Lorena Wiebes pulled on the first yellow jersey of the inaugural Tour de France Femmes after beating Marianne Vos in a sprint finish to the opening stage on the Champs-Elysees in Paris.
Vos had been on the attack first after her Jumbo-Visma team led the peloton out of the final corner, but Team DSM’s Wiebes held back and launched herself forward at the right moment to beat her fellow Dutchwoman to the line.
It was a 16th victory of the season for Wiebes, the standout sprinter in the peloton right now, but certainly the most significant in this much anticipated new race – with the might of Tour de France organisers the Amaury Sports Organisation finally behind a proper women’s edition of the famous race.
“I’m really happy that I was finally able to race on the Champs-Elysees,” said the 23-year-old, who delivered on her status as the pre-stage favourite.
“As expected it was a hard race. It feels really special to ride here in Paris and even more special to wear the yellow jersey.
“I was fine with the pressure because I directly put the most pressure on myself.”
One hundred and forty-four riders signed on in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower before completing 12 laps of a circuit up and down the famed cobbles of the Champs-Elysees.
In 2014 a similar route was used for the inaugural La Course, the one-day women’s race organised by ASO but much criticised for being tokenistic. Three-time world champion Vos, 35, won it that day but had to accept second place to a rider 12 years her junior this time.
Several riders, no doubt inspired by the occasion, had attempted breakaways but the peloton was travelling at such a pace that none was allowed much rope and a sprint finish was always on the cards.
Wiebes described the sprint as “chaotic”. Charlotte Kool had been due to lead out Wiebes but they missed a turn on the final lap and it instead fell to former British champion Pfeiffer Georgi.
Georgi described Wiebes’ win as the perfect end to an historic day.
“Our goal coming into it was trying to keep it together for Lorena in the sprint,” the 21-year-old said.
“It’s pretty special to be here. We always watch the final stage for the men on TV, so finally having our own race starting in Paris, there was a real buzz with all the crowds and it just gives us an extra spurt.
“For sure this has been a long time coming. Every girl in the peloton has come to the start line with a buzz because we’re the first riders on the Tour de France Femmes.
“Signing on in front of the Eiffel Tower, you can’t get a much better backdrop and the Champs-Elysees is iconic, I’ve never got to ride it before.”
The eight-day Tour continues with Monday’s 136km stage from Meaux to Provins, where the profile could again suit the sprinters, with the climbing challenges that will settle the general classification battle coming next weekend.
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