In only its second season as part of the WorldTour calendar, the Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift has become the top race for the women. The ‘Tour de France effect’ is in full swing, with teams and riders planning the entire season, starting in January, around the eight-stage race at the end of July. Injuries and illness happen, but general managers have done everything in their power to ensure they provide the best lineup possible for the event.
So with the race just one tantalizing day away, let’s look at 10 of the top teams about to race the Femmes, according to data collected from the experts of the Wheel Talk Podcast. The data is based solely on the 2023 season so far and does not take into account past seasons.
A more comprehensive breakdown of contenders can be found here, and if you’re looking for a stage-by-stage preview, we’ve got that too!
The GC teams
Top riders: Demi Vollering 🇳🇱, Marlen Reusser 🇨🇭, Lorena Wiebes 🇳🇱, Lotte Kopecky 🇧🇪
SD Worx is coming into the Femmes with the full package of riders. They have someone for everything and a backup to boot.
All spring and into the summer it was the SD Worx show, with more than half the riders on the roster taking a WorldTour win. From Vollering, Reusser, Wiebes, and Kopecky destroying the Classics to Blanka Vas and Niamh Fisher-Black winning at Tour de Suisse, the Dutch team has been unstoppable this season.
When it comes to the long climbs of Stage 7 they have Vollering, who has shown this season to be the best climber in the peloton. But the Dutchwoman will also be on top of the hillier stages like Stage 2. As if having the best climber wasn’t enough they also have the best sprinter in the world in Wiebes. If the European champion can’t get over a climb (unlikely), Kopecky is there to take up the reigns.
Unfortunately for the rest of the peloton, there isn’t an area SD Worx can be found lacking. The lowest area they scored was in the high mountains purely because – without Fisher-Black on the Femmes roster – they only have Vollering for that type of finish.
Top riders: Annemiek van Vleuten 🇳🇱, Liane Lippert 🇩🇪, Emma Norsgaard 🇩🇰
Movistar, like SD Worx, has someone to contest every type of finish, but overall they rank lower than SD Worx in Intangibles, TT and flats, hills, and sprints. In the sprints, Norsgaard will be there but she will find challenging Wiebes and DSM-Firmenich’s Charlotte-Kool a hard task. In general, she is more of a Classics rider like Kopecky.
In terms of flats and TTs, every team will come up short of a roster that includes Reusser, but Movistar still ranks higher than a lot of other teams. No one will soon forget the efforts they made on a flat stage during La Vuelta in May that won Van Vleuten the overall.
Perhaps it’s unfair that their weakest area is intangibles. For years it’s seemed that Van Vleuten can win “Grand Tours” on her own, and while in the past that would have flown, in 2023 it doesn’t. The level is higher, and to win the Femmes a GC rider needs not only a strong team but an organized one. Movistar might be organized, but they can’t think on the fly like SD Worx can.
GC hopes, but stage ambitions
Top riders: Elisa Longo Borghini 🇮🇹, Lizzie Deignan 🇬🇧, Elisa Balsamo 🇮🇹, Amanda Spratt 🇦🇺 , Lucinda Brand 🇳🇱
Lidl-Trek comes closest to the top two teams in terms of depth, with Longo Borghini and Balsamo for the high mountains and the sprints. Where they are strongest is intangibles, purely because the team is so good at going with the flow of the race, giving opportunities to riders who are feeling good on the day and changing plans. Most of this is a credit to Deignan, their captain on the road, who has been in the sport and successful long enough to know what to do in a pinch.
They may have scored higher in the sprints, but with Balsamo out of action for almost two months due to a crash in RideLondon, there is a bit of unknown in that area.
The team will excel on the hilly stages, where Brand, Longo Borghini, and Spratt are the most comfortable. But they might struggle in the high mountains. True, Longo Borghini may be climbing the best she has in years, but she has never been a pure climber, so the seventh stage will be a test for her.
Top riders: Kasia Niewidoma 🇵🇱, Elise Chabbey 🇨🇭
Canyon-SRAM is a team that on paper should get better results. Individually their riders probably would have, but as cycling is a team sport, they ended up with lower ranks than might be expected for a team with so many talented riders. That has kind of been the story of the last couple of years. It seems this year they’ve finally figured something out, taking two WorldTour wins with Chloe Dygert at RideLondon and Antonia Niedermaier at the Giro Donne; however, neither of those riders are riding the Femmes.
For Niedermaier it makes sense, the German rider crashed heavily on the fifth stage of the Giro and sustained injuries to her face. As for Dygert, the American also raced the Giro and as the team has been careful with her comeback to racing following injuries from her 2020 Worlds crash; coming to the Femmes would have been a huge block of racing for her. Don’t forget the Giro was her longest-ever race, and it was only this year she lined up for a stage race in Europe.
Even without those two Canyon-SRAM has their trust combo of Kasia Niewiadoma and Elise Chabbey. Niewiadoma, third overall in last year’s Femmes, is coming into the race a relative unknown in terms of form but was looking strong at Tour de Suisse. Chabbey is a strong climber, and with Ricarda Bauernfeind, their team for the hilly stages is a great one. Their sprinting contingent is also strong with Sarah Roy, Soraya Paladin and Agnieszka Skalniak-Sójka.
