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Lorena Wiebes wears yellow on the Champs-Elysées

The face of Audrey Cordon-Ragot a few seconds before the start of the inaugural stage of the Tour de France Women, this July 24, was enough to take the measure of the event. “It is time for the start to be given, the wait is too long”, had slipped the double champion of France, the day before. This female version of the queen event is not a first and the presence under the Eiffel Tower, in Paris, of Jeannie Longo – winner in 1987, 1988 and 1989 – did not fail to remind us of this.

Relive the 1st stage of the Women’s Tour: First stage and first yellow jersey for Lorena Wiebes

But for thirty-three years, the runners have been waiting to be able to fight again on the Grande Boucle. So, on this sunny Sunday July 24, the 144 entered still had the feeling of being part of the pioneers. « It’s a historic moment »insisted the Dutch Marianne Vos, before the start.

The Jumbo-Visma leader would have liked to add the first yellow jersey of this edition to her incredible list. But she was beaten by her compatriot Lorena Wiebes (DSM), in tears at the finish.

“It was a very long and chaotic sprint, I knew Marianne was going to attack. The girls did an amazing job. I was able to accelerate again to pass Marianne on the line”, says the interested party after coming to her senses, a huge smile on her face. While a few meters away, his mother wears a t-shirt with her likeness, repeating at will: “It’s my daughter, she won! »

The native of Mijdrecht was the big favorite of this first stage in the format close to a criterium – twelve times a loop around the Tuileries gardens and on the Champs-Élysées – promised to the sprinters.

« I was like, ‘Oh boy, that’s cool' »

“We have already run La Course by Le Tour [épreuve en une journée qui a été remplacée par le nouveau Tour de France femmes] here many times, so we know the circuit well. We knew what to expect, we knew it was going to be very nervous in the end.explains Audrey Cordon-Ragot.

Elisa Balsamo, her teammate at the Trek-Segafredo, was one of the contenders for the victory of the day. The Italian world champion will however have been rather discreet. « We messed up a bit, we didn’t really follow the plan that was plannedrecognizes the French. We will try again tomorrow. »

Read also: Dutch women no longer quite alone in the world

From the start, the attacks came from the front of the peloton. But it was not until Gladys Verhulst (Le Col-Wahoo)’s brilliance that a runner finally manages to break away from the group for a long time.

The vice-champion of France escaped when passing the Arc de Triomphe, 16 km from the finish, before being caught on the last lap, 4 km from the line. « I was like, ‘Oh boy, that’s cool,’ says the Norman. Afterwards, you know it’s going to start and it’s going to come back quickly, but I believed it. I liked my day. It launches well, it gives confidence. I look forward to the sequel. » This day, Gladys Verhulst will remember it for a long time, thanks to a first podium for the price of combativeness.

“Like a hyphen”

Femke Markus (Parkhotel Valkenburg) accompanied her there. The Dutchwoman attacked her breakaway partners to cross the climb of 4 in the leade category at the top of the Champs-Elysées, winning the first two points in the mountain classification and in fact the polka dot jersey for the best climber.

The inaugural stage will also have been marked by a first abandonment: that of the Belgian Alana Castrique (Cofidis) caught in a fall 12 km from the goal. “It’s a first step, so generally it’s nervous, there can be falls. Luckily, there weren’t too many of them, it could have been worse. »emphasizes Severine Eraud. “Usually, we are more focused on ourselves. There, there is so much noise around, you have to manage to keep this concentrationsmiles the runner from Stade Rochelais Charente-Maritime, a second division team. I have rarely seen so much movement around the race. It’s extraordinary. »

Read also: Thanks to the generation of Juliette Labous, French cycling hopes to return to victory

This first day of the Women’s Tour took the same final circuit as that of the men, a few hours later. « It’s hypersymbolic to have the arrival of the men and the departure of the women on the same day, like a hyphen »underlined the director of the event, Marion Rousse.

“The whole pre-race was really special. The presentation in front of the Eiffel Tower will remain in our memories.”, abounds Audrey Cordon-Ragot. But, insists the Trek runner, “Once the start was given, it was a race like any other. » Sport has regained its rights. And it starts again tomorrow, at 1 p.m., with the program 136.4 km across Seine-et-Marne between Meaux and Provins.

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