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While it wasn’t the Alpe d’Huez ascent that she said she wanted in her post-victory press conference after this year’s inaugural edition, the Dutch rider was delighted with the inclusion of the iconic Tourmalet climb. Stage 7 will finish atop the Pyrenean ascent, taking the peloton over 2,000 meters for the first time.
Van Vleuten also got another wish granted with the race set to finish in a time trial. This year’s debut route had no TT, but 2023 will see the riders tackle a 22km course into Pau.
“I’m happy to see some famous climbs in the route for next year with the Tourmalet finish. It makes me already excited. It was important that we have an uphill finish with a climb that has a big name,” Van Vleuten said. “It also makes me happy to see a time trial at this Tour de France. Last year, we had an awesome start and this year they have fine-tuned the parcours and I think they did a good job.”
After this year’s race started with a fairly straightforward sprint stage on the Champs-Elysées, the 2023 Tour opener will be a little trickier with a punchy climb on stage 1, followed by a hilly stage 2.
Though the Tourmalet summit finish, which comes after just 90km of racing and a trip over the Col d’Aspin, is the only high mountain stage, there are plenty of hilly days where GC riders can get tripped up and caught. Van Vleuten is glad to see there is no gravel this time after the 2022 gravel stage was almost her undoing.
“For sure, there are opportunities with the uphill finish, but there are also some really tricky stages. I’m happy that there is no gravel. I think it’s a good balanced program. For myself, the most important will be the uphill finish but it’s also really important in the six days before to have the focus,” she said.
Van Vleuten will go into next year’s race as the defending champion, after taking a dominant win over Demi Vollering with victories on both high mountain stages. The Movistar rider had won the precursor to the women’s Tour de France, La Course, on two occasions but they did not match up to winning the eight-day stage race.
With all of the attention that was brought by the Tour de France name, the multi-day format, and two hours of daily coverage, the race was met with bigger support than many imagined. Though Van Vleuten has won more than most in her career, taking the 2022 victory was a huge moment for her.
“I think to win the first edition of the Tour de France this year was the most special thing that I have achieved in my career, especially because of the impact that it had,” Van Vleuten said.
“To win a stage race and to win the first Tour de France, I felt that cycling fans and also non-cycling fans would have watched it at home and so many spectators. I was not used to that and, when I went home, I was aware that some people that don’t like cycling were watching it and it made me super proud. It’s the biggest thing I achieved in my career.”