Be sure that no matter the finish Canyon-SRAM will be there, but if they can finish it with a victory is another matter.
Top riders: Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig 🇩🇰, Marta Cavalli 🇮🇹, Grace Brown 🇦🇺
Similar to Canyon-SRAM, FDJ-Suez has an insanely strong team on paper, but this year in particular hasn’t been able to put the pieces together. Coming into the Femmes, their home race, the team is the strongest they have on offer with Cavalli, Broen and Uttrup leading the way. Add in Evita Muzic and on the hilly and high mountain stages they have more numbers than any other team, although not quite as strong as Van Vleuten and Vollering. If those numbers can hold on they deserve a high score, and the seventh stage will be their chance to prove that.
With Vittoria Guazzini they also have a strong climber, and Loes Adegeest will be valuable in pretty much every stage of the race.
If there’s a race FDJ-Suez can really put everything together it’s going to be the Femmes. Every one of their riders can feel how special it is to take part in the event as a French team, and the hunger is there.
Top riders: Charlotte Kool 🇳🇱, Pfeiffer Georgi 🇬🇧, Juliette Labous 🇫🇷
DSM-Firmenich has two clear goals for this year’s Femmes: sprints and Labous. Kool is the only rider so far in 2023 to challenge Wiebes in a sprint, and DSM-Firmenich has brought the best team to support her in Megan Jastrab and Georgi.
When they aren’t focused on Kool they will be trying to make sure Labous arrives at the seventh stage in the best position possible. It seemed like at the Giro the Frenchwoman really rode into her form, so that the GC stages come later in the race is great for her and for the team. They can spend the first chunk of the race on Kool and then shift their focus to Labous.
However, with such a strong team for the first six stages, the team falls a little short on the hills. They still have Esmee Peperkamp to ride for Labous, but when it comes to explosive hills that’s where they are lacking a little bit of depth.
Top riders: Veronica Ewers 🇺🇸, Alison Jackson 🇨🇦
EF Education-TIBCO-SVB is an interesting one because were it not for Ewers the team would be a stagehunting powerhouse. As it were, the American is coming off her fourth place at the Giro and thus the team will be tasked with keeping one eye on her and one eye on the race.
With rouleurs like Georgia Williams and a team captain like Jackson plus some amazing climbers in Magdeleine Vallieres and Sara Poidevin, they have the chance to be super aggressive in the first six stages, especially on the hilly stages. The sprints are really the only stages that aren’t great; even if Williams is a strong sprinter, there’s not much of a team to back her and surfing leadouts is going to be a lot harder with the calibre of sprinters in the race.
A little bit of everything
Top riders: Marianne Vos 🇳🇱, Riejanne Markus 🇳🇱
Similar to other teams Jumbo-Visma has two main leaders and two main goals. For the sprints, they have Vos, winner of the Green Jersey in last year’s Femmes. Around her, they have Coryn Labecki, a fantastic sprinter in her own right. Where they may be strongest is the hills, with riders like Anna Henderson, Karlijn Swinkels, Ava van Agt, and Amber Kraak. There are a lot of riders who could find themselves in almost every scenario, which is also why they’ve scored high in tangibles, plus for the ITT they have the current Dutch champion in Markus.
Where they lack power is in the high mountains, and with their second leader being Markus, a second-tier favourite overall, this might be where they fall short. Markus showed at La Vuelta her climbing had improved immensely, but we will have to see if it’s good enough to rival the best.
In short, the team is best suited as stage hunters, even if Markus lands herself in the GC conversation.
Top riders: Ane Santesteban 🇪🇸, Alexandra Manly 🇦🇺
The Australian team has put together a team to take on the first six stages; centered around Manly they have support from Georgia Baker, Jess Allen, Georgie Howe, Nina Kessler, and Amber Pate. Basically the entire team. A lot of those riders can also try to mix it up themselves, especially in stages 4, 5, and 6 where it’s a bit more open. Howe’s day is the final one as the Aussie has a fantastic engine.
For the GC they have Santesteban, but she is really isolated in the mountains with not much team support. The team also lacks depth and possibly leadership so when it comes to the unknown, it’s a toss up.
UAE Team ADQ
Top riders: Silvia Persico 🇮🇹, Chiara Consonni 🇮🇹, Elizabeth Holden 🇬🇧
Finally, UAE Team ADQ brings an intriguing squad. With Consonni they have a really good option for sprints, and with Persico and Magnaldi they will be strong on the hills, but when it comes to the flats and the final stage time trial the team is a bit lacking. They also aren’t as strong as some others when it comes to the tactical part of the race, and adapting as the race goes on, and with the hectic nature of the Femmes this is more important than in some other races.
It’s still a super strong team that UAE Team ADQ has put together so they’re bound to get amongst it.
All the questions will be answered soon as the Femmes starts on Sunday with a hilly stage in Clermont-Ferrand. Make sure to check out all the coverage here on Escape Collective as well as daily podcasts from the Wheel Talk team on the ground.
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