La Grande Boucle will have its heroines. From Sunday July 24 to Sunday July 31, as the men’s Tour de France ends, the first women’s Tour de France will take place. A revival after the disappearance of the event, run under other names in the past, until 2009. Marion Rousse was chosen by Amaury sport organization (ASO), the organizer, to be the race director of this big first.
Before the start at the foot of the Eiffel Tower on Sunday, the former professional runner and now a France Télévisions consultant gave a major interview to franceinfo: sport on this great challenge, and the eight stages of her Grande Boucle.
Franceinfo: sport: Even if you have experience in this profession, this role of director of the Tour de France women makes you change dimension. How do you live it?
Marion Rousse: It’s true that it was a new role for me. In the organization of races, I am not a novice: I am already deputy director of the Tour de la Provence. Organize a race from A to Z, I know how it goes and there is nothing simple (laughs). I think few people really know the constraints of organizing a bike race these days. Today, I have several hats: I know the world of the media thanks to my job as a consultant and I was a high-level sportswoman, so the apprehension of the job did not scare me.
But what he represented, of course, was something huge. For me, it was a great pride. My whole life has been cycling. When I am offered this position of responsibility, you have to have solid shoulders. But you have to go there and be super proud of it. It is a pleasure to have this role.
The pride must also reside in the fact that it is a new edition destined to continue…
Yes. Afterwards, there were already editions in the 1980s that stopped and were talked about much less. There, we will talk more about this first edition of the Tour de France women with Zwift which will be broadcast in more than 190 countries in the world with 2h30 live per day. This is unheard of !
“There is the aura of the Tour de France. For men or women, it’s the most beautiful race. Now we can say to ourselves that we are continuing with a fourth week of the Tour.”Marion Rousse, director of the Women’s Tour de France
at franceinfo: sport
People will be able to discover runners they don’t necessarily know. Is the idea of this women’s Tour de France also to make figures out of these champions, while developing the discipline?
Of course, we want to introduce as many people as possible. That’s why we plotted this route this way. Almost every stage corresponds to a different runner’s profile: there are flat stages for sprinters and adventurers, and others for climbers, of course. We want to introduce the general public to these champions who deserve it. The women’s Tour de France, if it takes place, is not a gift we give to female cyclists. It’s not because it’s fashionable to see women’s sports on TV that it should be done. It’s a real sporting consistency.
I have as much fun commenting on men as women. Women’s cycling has evolved, it also has more budget, so the level has tightened. More girls are able to win races and the show is great. It was time, we are here and ASO really considers it a Tour de France. In fact, we work no differently than on the men’s Tour de France.
ASO, which was already organizing the Tour de France and other major races, must have been valuable support for this women’s Tour de France…
Of course, you have to be armed. When you do a race of this standing, ASO is a war machine. They know how to organize like no other. It is a guarantee of quality. Fortunately, I have teams around me, it’s not me who does everything. What I bring is perhaps my gaze, my eye, my convictions. I also have my character, firm, and I let it be known if there are things that I don’t like. But I trust them, and in terms of organization, I know that we will always choose the best options for the riders.
In this rather atypical route, what will be the key stages that could shape the final general classification?
Already, the first step because we leave Paris, while the men arrive the same day. It was important for us to leave the capital for the first stage and for this first edition, because it’s a bit symbolic, like a handover. But starting from Paris on stages which are, on average, 130 kilometers, we could not go where we wanted either. So we decided to go east because it offers vast and different terrain.
Regarding the key stages, I think there is already Epernay from the third day, with the same final as in 2019 when Julian Alaphilippe won the Tour de France with the Côte de Montigny. She will also be on the program.
The next day is the Bar-sur-Aube stage with the white paths. This is a novelty in the Tour de France. In men, it has never been seen. There will be a total of twelve kilometers of white path, like a classic look on the roads in July. The success-luck factor will have to be taken into account, but you will also have to be strong because that’s how the paths are (she tilts her hand up). And there is always this alternation between a bump, a path, a new bump. It’s really annoying.
There will also be the last two stages and this long-awaited final at the top of the Super Planche des Belles Filles…
The last weekend will obviously be important. On Saturday, when you arrive at the Markstein with, before, the Petit Ballon, the Platzerwasel pass and the Grand Ballon d’Alsace to climb, all in one step! It’s 3,000 meters of elevation gain, so it’s huge. We can expect an incredible 130 terminals and on Sunday there is the one and only summit finish, with the Super Planche des Belles Filles. Even if it is not long, there are seven kilometers with percentages sometimes above 20%. It’s a final in apotheosis and we also wanted to try to keep the suspense as long as possible and to go crescendo.
Many competitors on the circuit bet big and prepared specifically for this first women’s Tour de France. What do you think will be the names to follow?
Lots of different girls have won the World Cup rounds this year on the World Tour. Italian cycling is going well, but it’s true that Annemiek van Vleuten (Movistar) is still my number one. She knows how to prepare for stage races, she spends her life at altitude and she has such an impressive track record that she will want to try to have this first victory for the first edition of the Tour de France women.
Annemiek van Vleuten.
So many victories under his belt for more than 10 years that we would need much more than 280 characters to name them all.
— The Tour de France Women with Zwift (@LeTourFemmes) May 20, 2022
But aside from that, Elisa Longo Borghini (Trek-Segafredo) will be one to watch, Marta Cavalli and Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig from FDJ-Suez-Futuroscope as well, Katarzyna Niewiadoma (Canyon-SRAM Racing) too. And then, even in different styles, sprinters or girls like Marianne Vos (Jumbo-Visma) are going to be there to blast every race day. It’s not going to be a fight between two girls every day. This is also our goal: to show that women’s cycling is vast and that there is level.