She is the favourite to win from a sprint on the Champs-Élysées on stage one of the Tour de France Femmes, but Lorena Wiebes was still only a junior the last time the women’s peloton raced in Paris.
“Tomorrow will be a really special moment. Especially because we’re starting in front of the Eiffel Tower. So that will be special but also when the race was still on the Champs-Élysées for the women I was still too young because I was a junior so I wait for this for I think almost five years now so I hope we can make it a good one,” Wiebes said at a pre-race press conference.
“I think I was only one time in Paris,” she recalled. “The one time I remember it was with school. So we went also to Disneyland Paris, and of course the Eiffel Tower and a lot of sightseeing. But it’s [the Tour] more special, because you always see it on the television with the guys. And that’s a real sprinting stage, it makes it more special.”
Wiebes has been unstoppable in sprints since she exploded onto the scene with Parkhotel Valkenburg in 2018. Since then, the 23-year-old has racked up 47 career victories including, this season, seven WorldTour victories starting with Ronde van Drenthe, a clean sweep of the RideLondon Classique, and three stages of The Women’s Tour.
While two of her main adversaries, world champion Elisa Balsamo (Trek-Segafredo), and the evergreen Marianne Vos raced at the Giro d’Italia Donne, winning two stages apiece, Wiebes sat the 10-day race out in favour of targeting the Tour de France Femmes.
With one of the most iconic emblems of sprinting, the Tour de France green jersey, now up for grabs for women, will Wiebes be targeting that alongside potential stage victories?
“Our first target will be the stage victories,” said Wiebes. “But we will see also for the intermediate sprints, I think tomorrow, the most important is for sure the stage victory. And I have to see if I can join the first intermediate sprint or not. And for the rest of the days, I know you need to get points at the intermediate sprint to win the green jersey overall, it’s not enough to win a few stages. So we have to see how much energy it will take and of course, it’s also one of the goals of the team.”
Although Wiebes dominance is largely down to her own talent, no sprinter is complete without their lead-out train — a tactic that Team DSM have perfected above most other Women’s WorldTeams: “As a team we work on it,” Wiebes revealed. “But also we have Albert Timmer of course as our DS and he did it a lot with the men’s teams when he was still a rider so he exactly knows how to do it.
“We are preparing the lead-outs always really good. We know the parcours, we know where we have to be in front etcetera. Also Pfeiffer [Georgi], she’s young, but she’s really experienced in the lead-out and we can really trust on Pffeifer. And then only Charlotte [Kool] and me have to do it. And most of the time Pfeiffer puts us in the perfect position.”
“I think we have for sure one of the strongest lead-outs. And it makes a difference because it’s kind of easier to go into the final with a lead-out instead of finding your own way, you spend less energy and so that’s most of the times better if we time it really good and normally we do it. So I think it will be fine.”
If the lead-out train isn’t the key to Wiebes’s success on stage one then the presence of her family might be: “My family will be there so that’s an extra motivation also.”
Whether it is Wiebes who crosses the line first or another rider, whoever takes victory on the Champs-Élysées will have the honour of wearing the first women’s yellow jersey for 33 years.