La Course by Le Tour 2021 Brest > Landerneau 107.7km ©RhodePhoto

Is this the last La Course? ‘Let’s hope so’

The Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift could change women's cycling forever.

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It all started with a petition that spurred a one-day event on the Champs-Élysées. After eight years of La Course by Le Tour de France, the women’s event may have seen its final edition in 2021. But are the riders sad to see it go?

In the simplest of terms, no. When asked if this was the final edition of La Course, Lizzie Deignan (Trek-Segafredo) only laughed and said “let’s hope so.”

“The first edition was very special,” said Marianne Vos (Jumbo-Visma), who won that inaugural edition back in 2014. “I can still remember how great it felt to arrive there with the peloton and race through the historic streets of Paris in front of the world. The beautiful arrival on the Champs-Élysées was something I only knew from TV and now we were riding there ourselves.”

Sure, La Course has almost always delivered nail-biting, conversation-starting, quality racing, but it was a stage race the women wanted. They wanted the opportunity to take part in the biggest cycling event in the world. Deignan, Vos, and most of the professional women want to fight for that yellow jersey over multiple days, on a variety of different terrain. They want the world to watch, as is the case for the men.

“Of course La Course was a great step up, but having the thought of an extended La Course and going into the Tour de France Femmes I think that’s a big step forward,” Vos said. “So, yeah, [I’m] actually looking forward and excited for the next edition.”

Before the route has even been announced, before the world even knows what the race will hold, the hype is already real. Vos thinks the first edition of the Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift will launch as one of the most-watched and hyped races on the women’s calendar.

“It’s bigger than the sport, bigger than cycling, being a part of that … I think the bunch is ready,” said Vos after La Course had wrapped up.

“It’s very nice that the Tour de France for women is coming back to the calendar as a full-fledged stage race. With opportunities for different specialists and all the elements that make cycling so beautiful. So boys and girls can dream of the yellow jersey.”

Marianne Vos

The Tour de France does transcend cycling. Millions of people who don’t watch Ronde van Vlaanderen, who have never heard of Strade Bianche, and have no idea there are three, three-week races on the men’s calendar, tune in every July to watch the men race the Tour de France. Ever since the Tour de France Women ran its final edition in 1993 the women have craved their own race across France.

There have been other French stage races. Tour Cycliste Féminin, Grande Boucle Féminine Internationale, La Route de France, but they weren’t the Tour de France. It’s a name that carries more significance than any other.

So no, the peloton will not miss the one-day parade on a random day of the men’s event.

“The Tour de France Femmes is coming! It’s going to be huge,” said Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig after La Course. “Everyone … even if you don’t know cycling, you know what the Tour de France is; you know what the yellow jersey is, everyone. I even want to say, my grandma. They know what the Tour de France is. Having it on TV, having a proper stage race. It’s going to be big next year.”

It’s hard to explain what having a women’s Tour de France could do to the sport. The sheer magnitude of the race brings an entirely new level of fan attention, something the women’s peloton has always lacked. There is a chance, a not-so-insignificant chance, that this single event could skyrocket women’s cycling to new heights. More eyes on the sport means sponsors will be more interested. Salaries will increase. Teams will be more secure. Dare I say it will lead to growing viewing figures for other races as well?

The Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift is a turning point in women’s cycling. And the peloton is foaming at the mouth to line up for it on July 24, 2022.

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