Lorena Wiebes pips Marianne Vos to win first stage of Tour de France Femmes

Lorena Wiebes of Team DSM, the most prolific sprinter in the women’s peloton, out-manoeuvred Marianne Vos, of Jumbo-Visma, to win the opening stage of the revived women’s Tour de France in Paris.

Wiebes, winner of the RideLondon Classique in May, accelerated past Vos in the final 100m of the curtain-raiser to the women’s race, an 82km stage based on laps of the Champs-Élysées.

“I’m really happy that I was finally able to race on the Champs Élysées,” Wiebes said. “As I expected it was a hard race. It feels really special to ride here in Paris and even more special to wear the yellow jersey.”

Over the next week, the women’s peloton will race over a thousand kilometres in eight stages, heading east towards next weekend’s climactic climbing stages in the Vosges mountains, with a denouement expected next Sunday on the ascent of Super Planche des Belles Filles, the gravel finish used in this year’s men’s Tour.

“It’s really special that the Tour de France is back for women,” Wiebes said. “It’s a really good course. We have everything – sprint stages, punchy stages, climbing stages. I hope we can inspire a lot of young girls to get on a bike.”

The Dutchwoman has been untouchable as a sprinter this season, winning race after race, including stages in the British Women’s Tour. “This has been an aim since the beginning of the season,” she said of her stage win in Paris.

“The lead-out was quite chaotic. But I stayed on [teammate] Pfeiffer Georgi’s wheel and Charlotte Kool was still behind me. Our plan was to swap positions after the tunnel but there was too much chaos and Pfeiffer put me in a perfect position.

“I was fine with the pressure, because I directly put the most pressure on myself. We did everything as normal and I started to become a bit more nervous towards the final bit, but I finished it off.”

It was an emphatic win and equally, after three weeks of the men’s race, rare to see a rider in Jumbo-Visma colours getting beaten. Wiebes admitted she had been relying on Vos starting her sprint early. “I expected it and I was happy that I could accelerate one more time to the finish line,” she said.

From the Champs-Élysées, the women’s Tour convoy heads east, with the 134-km second stage looping through the eastern suburbs of the French capital, with only one fourth-category climb, before an expected sprint finish in Provins.

It is ideal territory for another Wiebes success, at least on paper. “If today has not taken too much energy we will also go for the green jersey,” she said, “but we’re going to put a crazy amount of effort into it.”

For now, Wiebes is enjoying the moment and has even painted her nails in the colours of her two most likely jerseys, yellow and green. “I wanted to do something special with my nails. Originally, I wanted her to do all the colours of the [rainbow] jersey but my nail artist didn’t have enough time in the day! So we decided to do two colours – the most important colours.”

For many in the peloton, this will be the greatest opportunity of their career, one for which they have made numerous sacrifices. In fact, Marion Rousse, race director of the Tour de France Femmes, a former professional, has first-hand experience of those sacrifices herself.

Rousse, who now works for several major races and is also a regular pundit on French television’s coverage of the Tour, quit racing at 25 to work in the media. “I was wearing three hats: racing cyclist, TV pundit and I was also helping out at the town hall in Étampes because my salary as a rider wasn’t enough.”

There are suspicions that some riders in this Tour may also be enduring similar circumstances, unlike their male counterparts. Rousse is well aware of the need for the women’s peloton to seize the day.

“Woman racers have long felt that they weren’t legitimate, because they couldn’t ride in the biggest bike race in France,” she said. “But it’s not a gift we are giving them, they deserve it.”