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The route for the 2023 Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift has been revealed. After following a similar formula to the men’s race with a start in Paris in its first edition, the race will steer clear of the capital and instead take place primarily in the south of the country, including the Pyrenees.
Starting on the 23rd July in Clermont-Ferrand, in the country’s central region, the route heads south towards the mountains, with stage seven finishing atop the Tourmalet and including the Col d’Aspin along the way. Before the race culminates with a 22km individual time trial in Pau.
Although the race will have fewer total kilometres than in 2022, 956 in total, owing to the time trial, there are still long days in the saddle for the peloton including stage four’s 177km route from Cahors to Rodez.
The first GC day comes early in the race, on stage two from Clermont-Ferrand to Mauriac with riders gaining 2,500m in 148km thanks to six categorised climbs. There are plenty of opportunities for the sprinters with stages three and six looking likely to culminate in a bunch kick as well as a possible sprint finish on stage five.
The inclusion of an individual time trial answers the prayers of the likes of world time trial champion Ellen van Dijk, among others, who have been calling for more races against the clock to be added to the women’s WorldTour calendar.
The 2023 Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift route:
Stage 1 – Sunday 23rd July: Clermont-Ferrand – Clermont-Ferrand, 124km
The race gets underway with a route that both starts and finishes in Clermont-Ferrnand. It’s a day that looks likely to suit puncheurs like Marianne Vos but if a faster-finishing rider can make it over the short, sharp climbs we could see another sprinter pull on the first yellow jersey of the Tour de France Femmes after Lorena Wiebes’ Champs Elysees win this year.
Stage 2 – Monday 24th July: Clermont-Ferrand – Mauriac, 148km
Whereas the 2022 route was backloaded with GC stages, this year the organisers have thrown the cat amongst the pigeons early on. Mountains they are not, but the climbs laid out between Clermont-Ferrand and Mauriac are still numerous enough to cause potential time gaps if any GC hopefuls get into trouble. With a finish on the Côte de Trébiac any puncheurs who didn’t get their day on stage one will be looking to take the honours.
Stage 3 – Tuesday 25th July: Collonges-La-Rouge – Montignac-Lascaux, 147km
Another relatively-long, rolling stage comes next and the first proper sprinter’s route of the race. The longest climb totals 4.8km at just 4% and comes very early on in the 147km stage, meaning it shouldn’t trouble an on-form Lorena Wiebes or any of her closest rivals. Unless a breakaway can out-smart the peloton, this stage is a nailed-on bunch sprint finish.
Stage 4 – Wednesday 26th July: Cahors – Rodez, 177km
A sprinter may have been steeped in glory the previous day, but they will likely wave goodbye to the front of the race towards the back end of this stage. If stage two is a potential GC test, then stage four is the real warm-up before the big mountains in a few days. The Côte de Moyrazès (4,6 km – 5,5%), Côte de Lavernhe (2,2 km – 7,1%), and Côte Saint-Pierre (570 m – 10,1%) come in quick succession and, as the race’s official social media states: “exceptionally good shape will be required!” – can’t argue with that.
Stage 5 – Thursday 27th July: Onet-Le-Château – Albi, 126km
Stage five could well bring some real fireworks. The kind of vintage, short-but-sweet course that women’s racing thrives on. A succession of short, punchy climbs over just 126km that is just calling out for riders to launch attacks.
Stage 6 – Friday 28th July: Albi – Blagnac, 122km
It’s much of the same on stage six, but with fewer climbs for the sprinters to contend with. This is just as well because they will be wheelie-ing off into the sunset on stage seven. Bunch kick, Lorena Wiebes.
Stage 7 – Saturday 29th July: Lannemezan – Tourmalet, 90km
The Annemiek van Vleuten stage.
Stage 8 – Sunday 30th July: (ITT) Pau – Pau, 22km
The prayers of Ellen van Dijk et al. have been answered. Or rather the actual campaigning she and other time trial specialists took on this year when they signed an open letter calling for more individual time trials in the women’s WorldTour. Whether or not this is a direct response to those calls is unclear, but a 22km, lumpy time trial is, in fact, right up the street of Annemiek ‘just-give-her-the-jersey-already’ van Vleuten. However, as we’ve seen in the men’s race, if the time gaps are still in the balance, a final-stage time trial could bring on a landslide GC turnover.