PARIS, France (VN) – I’m pretty sure I looked pretty silly, walking down the Rue Semaine at 7:30 a.m. with a bounce in my step and a tiny pink cycling cap on my head.
One women, staggering toward me in a way that implied she’d had more than a coffee to drink, saw the words on the brim of my hat — ‘Watch the Femmes’ — and demanded to know, Femmes, quelles femmes?
What women? Fair question. Although the Tour de France Femmes is huge in my world, the world of a woman in cycling media, this was Paris, at 7:30 in the morning on a Saturday. So, what women?
On Sunday, the Tour de France Femmez Avec Zwift kicks off in Paris to great intrigue. After over 30 years without an analog to the Tour de France, the ASO is putting on a women’s race. 144 women from 24 teams will start in the historic event, finishing eight days later on the legendary Super Planche des Belles Filles summit.
On Saturday in Paris, I went on a group ride to check out the energy surrounding the inaugural race.
In 2015, Christian Osburnand Paul Barron opened Le Peloton Cafe in Paris, just a few blocks up from the islands in the Seine. The cafe is a hub for cyclists in the city and hosts group rides and tours every weekend.
On the Saturday before the first stage of the inaugural Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift, the cafe hosted a special ride, and Zwift provided some goodies. We rode stage 21 of the 2018 Tour de France, which took us north of the city.
Expats, locals, and visitors all joined for the ride.
Kate Veronneau, the director of women’s strategy at Zwift, welcomed riders. Veronneau is a tireless champion of women’s cycling and the Tour de France Femmes in particular.
While most of the people at the group ride knew there was going to be a Tour de France Femmes, most were unclear of the details — how long it was, where it went, etc.
Interestingly, it was mainly the riders from other countries — Australia, the U.S. — who had been exposed to the most hype around the race.
Le Peloton Cafe co-founder Paul Barron is a kiwi who’s lived in Paris for 21 years. His opinion on the Tour de France Femmes’ staying power?
“We’ll have to see how it sinks in,” he said.
#watchthefemmes cycling caps were a hit on the ride.
Riding north through the city and down the Avenue des Champs-Élysées, Rebecca, a British expat in Paris for 12 years, explained that Parisians call the area around the Arc de Triomphe le étoile, or the star, for its appearance from above.
Saturday in Paris was an overcast respite from the recent heatwave.
Our route was mostly urban but we dipped into the fields for about 10 kilometers.
Stopping at une boulangerie: a personal request
Pain au chocolate?
Or a baguette?
Saturday’s ride was about 50 miles with 1,700 feet of climbing.
During Sunday’s ride — stage 1 of the Tour de France Femmes — the peloton will race on a circuit that begins at the Eiffel Tower and ends on the Champs-Élyseés for a total of 82km.
Vive les femmes!