After a 33-year absence, the Women’s Tour de France – officially Le Tour de France Femmes – finally returns on Sunday 24 July 2022.
The greatest female road cyclists in the world will be battling for the iconic yellow jersey through eight stages across France in what looks set to rival the Giro d’Italia Donne as the most prestigious event in the women’s road racing calendar.
But why has it taken until 2022 for the Tour de France to include women cyclists? And how is the women’s Tour de France different from the men’s?
Read on to find out!
In this article we’ll be covering:
- History Of The Women’s Tour De France
- Tour de France Femmes: The Route
- How Is The Women’s Tour de France Different From The Men’s?
- What Are The Rules Of The Women’s Tour De France?
Ready to get into the Tour de France Femmes?
Let’s dive in!
History of the Women’s Tour de France
The Tour de France is a cultural landmark in cycling, as well as the larger international sporting community.
For years, though, many have wondered why such a significant event has not been held for women as well as men.
Well, there have been a number of historical instances of attempts to establish a women’s Tour de France, but none are considered truly successful alternatives to the iconic tour.
The men’s Tour de France as it exists today is the third largest sporting event in the world, with 4,500 volunteers and 30,000 policemen and firemen required to keep the show on the road.
And the history of trying to build a version of this gigantic event for women is one of repeated disappointments.
Historically, the following races have been held as alternatives to the Tour de France:
- The Leulliot Race, 1955
- The Société du Tour de France races, 1984–1989
- Tour de la C.E.E. Féminin, 1990–1992
- The Pierre Boué races, 1992–2009
These events were each undercut by financial issues, limited media coverage, and a lack of support from the Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO) which organizes the Tour de France.
After campaigning from female cyclists and fans, the ASO launched La Course by Le Tour de France in 2014: a one-day race for women that was held in parallel with the Tour de France. La Course has run every year since 2016.
However, women’s cycling campaigners criticize the event for being:
- Overshadowed by the men’s tour which happens at the same time.
- Underfunded by the AOC, and not given sufficient media coverage.
- Not actually being a Grand Tour – La Course was a one-day event rather than a multi-stage race.
Unhappy with the AOC’s establishment of La Course, women’s cycling activists continued to campaign for a more extensive women’s alternative to the Tour de France.
In 2019, a team of determined female cyclists made a documentary in which they rode the route of the Tour de France a day ahead of the official tour – showing that a women’s Tour is both viable and necessary.
The ASO announced the Tour de France Femmes in 2021, stating that the 2022 Tour would be the first edition of the official Women’s Tour de France.
Historical issues with funding were overcome by sponsorship from the virtual cycling platform Zwift. Tour Director Christian Prudhomme stated the aim is to create a financially stable Tour that will “still exist in 100 years”.
Tour de France Femmes: The Route
The Women’s Tour de France begins on the Champs-Élysées in Paris – the finish line of the Men’s Tour – on the same day that the Men’s Tour concludes.
The Women’s Tour de France is 8 stages and 1,029km long:
- Day 1: Tour Eiffel – Champs Élysées, (82km)
- Day 2: Meaux – Provins, (135km)
- Day 3: Tuesday 26th July, Reims – Epernay, (133km)
- Day 4: Troyes – Bar-sur-Aube, (126km)
- Day 5: Bar-le-Duc – Saint-dié-des-Vosges, (175km)
- Day 6: Saint-dié-des-Vosges – Rosheim, (128km)
- Day 7: Sélestat – Le Markstein, 127km
- Day 8: Lure – La Super Planche des Belles Filles, 123km
Stage 5 is 175km long, exceeding the 160km limit for a single day set on the UCI International Women’s Tour. Stage 4 also features unique unpaved gravel sections, as well as sharp intermittent climbs.
A primary concern for the Women’s Tour de France was creating an authentic alternative to the Men’s Tour, rather than yet another event which falls too short to be legitimate.
So what has the ASO created with the 2022 Le Tour de France Femmes? And what are the differences between the Men’s Tour and the Women’s?
How Is The Women’s Tour de France Different From The Men’s?
First of all, there are completely different routes for the Women’s Tour de France and the Men’s Tour de France.
As detailed above, the 2022 Women’s Tour has 8 stages and is 1,029km long. The Men’s Tour has 21 stages and is generally around 3500km long: in 2022 it began in Denmark, before crossing into Belgium, Switzerland, and – of course – France.
Rather than the two events running simultaneously, the women’s event starts on the same day the Men’s Tour finishes – Sunday 24 July 2022.
Unlike the men’s tour, the Tour de France Femmes has no rest days and will consist of eight stages on consecutive days.
The Women’s Tour takes place from Sunday 24th July 2022 to Sunday 31st July 2022, and will crossover with the men’s in Paris on the 24th of July.
Another major difference is that – unlike the Men’s – the Women’s Tour de France does not feature a time trial.
The prize for winning the women’s Tour de France is €50,000, with a further €200,000 in total on offer for individual stage wins. This is significantly less than the prizes on offer for the Men’s Tour, which are €500,000 and €2m respectively.
More than any other difference between the two tours, however, TV Coverage is the difference talked about the most by active supporters of the Women’s Tour de France, such as former pro cyclist Kathryn Bertine.
The ASO has committed to live coverage of the Women’s Tour de France, broadcast to 170 countries. The Tour is expected to get around two hours of coverage per day, whereas the Men’s Tour generally gets around six hours.
Campaigners on behalf of the Women’s Tour de France have noted that equal coverage for both Tours would lead to greater visibility for women’s cycling and more lucrative sponsorship for the Tour – both of which would help grow the Tour de France Femmes in the coming years.
What Are The Rules of the Women’s Tour de France?
The jersey system used in the Men’s Tour de France is the same, with riders competing for the Yellow, Green, Polka Dot, and White Jerseys.
In each stage, riders who cross the line within one second of each other are awarded the same time for that stage, meaning riders in a continuous peloton all receive the same time for the General Classification.
A one-second gap between riders is considered a break in the peloton, meaning times will be different for the riders on either side of the break. On sprint stages, a three-second gap is considered a break.
A puncture, crash, or other disruption within the final 3k of a stage will mean the rider is awarded the same time as those they rode with at the moment of the disruption.
The riders who finish first, second, or third of any stage will have 10, 6, and 4 seconds respectively subtracted from their General Classification total time as a bonus.
Riders can also pick up sprint points by completing intermittent sprint sections ahead of their rivals, as well as King of the Mountains points on categorized climbs. These point totals determine who wins the Green and Polka Dot jerseys.
There are also further cash prizes on offer for the riders who finish with the Tour’s other jerseys.
The final White Jersey is awarded to the rider with the fastest General Classification time under 26 years old.
Are you excited to watch the best female road cyclists in the world battle it out on the Tour de France Femmes?
So are we!