"When I say I'm a professional cyclist, I'm always asked the same questions: 'Have you done the Tour de France? Does it exist for girls?' Now I'll be able to say YES!"
Evita Muzic is not just any rider - she has just been crowned French National Champion in the Women Elite category, after her national titles in both the Junior and Under 23 ranks. But the young gun from FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope deserves the recognition that comes with the Tour and she could only celebrate the recent announcements regarding the introduction of the Tour de France Femmes in the 2022 UCI Women's WorldTour.
Organised right after the men's Tour de France, at the end of July, the event will be an eight-day upgrade from La Course by Le Tour de France, which is to be held this Saturday from Brest (the city that also welcomes the Grand Départ of the Tour de France on the same day) to Landerneau (108km). The one-day race already attracts lots of attention with its ambitions to put the female stars of the peloton on the same stage as their male counterparts. Indeed, t La Course by Le Tour de France has had a growing impact since its inception in 2014.
The ultimate challenges of La Course
Originally celebrated on the Champs-Élysées ahead of the final stage of the Tour, La Course has always seen the biggest stars battle for glory, with Marianne Vos and Anna van der Breggen powering to victory in the first two editions. The event became part of the UCI Women's WorldTour in 2016 and Chloe Hosking added her name to the winners' list before the race left Paris and travelled around France, just like the Tour does, but with a much smaller format.
After battles over the Col de l'Izoard, in Marseille, Le Grand-Bornand, Pau and Nice, the 8th edition of La Course by Le Tour de France with FDJ will be held in Brittany. Evita Muzic will sport her tricolore jersey on a hilly circuit featuring the Côte de la Fosse aux Loups. The finish is set atop the fourth ascent of the mighty climb: 3km with an average gradient of 5.7% and slopes of up to 14% at the bottom.
Vos (Team Jumbo-Visma Women) and Van der Breggen (Team SD Worx), the original winners of La Course, head the list of contenders. They're set to battle it out with the likes of Elizabeth Deignan (Trek-Segafredo), Katarzyna Niewiadoma (Canyon//SRAM Racing), Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig (FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope) and Demi Vollering (Team SD Worx), who are all used to shining on a similar terrain at the Ardennes Classics.
They're welcomed in Brittany by the French ITT National Champion Audrey Cordon-Ragot (Trek-Segafredo), always eager to race on her home roads.
"A huge moment for professional women's cycling"
The champions of the 2021 UCI Women’s WorldTour will vie to be the last winner of La Course by Le Tour de France, before the first edition of the Tour de France Femmes next summer. Details of the route remain to be unveiled during the official presentation of the race, in October, but the organisers have already announced that the race will finish on the Champs-Élysées.
"Building an event like the Tour de France Femmes with Zwift means offering women's cycling an event that is ready to highlight the sporting qualities of some exceptional riders," says Christian Prudhomme, the Director of the Tour de France.
"It's long been a dream for many of us to compete in a women's Tour de France," Anna van der Breggen observes, the UCI World Champion highlighting the announcement as "a huge moment for professional women's cycling".
Given her plans to retire in 2021, Van der Breggen won't participate in the first edition of the race. However, she won't be far away as she's already preparing to become a Sports Director, which will enable her to experience this new UCI Women's WorldTour event from a different angle.