Marianne Vos won the first La Course by the TDF in 2014, which finished on the Champs-Élysées in Paris.

Hors Course stage 21 and stage 1: Allez les Femmes!

As the Tour de France Hommes hand over to the Femmes, we look at some of the most famous women associated with belle Paris.

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As heard on the Tour Daily podcast, José Been is taking us off the race route for some local historical and cultural context for each stage, from Denmark all the way to Paris. And then throughout the Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift.

Paris, the end of the Tour de France Hommes and the start of the Tour de France Femmes. History is often full of important male figures; they also often wrote history books and sometimes / often exaggerated the influence of men, while casually forgetting the strong women behind them or on their own merit. The past three weeks were no different in Hors Course. Today we honor some of the most intelligent, interesting and amazing women with ties to beautiful Paris.

Regarded by some as a martyr of the French Revolution, a fashion icon and now a queen of pop, Queen Marie Antoinette continues to unleash passions more than 200 years after her death. She is considered one of the most famous queens in history and is remembered for her extraordinary destiny and the tragic end to her life. 

After the French revolution in 1789 Marie Antoinette was arrested. She spent the last weeks of her life in the Conciergerie prison on Ile de la Cité in the Seine River. The charges against her were that she was part of the conspiracy against the French state. There was zero evidence, but it didn’t matter. She died on 16 October 1793, aged 37, by guillotine on Place de la Concorde.

A physicist and chemist, Marie Curie carried out research into a new phenomenon that she was to call radioactivity. Her research together with her husband Pierre Curie also led to the discovery of two new elements ‘radium’ and ‘polonium’. After she received the Nobel Prize in physics in 1903, the Université de Paris named one of their new buildings after her. The Laboratoire Curie which was part of the Sorbonne University. It is now called Institut Curie. 

She was a professor of physics at the institute for almost 20 years and was the first woman to teach students. In 1911, she won the Nobel Prize in chemistry. Today, she is buried with her husband in the Pantheon, the first woman to be buried there based on merit. This was in 1995, 61 years after she died. The first woman to be buried in the Pantheon was Sophie Berthelot. Her husband, the scientist, Marcellin Berthelot, had refused to be buried without her so in 1907 they were buried together.

Suzanne Lenglen was also born in Paris in 1899. She was a tennis player and accomplished sportswoman. She learned golf, archery, swimming and horse riding but it was in tennis that she excelled. She won her first grand slam 1914, at the age of only 15. She won over 200 tournaments and three Olympic medals, two of them gold. Lenglen was nicknamed ‘the divine’ for her sporting achievements. In 1997, the French Tennis Federation paid tribute to her by naming the second tennis court in the city Roland-Garros after her. The trophy in the women’s tournament is also named after her. She died of leukaemia, aged only 39.

Who will write the next part of the history of women in Paris by winning the first stage of the Tour de France Femmes on the Champs-Élysées and receive the first yellow jersey? I am sure they will be inspired by the women who broke barriers before them and will inspire the peloton of the future. Allez les femmes!

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