kristen Faulkner (BikeExchange-Jayco)
“It’s amazing, the fans and the energy is so beautiful. Every time we cross the finish line there have been people clapping and cheering. There are families out here, it’s not just women and men, or children, it’s everyone. I think that depth and breadth of support is really incredible. I know a lot of people that have never watched women’s cycling before that have tuned in to watch the Tour de France. And now they’re hooked and they want to keep watching.
They’re up at 3am or they’re watching the whole stage and every stage. I think that’s amazing, just the impact of this race on women’s cycling and on women’s sports. I think it’s really incredible.
“I’m so excited for my parents to be here, and I think they’re so excited as well. My parents have never seen me race in Europe so or them to come here, it’s like ‘wow.’ Not every race is like this but hopefully it will be going forward. It’s really meaningful to me to share this part of my life with them and for them to see it up close.
“My favorite thing has been the fans, seeing so many people coming out to watch. I think they did a really good job publicizing the race. Not just online but to the towns that we were going through, with so many crowds coming out to cheer us on.
For next year, I would like to see a time trial. The men’s Tour de France has a time trial and I think it would make the race a lot more dynamic and I think it would help create a more well-rounded winner. I really hope next year they include a time trial.”
Julie de Wilde (Plantur-Pura)
“I think it’s just really nice from all the sponsors that they are showing themselves a bit more on television. Also, having the most competitive rider, that’s something that we don’t really get at other races. I also think that makes the race a bit [better], because girls want to show themselves also for that prize.
“The prize money is for sure still not the same as the men’s. That’s a thing that they really can improve.”
Joss Lowden (Uno-X)
“It’s been really exciting and the crowds have just been incredible. [On stage 6] it was just really amazing. The atmosphere is really good. On some of the early stages I found really difficult but you still have to pinch yourself a little bit. It’s quite surreal.
“It does feel different because everybody wants to be in the action at the Tour de France and every team wants to be represented in every break and everybody wants to be there at the finish. There is a heightened nervousness in the bunch, just because the pressure is on and everybody wants to do their best. There’s definitely a heightened energy.
“It has been really good. It just feels like our racing is taken seriously. My favorite thing has been the variety of the stages but in that same respect what I would like to see differently is a time trial, of course.”
Grace Brown (FDJ-Suez-Futuroscope)
“I think that’s really cool. Just knowing that we’re promoting women’s cycling with this race. So many people are tuning in that haven’t watched women’s cycling and that’s really special. It’s not often that the women’s races are on free-to-air television in Australia. In Australia, the races are in the middle of the night and only really keen people stay up and watch. Then they have the replay in the morning and people can watch it during their breakfast, which is not something we usually have for women’s racing.
“There’s been a really big build-up to this race and so much attention and lots of fans. And then we come here and race our hardest, it’s been harder than I expected. I think the history of being at the … it’s not the first Tour de France but the first on this stage, it’s pretty special. We got a medallion this morning and I think that will be something I will show my grandchildren.
“I think we can do a longer Tour in the future. With only eight stages, it’s not at all the same as the men’s and you can’t have those breakaway riders that just make it to the end. I that’s something special when you have 21 stages. There are some that can be a surprise. Here, every stage is like an all-out battle.
I think we can do a longer Tour. Maybe we don’t do 21 stages straight up, but we can step up in increments. I think maybe we could do 15 or 10. Somewhere in between.”