Coryn Labecki credits childhood summer nights staying up late in California watching the Tour de France on television with teaching her how to race.
“I’d watch the climbers and then the sprinters, and then the windier days, and the breakaway days … and I think that’s where I actually learned a lot about what a long stage race would be like.”
Now a professional rider for Dutch team Jumbo-Visma, Labecki was like many Americans in that way. Though countless cycling road races go on each year, most receive only a fraction of the attention and recognition of the Tour de France, which is well known worldwide. But Labecki only ever saw men as part of that prestigious peloton, because for most of the last 120 years, there were only men riding the Tour de France.
But this year will be different. On July 24, Labecki and her team will be a part of the inaugural Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift—an 8-day stage competition that kicks off in Paris, marking the first time in 33 years there will be an official women’s Tour de France stage race. After years of controversy and stalling about a women’s Tour from the Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO), which organizes the Tour de France, this year’s men’s race will pass a baton of sorts. The day the men’s peloton will ride to the finish line along the Champs-Élysées, the women’s peloton will begin their race on the same road. The women will ride 1,033.6 km total (about 642.2 miles) over the eight diverse stages, ending on the climb to La Planche des Belles Filles on July 31. The prize purse is the highest in all of women’s cycling (€250,000 or about $256,108), the race will be broadcast in 170 countries and