This story first appeared on VeloNews.com.
She was the favorite and with the pressure on in Paris, Lorena Wiebes delivered. The Team DSM sprinter shot to victory on the Champs-Élysées ahead of Marianne Vos (Jumbo-Visma) and Lotte Kopecky (Team SD Worx).
The Dutchwoman will pull on the first yellow jersey of the Tour de France Femmes after a first stage full of attacks on the picturesque circuit around Paris.
It is the sixteenth win of Wiebes’ 2022 season as she cements her position as the fastest sprinter in pro cycling.
The race came down to a big bunch sprint after final attacker and Combativity prize winner Gladys Verhulst (Le Col-Wahoo) was pulled back with two kilometers to go.
Jumbo-Visma put Marianne Vos in pole position and she started her sprint early on the right of the road. Wiebes accelerated a moment after she did and showed her peerless speed on the left side, winning by over a bike length.
“It’s amazing, the team did an amazing job. I’m really happy with this win,” Wiebes said afterwards. “It was a really long and chaotic sprint. I expected Marianne would do a long sprint. Luckily, I could accelerate one more time and hold it to the finish line.”
She sprinted, unburdened by her tag as the big favourite. “I was quite relaxed before the start, we did everything as normal and saw it as a normal race. Of course, I was a bit nervous towards the final,” she said, with a laugh. “I’m really happy to finish this off.”
“I think the whole team deserves this after the amazing season we already had and we are ready for the next ones.”
History in the making
This was not the start of a bike race like any other. The 144 starters were presented to crowds in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower. At 1330 local time, the riders rolled away for the départ fictif. After the fanfare and the rightful celebration of this inaugural, ground-breaking event, it was time to get down to racing.
Passing the River Seine, Arc de Triomphe and Jardin des Tuileries, the Paris circuit is striking. However, it is deceptively tough for bike racers. The Champs-Élysées has misshapen, bumpy cobbles that cause blisters and the gradual rise and fall stings the legs after a dozen circuits, totaling 81.6km.
There were numerous early attacks, earning a few kilometers of freedom before being swallowed by the peloton.
The first escape to enjoy concerted time away involved Emily Newsom (EF Education-TIBCO-SVB) and Mischa Bredewold (Parkhotel Valkenburg). They attacked with 63 kilometers to go and pulled out a lead of 40 seconds.
Meanwhile, racing in 90-degree heat in the French capital, ice socks and bidons were ferried by domestiques from the following cars to teammates in the bunch.
The uneven Parisian roads caused numerous punctures and mechanical issues, with chains coming off on the bumpy Parisian cobbles. Kristen Faulkner and Elise Chabbey were among those affected during the race.
Jumbo-Visma and Ceratizit-WNT came to the front to chase down the breakaway duo ahead of the first intermediate sprint with 46.8km to go.
Vos vying for points classification
Beginning her pursuit of the green jersey, Marianne Vos (Jumbo-Visma) took the 25 points available, with Lorena Wiebes on her wheel and Alex Manly (BikeExchange-Jayco) in third.
Pauline Allin (Arkéa Pro Cycling Team) surged for the longest breakaway of the opening stage, enjoying 18 kilometers of freedom. She took the cheers and encouragement from the crowd, joined briefly by Henrietta Christie (Human Powered Health).
The speeding peloton caught them, preparing for the day’s second intermediate sprint with 26 kilometers to go. Lotte Kopecky (SD Worx), resplendent in a blue-black jersey designed by teammate Amy Pieters, pipped Manly for the points on offer.
Marta Lach (Ceratizit-WNT), Femke Markus (Parkhotel Valkenburg) and Anne Dorthe Ysland (Uno-X Pro Cycling Team) escaped shortly afterwards and fought out the category-four Queen of the Mountains sprint at Charles de Gaulle-Étoile, with 19.2 kilometers to go.
Markus raised an arm in celebration as she got the better of Ysland, with a speeding bunch nipping at their heels. The Dutchwoman will don the polka-dot jersey on stage 2.
Gladys Verhulst (Le Col-Wahoo) took advantage of a brief lull in speed to take a flyer. The Frenchwoman was only caught with two kilometers left, after enjoying a maximum advantage of 49 seconds. She was given the day’s Combativity award.
Behind her, as the speed shot up, a pair of crashes took down Christine Majerus (SD Worx), Amanda Spratt (BikeExchange-Jayco), Laura Süssemilch (Plantur-Pura) and Alana Castrique (Cofidis Women Team).
Holding her lower back, Castrique became the first abandon of the 2022 Tour de France Femmes and was attended to by the race’s medical staff.
With three kilometers to go, Jumbo-Visma took up the pace, working for Marianne Vos. Movistar battled with them, trying to control the bunch for Emma Norsgaard.
European champion Ellen van Dijk (Trek-Segafredo) led the race into the final 500 meters across the Place de la Concorde but her leader, world champion Elisa Balsamo, ended up slightly blocked in the finale, finishing seventh.
In front, put in pole position by teammate Anna Henderson, Vos started her sprint early on the right side of the road, with Wiebes accelerating on the left.
In this drag race, the younger Dutchwoman proved fastest. Lotte Kopecky (SD Worx) finished third and will wear the green jersey tomorrow, sat second in the competition behind Wiebes.
Despite finishing second, Vos was still satisfied at the finish. “When Lorena has a good position and launched her sprint, I couldn’t meet her speed. I think we did everything right,” she said afterwards.
“I can’t blame myself for doing anything wrong. We just have to say that Lorena was perfect today and she had a deserved win.”
Stage 2 of the Tour de France Femmes could also be another showdown between all these sprinters, covering 136.4km between Meaux and Provins, with a finish on an uphill rise.
Tour de France Femmes (2.WWT) Paris (Tour Eiffel) → Paris (Champs-Élysées)
VAN DER DUIN Maike