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Tour de France organizer ASO confirmed dates for an eight-day women’s race after the men’s event. The new race comes more than 30 years after the last ASO-backed women’s Tour folded in the late 1980s.
One of the most universally known bike races on the planet, the Tour de France is the touchstone of the sport for most non-cycling fans. Canyon-SRAM rider Niewiadoma believes the decision to hold a women’s stage race will have far-reaching, positive consequences for women’s racing.
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“I think it will be great,” Niewiadoma told VeloNews. “It would give us huge exposure and it would be like another step in women’s cycling. The Tour de France for most male riders is the most important race of the year. This race is so huge, and it will just help us and future women’s generations.
“I think that women’s cycling will be perceived a little bit differently,” she said. “Even when you talk to people who are not related to cycling, they don’t know much about cycling but they know the Tour de France. It’s a very iconic race. Even I get people who ask me ‘have you done the Tour de France?’ and they don’t know that there is no Tour de France for women.
“Even when we have La Course, you know that it is only one day, but you could feel the Tour de France atmosphere, which was crazy. Even though we started four or five hours before the men. There weren’t as many people on the side of the road, but it was still amazing and so special.”
The number of new races being added to the women’s calendar is quickly growing, as is the number of top-level race days. As well as the new Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift, there is the new six-day Battle of the North in 2022.
Just about every one of the men’s classics now has a female equivalent, and the debut women’s Paris-Roubaix is scheduled for later this year – COVID-19 protocols permitting. Meanwhile, there has been an influx of Spanish stage races with the Vuelta a Burgos and Itzulia Basque country adding a women’s race.
Niewiadoma is all for the new races, and she has a request for the powers that be to add another.
“I feel like Lombardia would be an amazing additional race to our calendar,” Niewiadoma said. “I really like the final and it looks crazy-hard.
“Once, I was watching a Polish rider Rafał Majka doing really well during that race and, for some reason, I had it in my head that I would like to repeat what he’s doing right now. I would like to find myself in that situation. All those small and steep roads caught my attention. It is my style of racing, not doing massive climbs of 40 minutes to one hour, but more the short, intensive, and very explosive ones.”
Niewiadoma is taking a break from racing, spending recent weeks training at altitude. Like Annemiek van Vleuten, the Polish rider has decided to skip the Giro d’Italia Donne in July as she makes her final preparation for the Olympic Games in Tokyo, where she will lead Poland’s hopes for a medal.
While some riders are using it to build their form for the Tokyo road race and time trial, Niewiadoma feels that the stresses and strains of the nine-day race will take too much out of her. With just two weeks between the end of the Giro d’Italia and the Olympics road race, it’s just not worth the risk.
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“I feel like this race is very demanding and I’ve always considered myself a classics rider and not really a stage race rider,” Niewiadoma said. “It normally takes two or three weeks to recover from it before I feel like my body is able to suffer again or that it doesn’t feel empty or over-trained.
“I know that each season, after doing the Giro I feel like I would lose my explosivity, I would just lose myself in some ways. I would have to take a long rest and given the fact that the Olympic Games happen just two weeks after the Giro I feel like that is too risky for me to do the Giro knowing that it’s going to take me a while to recover from it.”
Taking care of one’s own recovery process has always been an important part of racing effectively but it is even more so now with a women’s peloton brimming with top talent.
Despite still being only 26 years old, Niewiadoma is a stalwart of the sport after turning professional back in 2014 and she has noticed the competition getting tougher as each season comes.
“Racing is harder this year than it was in the past, and I feel like the women’s level has increased in the last couple of years, drastically actually,” Niewiadoma told VeloNews. “I feel that with every passing year everyone trains harder, they pay more attention to the details, everyone is a cyclist and it’s not like you do cycling, and you have another job on the side.
“I have a power meter, so I see how hard it gets and how much faster the racing has become,” she said. “When I compare this year and the beginning of the Ardennes Classics in 2017, I remember attacking on the Cauberg and there would be three or four riders and now Annemiek attacks on the Cauberg, and there are still 20 people in here wheel. That shows you how strong girls have become.”