Marion Rousse, race director, wants to “show that women’s cycling is big and has a level”

La Grande Boucle has its heroes. From Sunday July 24 to Sunday July 31, while the men’s Tour de France ends, the first women’s Tour de France will take place. A revival after the disappearance of the event, ran under other names in the past, until 2009. Marion Rousse was chosen by the Amaury sport organization (ASO), the organizer, to be the race director of this great first.

Before the start at the foot of the Eiffel Tower on Sunday, the former professional runner and now a consultant for France Télévisions gave a great interview to franceinfo: sport of this great challenge, and the eight stages of his Grande Boucle.

Franceinfo: sport: Even if you have experience in this profession, this role of women’s director of the Tour de France will change your dimension. How do you live it?

Marion Rousse: This role is really new for me. In the organization of races, I am not new: I am already deputy director of the Tour de la Provence. Organize a race from A to Z, I know how it is and nothing is simple (laughter). I think few know the constraints of organizing a bike race these days. Today, I have many hats: I know the world of media thanks to my work as a consultant and I am a high-level sportswoman, so being afraid of work does not scare me.

Marion Rousse is also the race director of the Tour de la Provence, here during the opening prologue, on February 10, 2022, in Berre-l'Etang.  (LAURENT LAIRYS ​​/ AFP)

But what he represents is, of course, something big. For me, it was a great pride. I’ve been cycling all my life. If I am offered this position of responsibility, I must have strong shoulders. But you have to go out there and be proud of it. It is a pleasure to have this role.

Pride should also reside in the fact that this is a new edition that is set to continue…

Yes. After that, there were editions in the 1980s that stopped and were not discussed much. There, we will talk more about this first edition of the Tour de France women with Zwift that will be broadcast in more than 190 countries of the world with 2h30 live every day. This is unheard of!

“There is an aura in the Tour de France. For men or women, it is the most beautiful race. Now we can say to ourselves that we are continuing in the fourth week of the Tour.”

Marion Rousse, director of the Women’s Tour de France

in franceinfo: sport

People are able to discover runners they don’t know about. Is the idea of ​​the women’s Tour de France to also make numbers from these champions, while developing the discipline?

Of course, we want to introduce as many people as possible. That’s why we planned this route this way. Almost every stage corresponds to a different runner profile: there are flat stages for sprinters and adventurers, and others for climbers, of course. We want to introduce the general public to the champions that deserve it. The women’s Tour de France, if it happens, will not be a gift we give to women cyclists. It’s not because it’s trendy to watch women’s sports on TV that it has to be done. This is a true consistency in sport.

The result is approaching Liège-Bastogne-Liège among women!  Annemiek Van Vleuten took advantage of the Côte de La Roche-aux-Faucons to catch up and then drop Grace Brown!  The Dutchwoman may have made the difference for the final victory.

I enjoy commenting on men as much as women. Women’s cycling has evolved, the budget is also bigger, so the level has tightened. Many women can win races and the show is great. It’s time, we’re here and ASO considers it a Tour de France. In fact, we work no differently than the Tour de France men.

The ASO, which already organizes the Tour de France and other major races, should be essential support for the women’s Tour de France…

Of course, you must be armed. If you do a race on this stand, the ASO is a war machine. They know how to organize like no one else. This is a guarantee of quality. Fortunately I have teams around, I’m not the one doing everything. What I bring is probably my vision, my eye, my conviction. I also have character, I’m strong, and I let you know if there are things I don’t like. But I trust them, and in terms of organization, I know that we will always choose the best option for the riders.

In this somewhat atypical route, what will be the key stages that can shape the final overall classification?

Now, the first step is because we are from Paris, while the men will arrive on the same day. It is important for us to leave the capital for the first period and for this first edition, because it is somewhat symbolic, like handing over. But starting from Paris in stages that are, on average, 130 kilometers, we can’t go where we want either. So we decided to go east because it offers a wide and varied terrain.

The route of the first Tour de France women with Zwift, which will take place from July 24 to 31, 2022. (ASO)

As for the key stages, I think there will be Epernay from the third day, with the same finale as in 2019 when Julian Alaphilippe won the Tour de France with the coast of Montigny. He will also be part of the program.

The next day is the Bar-sur-Aube stage with white tracks. This is an innovation in the Tour de France. In men, this has not been seen. There is a total of twelve kilometers of white road, like a classic view of the roads in July. The success-luck factor must be taken into account, but you must also be strong because such are the paths. (he raises his hand). And there’s always this alternation between a bump, a path, a new bump. Really annoying.

There are also the last two rounds and this long-awaited final on top of the Super Planche des Belles Filles…

The last weekend was obviously important. On Saturday, when you reach Markstein, then, the Petit Ballon, the Platzerwasel pass and the Grand Ballon d’Alsace to climb, all in one step! It’s 3,000 meters of elevation gain, so it’s huge. We can expect an incredible 130 terminals and on Sunday there will be the one and only summit finish, with the Super Planche des Belles Filles. Although it is not long, there are seven kilometers with a percentage that is sometimes more than 20%. It’s an apotheosis ending and we also want to try to keep the suspense as long as possible and go to the crescendo.

Many competitors on the circuit are betting big and preparing for this first women’s Tour de France. What do you think of the following names?

Many different women have won the World Cup rounds this year on the World Tour. Italian cycling is going well, but it’s true that Annemiek van Vleuten (Movistar) is still my number one. He knows how to prepare stage races, he has spent his life at altitude and he has an impressive track record that he wants to try to get this first victory for the first edition of women in the Tour de France.

But besides that, Elisa Longo Borghini (Trek-Segafredo) is one to watch, Marta Cavalli and Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig from FDJ-Suez-Futuroscope as well, Katarzyna Niewiadoma (Canyon-SRAM Racing) as well. And then, even in different styles, sprinters or women like Marianne Vos (Jumbo-Visma) go there to explode every day of the race. It’s not a fight between two women every day. This is also our goal: to show that women’s cycling is wide and there is a level.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.