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That’s according to Tour director Christian Prudhomme, speaking to reporters during an event to promote the Italian start of the 2024 Tour in Tuscany.
Speaking to BiciPro, Prudhomme said the Olympics are forcing changes in both the women’s and men’s editions.
“The [riders] go to the Olympics in the wake of the Tour de France, and so we have to change the date,” Prudhomme told BiciPro.
The official dates of the Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift are not yet finalized, but those comments are the first official confirmation from ASO that the dates for the 2024 edition will be adjusted to accommodate the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris.
The men’s Tour de France is also seeing significant changes due to the Olympic Games, with the Tour’s grand départ set for Italy and the final stages slated for France’s Côte d’Azur, a first in Tour history with the race starting in Italy and not ending in or close to Paris.
The men’s 2024 Tour will run from June 29 to July 19.
Since its successful debut in 2022, the Tour de France Femmes is contested in the week following the men’s edition, running from July 24-31 last summer.
In 2023, the dates are similar — July 23-30 — with a start in Clermont-Ferrand and a finish in Pau.
It remains undefined how the 2024 women’s schedule will shake out, and there is talk that the 2024 edition of the Tour de France Femmes might overlap with the men’s race, or that there even could be a larger shakeup of the overall calendar.
The dates of the Tour de France Femmes will have major significance for Olympics-bound athletes.
With the Tour de France Femmes quickly emerging as a season highlight, riders will want to have time to race at a high level, and then have time to recover and prepare for the equally important Olympic Games.
The Olympic Games traditionally kick off with the elite men’s and women’s road races in the opening weekend of the competition in what’s a marquee position for the sport of cycling, but that’s also changing in 2024.
The dates for the Olympic road racing competition are already confirmed, with time trials scheduled ahead of road racing.
The men’s and women’s individual time trials are set for July 27 for an urban course in central Paris. The elite men’s road race is August 3, and the women’s race the next day on August 4, with the finish line at Pont d’Iéna in a spectacular setting at the base of the Eifel Tower.
‘Mega worlds’ also triggering calendar changes
There is a similar wrinkle in the racing calendar this summer with the UCI road world championships slated for August as part of the UCI’s “mega worlds” project that includes medal events across 13 cycling disciplines from August 3 to 13.
With the worlds moved up from its traditional date in September to August, the UCI is tweaking the road racing calendar.
To give athletes more time to recover following the Tour de France Femmes, the elite women will race a week after the elite men in world championship competition. Traditionally, women and men have anchored the closing weekend of worlds competition.
For 2023, the elite men will race for the world title on August 6, while the elite women race August 13 in Glasgow.
That split weekend of road racing could have happened in the Olympics, but that is impractical due to the impact of road closures, security, and the overall enormity and complexity of the Olympic Games.
Prudhomme also said the success of the inaugural edition of the Tour de France Femmes is seeing a spike in interest from communities wanting to host stages.
“The candidacy of the cities was incredible. We saw it after the first edition, and it was a resounding success,” Prudhomme said. “We didn’t expect so many people at the roadside. We didn’t expect so many people in front of the television. But we must continue. We have to go further.
“When we relaunched the Tour de France Femme avec Zwift, we said to ourselves that we wanted to create a long-lasting event, which would still be alive in 50 years, like the Giro, like the Tour,” he said. “There were many duels between Jeannie Longo and Maria Canins in the 80s: they existed, they were real. Only unfortunately, for economic reasons, the races stopped and all subsequent events in France eventually all stopped for economic reasons.
“So we wanted a balanced event the first year. An event that had an impact for the future. But for it to be, the economic aspect is obviously fundamental.”
Prudhomme also spoke on some key points, including:
On why it took so long for the Tour to host its first “grand départ” in Italy:
“It would have been a huge inconsistency if the Tour had not started from Italy. In fact, I wonder why it hasn’t happened sooner. Ten years ago there was the occasion of Florence. We reluctantly rejected that candidacy, because the year before an Englishman, Bradley Wiggins, had won the Tour and so we set off from London. Italy is beauty. Cycling and the Tour unite. This thing had to happen and, for me, it is an honor. It is an honor to pass through the lands of Bartali, Pantani, and Coppi.”
On ASO’s move to build out its Tour de France-labeled cycling portfolio beyond competitive racing:
“We always have plans. Obviously, everything revolves around the Tour de France. I mentioned earlier the link between everyday cycling and the cycling of champions, the cycling of amateurs … every aspect is an important development element for us. You were talking about professional races, but today we have almost 30 certified cycling events. We have events in Australia, in Mexico, in Canada, in the United States, all over the world. The “Étape du Tour” alone sees 16,000 people at the start. We are developing this model alongside pro races in 25 other countries.
“We want to encourage people to practice cycling and we want to do it under the Tour de France label. Because this is where people get into cycling and it is promoted all over the world. Beyond the competition, the bicycle is something very, very important in our world today. The bicycle is the link between mobility, the everyday bike, and the bicycle of champions. We want to intensify this bond.”
Why the Tour de France remains so important to professional teams:
“The three weeks of the Tour de France account for around 57 percent of the global economic fallout of a year of cycling. So it’s obviously a capital for the teams. Thanks to this impact during the three weeks, the teams can get people talking, they can show off, and thus they can find sponsors for the following years, they can plan. It goes without saying that this is important for the teams, but it is also important for us.”