Tour de l’Avenir Femmes: a first for women’s cycling
Since 1961, the Tour de l’Avenir, in France, has been revealing some of the future stars of men’s professional road cycling.
This year, the day after the finish of the seven-day stage race, some of the world’s most promising female cyclists will set off for the first-ever women’s edition of the renowned Under-23 stage race.
The first Tour de l’Avenir Femmes will give cycling’s young female riders a chance to measure up against talents of the same age. As is the case for the men’s race, held for the 59th time this year (20-27 August), they will compete with their national teams.
The new race dedicated to Women Under-23 comes at a time when more and more organisers are staging a race for women.
“One year after the relaunch of a Tour de France for women, the creation of a Tour de l’Avenir open to young female hopefuls under the age of twenty-three is fully in line with the development of women’s cycling, a process strongly desired and encouraged by the Union Cycliste Internationale,” says the Tour de l’Avenir’s Press Officer Philippe Bouvet.
Former winners of the men’s race include Norwegian Tobias Foss (2019), Slovenian Tadej Pogačar (2018) and Colombian Egan Bernal (2017).
This year’s women’s edition, taking place from 28 August to 1st September, will be tackled by 18 national teams from four continents as well as one regional team from France and the mixed-nationality WCC Team, whose members are based at the UCI World Cycling Centre in Aigle, Switzerland.
WCC Team Coach Anna Wiese welcomes the opportunity for her team to race in an event that will shine the spotlight on Under-23 riders: “The Tour de l’Avenir Femmes will be a good benchmark, enabling them to measure up against other riders of the same age,” she said. “It’s a big honour for the WCC Team. I hope that riding against young women their own age can give them more chances to apply team tactics, ride more actively and fight for the best position.
“Over the five stages, there will be a chance for sprinters, climbers and time trial specialists to show their skills and be seen.”
Among those who will be on the lookout for interesting talent at the Tour de l’Avenir Femmes is Sport Director Alejandro González-Tablas.
Formerly a coach at the UCI World Cycling Centre, González-Tablas has been in the thick of the development of women’s cycling as Sport Director at UCI Women’s WorldTour level since March 2019. He is currently Head of Performance for UCI Women’s WorldTeam UAE Team ADQ, which also has a development team.
“This race will confirm the talents that we already know but what is interesting, is that it will also show us the next ones coming through,” says González-Tablas. “There is a huge gap between Junior and Elite level and for a long time there was nothing to fill this gap.
“We are already starting to create a base with development teams. Now, one of the best races at Under 23 level, the Tour de l’Avenir, is creating a women’s race. It is an important milestone and enables young talent to set realistic goals and have a fair battle against their peers.”
UCI WCC Education & Talent Detection Manager Jean-Jacques Henry concurs, saying next week’s event in France will be a fantastic opportunity for younger riders who do not necessarily have the level to finish a UCI Women’s WorldTour event such as the Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift: “At the Tour de l’Avenir, they will be there, they will finish and they will enjoy themselves. That is great.”
The development of women’s cycling has been a major focus of the Union Cycliste Internationale in recent years. This has seen the creation of the UCI Women’s WorldTour, two tiers of UCI Women’s Teams – with a third, intermediate level, to be introduced in 2025 –, the opportunity for UCI Women’s WorldTeams to create development teams, increased social benefits at UCI Women’s WorldTour level such as maternity leave.
Since 2022, the UCI has awarded titles of UCI World Champion to the best Women Under-23 riders in the road race and time trials at the UCI Road World Championships. At the 2025 UCI Road World Championships in Kigali, Rwanda, riders in the Women Under-23 and Women Elite categories will compete in separate races.
Photo: Kata Blanka Vas, of Hungary, and Shirin Van Anrooij, of the Netherlands (centre of the photo) on their way to the first two places in the Women Under-23 road race at the 2023 UCI Cycling World Championships between Loch Lomond and Glasgow, Scotland. Credit: SWpix.