PARIS—Lorena Wiebes of the Netherlands sprinted to victory on Sunday in the first stage of the women’s Tour de France which returned after a 33-year absence.
The Team DSM rider struck in the last 150 meters of the 82-kilometer (51-mile) circuit in Paris to beat former Olympic champion Marianne Vos to the line on the Champs-Elysees.
Wiebes punched the air in celebration.
“I’m really happy that I was finally able to race on the Champs-Elysees,” Wiebes said. “It was a hard race, a fast one. It feels really special to ride here around Paris and even more special to wear the yellow jersey.”
Tour of Flanders champion Lotte Kopecky was third.
It’s the first time since 1989 that a women’s edition of the Tour de France is being held. Tour de France organizer Amaury Sport Organization (ASO) previously organized La Course, a one-day race held in Paris coinciding with the men’s Tour.
The first stage started from the Eiffel Tower and ended on the iconic avenue, just hours before the conclusion of the men’s race.
The “Tour de France Femmes” will end July 31 in eastern France at La Super Planche des Belles Filles, a spectacular uphill finish often visited by the men’s Tour.
The eight-stage race aims to become a permanent fixture on the women’s world tour cycling calendar. A Tour stage race took place from 1984 to 1989, running parallel with the men’s edition, before later being shortened. Various other versions have been tried but they usually were underfunded.
Online fitness platform Zwift has signed on with a four-year sponsorship after riders spent years calling for a women’s version of the race. Some rode every stage of the men’s race to raise awareness of the issue until ASO announced the new event.
Image credits: AP