Tour de France Femmes shakes up script with expanded wildcard selection, bonus-point shift

Zaaf overlooked as Coop-Hitec, AG Insurance and three French squads see wildcards: 'We couldn't condone having a team that didn't pay'

Photo: Getty Images

Organizers of the Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift confirmed five wildcards Friday for the race’s second edition.

AG Insurance-Soudal Quick-Step, Coop Hitec and French trio Arkéa, St Michel Mavic Auber 93, and Cofidis got the lucky draw for ASO’s headline women’s event this summer.

As the top-rated Conti-level teams, Ceratizit-WNT and Lifeplus Wahoo received automatic invites for the prestigious eight-stage race.

The 2023 edition Tour Femmes will see the race take a different tone as 22 teams of seven riders compete for the yellow jersey.

The 154-strong peloton set for this summer will be 10 riders deeper than last year, when 24 teams (including three wildcards) sent six racers each.

The ASO hopes the redesigned team setup will even the spread away from the dominant top-level squads like Movistar, SD Worx and Trek-Segafredo.

“Adjustments were necessary. During the first edition, we wanted to offer the most visibility to teams who needed it, in order to help them reach a milestone,” race director Marion Rousse told l’Equipe. “But for some riders, it was not a gift for them.”

One of the five UCI Continental teams that missed the cut Friday was Team Zaaf.

The Spanish squad is mired in controversy over allegations it isn’t paying its staff, a financial failure that saw Audrey Cordon Ragot make a mid-season switch to Human Powered Health just days ahead of Paris-Roubaix.

“We couldn’t condone having a team at the start that didn’t pay its girls,” Rousse said. “It seemed obvious to us not to select them.”

Rumbling out of  Clermont-Ferrand on July 23, the Tour de France Femmes will see an expansion of its terrain and points system as well as of its peloton.

Points for bonus sprints have been doubled, and the race will see the introduction of a final-day individual time trial around Pau. The ITT caps a big-bang final weekend after a headline summit finish atop the Tourmalet for stage 7 the day prior.

“We can expect surprises, reversals of situation,” said route director Franck Perque. “The girls did us proud last year. Annemiek van Vleuten will want to do everything to put her name on the list one last time before retiring. We can’t wait to see what it’s going to bring.”

Demi Vollering, Elisa Longo Borghini, Katarzyna Niewiadoma and AG Insurace’s Ashleigh Moolman Pasio will be among many looking to spoil Van Vleuten’s retirement ride this summer.

An American in France

What’s it like to be an American cyclist living in France? Watch to get professional road cyclist Joe Dombrowski’s view.