Van Vleuten and the UCI Women’s WorldTour peloton celebrate the Tour

Dutch icons Annemiek van Vleuten and Marianne Vos were among the great winners of the first Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift as the eight-day race brought intense action and massive exposure to the peloton.

“At first, I didn’t really dream of the yellow jersey, and then I saw it on Marianne Vos…” The magic of the Tour is universal, and it caught everyone in full force, last week, notably Annemiek van Vleuten (Movistar Team Women), as the peloton of the UCI Women’s WorldTour took on the challenges of the first Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift over eight days of racing, from Paris to La Super Planche des Belles Filles.

The 39-year-old climber came into the event with an already stellar winning record, just a couple of weeks after conquering the Giro Donne for the third time in her career, and a couple of months before aiming for new rainbow jerseys in the UCI Road World Championships (she has already claimed three Elite titles across the road race and the individual time trial). But a unique feeling of accomplishment floated in the air atop La Super Planche des Belles Filles, on Sunday evening, as ‘Miek’ celebrated the overall victory with her Movistar companions. The Dutch rider also moves into the lead of the UCI Women’s WorldTour Rankings, pushing UCI World Champion Elisa Balsamo (ITA) down into second.

“We did it!”, she screamed to her teammates. “To win in yellow, especially at La Planche des Belles Filles, that’s something I wanted since we did the recon,” she then explained to the media. “That was the best I could think to finish it off.” She then stood on the overall podium with Demi Vollering (Team SD Worx) and Kasia Niewiadoma (Canyon//Sram Racing), her closest rivals in the GC standings.

Wiebes and Vos take the early glory

The previous day, Van Vleuten was already in a relieved and celebratory mood at Le Markstein, after a 62km solo ride over the Vosges summits to take the overall lead. “It’s a little bit of a miracle,” was her observation at the time, after she and the whole peloton had been through roller coasters of emotions along the week.

It all started in the prestigious settings of Paris, in front of the Eiffel Tower, as the trailblazers took on the Champs-Élysées circuit where the Tour de France traditionally finishes. In this sprinters’ paradise, Lorena Wiebes (Team DSM) powered to victory. “It feels really special to ride here around Paris and even more special to wear the Maillot Jaune,” the flying Dutchwoman celebrated. Wiebes went on to win another stage in Saint-Dié-des-Vosges (stage 5) before a crash took her out of the race ahead of the final mountain challenges.

The very next day, another fierce battle unfolded on the windy and twisty roads around Provins. As the intensity rises, who other than Marianne Vos (Team Jumbo-Visma) would rise to victory? The Dutch icon took her 241st victory on the road and her first Maillot Jaune of the Tour. She kept it until the mountains and took another victory in Rosheim (stage 6) to assert her authority and dominate the points standings. “These are magical moments”, she rejoiced while impressing the world with her extraordinarily consistent results in the first six days: 2nd, 1st, 2nd, 5th, 3rd and 1st again.

A must watch

With intense racing from the start, the fight for the overall leadership quickly opened up. And Van Vleuten wasn’t at the front at the beginning. “I was so sick on days two and three, I was really close to abandoning,” she explained as her rivals battled for the early victories. In Epernay (stage 2), Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig (FDJ Suez Futuroscope) took an emotional victory on the day after crashes saw her lose not just 2 minutes, but also a precious teammate in Marta Cavalli. “The way we fought back with the team is something I will remember for the rest of my life,” the Danish dynamite said.

On the way to Bar-sur-Aube (stage 4), Marlen Reusser (Team SD Worx) made the most of the gravel sections to claim the solo victory while Mavi Garcia (UAE Team ADQ) suffered a series of incidents and crashes. But the main GC battles were to come over the weekend, with two gruelling mountain stages in the Vosges; the perfect setting for the fans to witness Van Vleuten’s supreme talent.

On that day, more than 5 million spectators watched the race on French television, and many, many more around the world. Every day, the riders shared their amazement after seeing and hearing large crowds cheer for them at the start, the finish and along the roads. “The attention we received was something really special,” said Niewiadoma. “It was really nice to be in this position to give something to the public and to have the public give back to us.”