Tdf Femmes: Yes or No to Gravel and Mountain stages

I followed the cycling tips commentary and there was some discussion on whether gravel and mountain stages should be included to the level that they have been in this edition. For example, some stated that gravel opens up for too much randomness (flats and other equipment issues). Other opinions were that the mountains of this level introduce too much potential for GC impact for strong climbers.

At the same time we didn’t see a TT stage.

What are your opinions, should these stages be included?

This is the TdF. It is supposed to be the most exciting tour of the year. Gravel and mountains are where things get exciting. They absolutely belong. If they want more easy days, work to expand the length of the tour. This tour was a phenomenal success that I would guess exceeded all expectations. Now is the time to push for more.

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Why take out the fun stuff? As far as I can tell, TdF Femmes was very successful and the teams got better equipment. It shouldn’t just be a battle of statistics, some randomness is good to keep things interesting.

As an aside, also the women’s Eurocup got a lot more attention than at any point in the past. And guess what, the final was riveting. Arguably, two great, evenly matched teams were battling it out in the Wembley Stadium, and the English made the winning goal in the 110th minute. People are finally waking up to the reality that women’s sports is super entertaining, especially when they are properly supported and produced. (Although when @dcrainmaker made the rounds, I noticed some “uneven” and lower-tier equipment.)

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Personally I feel it should be over at least 2 weeks with a rest day. Including the gravel and mountains was brilliant to watch and absolutely adds some excitement. With more stages this would be diluted a little and allow more team racing to come to the fore too.

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Mountains - of course there needs to be mountains.

I am personally not a fan of cobbles or gravel or other ‘gimmick’ type stages in these events (GTs work argument). But understand some fans are and it can create additional level of drama in the event.

TT’s - I like seeing a TT in the mix. However, the exclusion this time around might be a question of how to best use the available days and also not wanting to create an equipment or equipment transportation burden. The women’s teams are not as well funded as the mens so dragging aero TT equipment around is an additional task.

As a fan watching from the couch, this was a good race. Hope sponsors can be found to keep it going.

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When I think of UCI, my first associations are sclerotic, super conservative, nothing ever changes. I don’t think we should do anything to curb their enthusiasm trying new things out.

And is it really a gimmick, though?
I think most riders want to ride the cobbles, it is one of the highlights. Mixing in gravel also seems like a good idea, too. Athletes with good bike handling skills can gain an advantage, which is great. After all, you need to design an event that doesn’t give one type of rider (climber, sprinter, GC riders, etc.) an undue advantage.

It might force equipment manufacturers to get a little creative, too. Athletes can also focus on optimizing their equipment for different parts of the stage. Very often (men’s) teams would take out very interesting bikes for these special stages (Pinarello made a version of their bikes with what would be called a soft tail in the MTB world, and Specialized athletes would ride the Roubaix).

(Emphasis mine.)
That’s probably why. Some teams rode Chorus, others Force eTap AXS, yet others had a mix of components and wheels. I don’t think it’d be fair to disadvantage those teams. Perhaps they could do a road bike TT instead (no aero bars allowed)? But yeah, including a TT would be fun.

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‘Gimmick’ is just a turn of phrase which has oft been used to describe these types of stages when incorporated into a GT.

This isn’t the thread for it, but have friends who have raced for continental pro level women’s teams. The equipment scenario is often abysmal for ladies teams.

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Usually a derogatory one

Yeah they also shouldn’t race in the heat and rain and if there is any significant Wind, because it could influence the outcome and add some element of luck or unfortune…

I have no Issue with Gravel and Cobbles, yeah some riders don’t like it but I think it was an interesting stage and especially the Women side needs as much viewer engagment as possible to get more Money into the sport.

Mountain stages should be part of the race and the two days showed that the women are more then capable of managing to very hard days… If AvV wasn’t that dominant this wouldn’t even be a discussion point…

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I can corroborate that for other sports, albeit from a few decades ago.

My dad was quite active in women’s pro sports from the early 1980s till the mid-1990s, including (ice) hockey. In the late 1980s they held the European championship in Germany, and there were only 8 teams competing. Sponsorships were extremely hard to get. The largest sponsor at the time contributed 30,000–50,000 German Marks if memory serves. My father had to work hard to get sponsorships by finding suitable employers for the players who would accommodate the training and season’s schedule and, ideally, grant additional holidays for the players. His team was the one of the first (perhaps the first in the league) to hire players from abroad, a couple from the US and a player from Russia. This is not revolutionary, but getting the money was really hard and it created a bit of a rift in the team, because the other players weren’t getting paid. At that time, clubs were really old-school German clubs, most of the players came from the city or region the club represented and essentially did the sport “for free”.

It’s kind of a pity that it took this long, even back then as a small child, I found the games as exciting and entertaining as men’s games, in fact, I didn’t even think about it. Back in 1989 the German team almost got into the finals, they lost a close game to Sweden. I screamed so much during the game that my voice was hoarse the next day.

My hope is that the UCI feels that it can take certain liberties with the women’s TdF and try out new things. E. g. a road bike TT would be very nice, and could attract new people to the sport.

I’d like to do some TTs, but there is no way my wife would let me bike a TT bike that I’d use a few times a year. Making the sport more affordable is a worthwhile innovation. Ditto for including some gravel. They don’t have to go as far as the Belgian Waffle Ride, but I’d love to see stages where e. g. handling skills, tire choice and bike choice could really make a difference.

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The argument against gravel reminds me of Andy Schleck’s argument that downhills didn’t belong in grand tours.

Why don’t we take out all chances of luck entering the equation and just have the race in Zwift. Riding outside has two many chances for luck to enter things :thinking:

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Completely agree. You make your own luck with these sorts of things. Notice it’s largely the same people crashing on descents, or on cobbles, or whatever.

I want to see the best all around Grand Tour riders, and some years that can (and should) mean different things. It’s all about proper preparation.

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It is also introduces a psychological aspect. You could tell that van Vleuten held back on the descents during the Olympic road race — for completely a understandable reason. That day it might have been the difference between gold and silver.

On some level, how is saying gravel sections don’t belong any different than some riders are better at positioning than others and feel more comfortable being in the peloton. Or are able to ride in crosswinds?

Gravel - yes
Mountains - yes
Sketchy narrow roads with random whack-a-mole medians - yes
Boring ass time trials - no thanks

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TDF mens and womens are grand tour road races and shouldn’t have gravel and/or pave sections. Leave that to the one day classics. Bad or non existent road surfaces only serve to increase the chances of a crash which imho turns a great test of endurance into bloodsport clickbait.

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What if the time trials were interspersed with more Whack-a-Mole.

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Looks to me as if gravel segments are nothing new to the TdF :man_shrugging:

(According to the source, the photo is from 1936.)

Are classics not road races then?

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Tarmac de Flats… the new proposed name / event description? :stuck_out_tongue:

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If you’re interested in history, the book, “The First Tour de France” by Peter Cossins is a good read. It talks about the organizers, the newspapers, the riders, the abysmal conditions, and the social environment surrounding the first tour.

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