Beginners' Guide to the Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift
On Sunday afternoon, at around 13:30 CET, the Women's Tour de France, officially the Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift, will set off in Paris.
The best 160 or so riders in the world will line up on the Champs-Élysées for the first of 8 stages.
The cycling world, and most importantly the TV cameras, will all watching; this is a massive moment for the continual growth of women's cycling.
Before we go any further, however, a quick lesson in French pronunciation.
Femmes is not pronounced how it is written. To sound like a true cycling fan, you need to get it right, so have a practice before the race starts.
Please enjoy our guide to the Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift, and make sure you tune into the race (see below) and support women's cycling.
The History of the Women's Tour de France
It feels like forever to get to this moment, and you'd be forgiven for thinking that this is the first ever women's TdF race. However there have been past versions of the race, most notably in the 1980s.
You can read the complete history of the Women's Tour de France here, which will definitely help you to understand how we got to this point.
Previous versions of the race were beset with problems, from chronic underfunding to rubbish or no TV coverage and non-existent prize money.
Basically the women's race has been an afterthought for the last 20 or so years, an add on to keep the small (but growing) number of voices demanding parity.
It took a petition from shining stars of the women's pro peloton, including Marianne Vos and Emma Pooley, for the race organiser to put on a women's race from 2014 to 2020.
And whilst La Course has been a great race, it doesn't even come close to a proper women's stage race that matches the level of competition and the passion of the fans.
Why is the Tour de France Femmes different
In short, the difference is money.
Women's cycling has grown and grown over the last few years, meaning that those voices calling for a proper women's tour have grown to a volume that can no longer be ignored.
The growth in women's cycling means that major sponsors have come on board to properly fund the race.
Sponsors and a healthy demand of fans to watch the race also ensures that TV coverage is guaranteed.
Those within women's pro cycling know that TV coverage is the key to growth and a sustainable race.
Proper TV coverage and willing sponsors are tied together, and these two things are the only way the race can grow and develop.
So how can you help?
Why you need to watch the Tour de France Femmes
Not to go over the same thing over and over again, but whilst women's cycling has been growing rapidly over the years and the TdFF is a massive step, things are far from guaranteed.
In order to guarantee the future of the race and cement the buy in from sponsors and broadcasters, we all need to watch the race live on TV.
Viewer numbers in women's racing are incredibly high, but we need to make sure this point is really driven home by showing maximum interaction with the race.
That means definitely watching all the stages where possible (see below for how), and interacting with the race on your favourite social media platforms.
Tweet about the race, post updates on your story and tag the organisers, sponsors and broadcasters.
A cacophony of notifications is what's needed to ensure that this race is here to stay!
We also highly recommend that you take 30 mins to watch the Eurosport doc below, headed up by all round inspiration Orla Chennaoui.
Covering and dispelling many of the outdated and stupid tropes surrounding women's cycling and sport, it is essential viewing before the race starts.
How to watch the Tour de France Femmes:
There are plenty of ways to watch the race live on TV, the best of those being a GCN+ Subscription.
It's 40 quid for a full year and you get full access to all of the stages, pre and post race, loads of articles and other videos etc.
It's amazing value for money as you'll also get access to racing for the rest of the year, and next spring's Classics season too.
Find out more about a GCN+ subscription here.
Tour de France Femmes Route
Ok, you get the point - it's really important that everyone watches the race. Now let's have a look at the actual route.
Stage 1 is a circuit race in Paris, before the finale of the men's race. This is a great move from the organisers, as there will be loads of fans in the city to see both races, and the atmosphere will be electric.
There is no more iconic a cycling scene than the Champs-Élysées, so it is the perfect place to kick off the first Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift.
And the racing will be explosive too.
It's essentially a crit race, with a big sprint finish. Expect in form DSM sprinter Lorena Wiebes to take the win on the famed cobbled boulevard.
Having said that, with the first TdFF yellow jersey on the line, you wouldn't put it past GOAT Marriane Vos to pull another famous win out of the bag.
She will want a stage or two very badly before hanging up her helmet.
Stages 2 to 6 are a mix of flat and rolling terrain around the east of France, so expect the sprinters and the odd break away to hoover up all of the wins.
It will be interesting to watch how the GC contenders manage these stages - either trying to hide and just stay in touch, waiting for the big two finale stages.
Or put in some big attacks on the rolling days and try to create some time gaps. Tactics will be fascinating on these mid-week stages.
Keep an eye out for stage 4 on Wednesday however, as the riders take on the 'Chemin Blancs' or white gravel roads.
Expect fireworks here, and some favourites to come unstuck.
But ultimately, the race will be decided in the mountains.
The final two days (Sat 30th and Sun 31s July) are going to be massive and will almost certainly decide who wins the first Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift.
Centred in the tough Vosges region of eastern France the finale of the race is an ascent of the infamous La Super Planche des Belles Filles.
Depending on how the race pans out in the week, we could find ourselves in a situation where the main favourites are separated by very small time gaps.
Which means loads of attacks on the slopes of the final climbs, with the outcome possibly being decided on the very last climb.
This will be a must watch final weekend, so get yourself in front of a TV!
La Planche des Belles Filles - Pic credit: Patrick Strahm (usage details).
Riders to Watch
Whilst the field is totally stacked, it's almost impossible to look past Dutch all-rounder Annemiek van Vleuten.
She can, and has, done it all and will be so hard to beat on the final weekend's mountains.
Second at Strade Bianche in the spring, she's not scared of gravel, and can sprint with the best of them. She's the complete package.
And not only that, she's coming off the back of a convincing Giro Donne win and is set to retire at the end of the season.
Motivation to take the first TdFF overall win will be sky high.
Other GC riders to watch include Demi Vollering, Marta Carvalli, Kasia Niewiadoma, Elisa Longo Borghini and Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig.
Whilst the sprinter field is incredibly deep, the final two mountain stages mean that the overall winner will be a climber/GC rider.
However the mid-week stages will see the likes of Vos, Wiebes, Lotte Kopecky and world champ Elisa Balsamo tear lumps out of each other, and it's going to be glorious!
For a full round up of the runners and riders, as well as predictions, check out the GCN preview below:
TdFF Events & Group Rides
As well as watching the Tour de France Femmes and interacting online, you can join loads of fan events and group rides.
Title sponsor Zwift are going to be running virtual group rides all week with awesome women's cycling groups like our friends Les Internationelles.
Hop on the trainer and join the ride.
The best cycling cafes in London will be showing the stages live, so if you don't have access to the race then head along to Look Mum No Hands, The Dynamo or G!RO cafe to watch the racing with other cycling fans.
And we will of course be running plenty of group rides to coincide with the major stages, starting with an Essex ride from LMNH this Sunday.
Check out the membership options and join a ride here.
TdFF Dirty Wknd Velogames League
If you really want to get into the technical (nerdy) side of the Tour de France Femmes, then join our Velogames league.
Fantasy pro cycling is really, really cool, so you won't want to miss out on the fun.
Pick your 9 riders to create your team of stage and GC winners, and then enter our league for ultimate glory.
Sign up link - Click Here
League Name: Dirty Wknd CC TdFF
League Code: 447917218
Talking endlessly about how your fantasy team is doing at the mid-ride cafe stop is a sure fire way to win cycling friends and impress people!
If you want to comment, disagree or argue as the race develops then get in touch on social media (@dirtywknd). We love to hear your thoughts, predictions and hot takes!
Enjoy the racing; make sure you shout about it online, and get involved in as many ways that you can.
Vive le Tour de France Femmes!
Main Photo credit: Sirbikesalot (usage details)