Lorena Wiebes outsprinted fellow Dutchwoman Marianne Vos to win the first stage of the new women’s Tour de France in Paris on Sunday and pull on the leader’s yellow jersey.
After a 33-year break, the eight-stage women’s edition of the race around France got underway on the same day as the men’s event finished in Paris and will be broadcast live on television for the first time.
French cycling legend Jeannie Longo, winner of three editions including the last in 1989, saw off the 144 riders who competed in an 81.6km circuit from the Eiffel Tower.
Team DSM rider Wiebes accelerated past Vos of Jumbo-Visma on the Champs-Elysees, with Belgian Lotte Kopecky third fastest.
“It’s special to wear the yellow jersey,” said Wiebes.
“The team did an amazing job. It was a really chaotic and long sprint.”
Three-time world champion Vos had attacked early to try to win but Wiebes, 23, was well placed on the final bend to take her 52nd career stage victory and 16th this season.
“It was really close but luckily I could accelerate one more time and overtake Marianne on the finish line,” added Wiebes.
“I was quite relaxed before the start. We did everything as normal, we saw it as a normal race but of course I was quite nervous towards the end.”
Despite the second place, Vos enjoyed the atmosphere. “It was a great day. I was focused on the race, but at the same time, I was enjoying it.
“I can’t blame myself. Lorena deservedly won today,” said 35-year-old Vos.
“We all know she is hard to beat. The fact that I came so close gives me a good feeling.”
Race favourite Annemiek van Vleuten of the Netherlands, winner of the women’s Giro d’Italia, crossed in 21st position, in the same time as the leading group.
Italian Marta Cavalli, 24, winner the Fleche Wallonne and the Amstel Gold Race, two classics, and runner-up to van Vleuten in the Giro, finished down the field in the same time.
Wiebes has a four-second lead in the general classification over Vos before the 136.4km second stage between Meaux and Provins on Monday.
Only Italian world champion Elisa Balsamo has been able to deny Wiebes in a sprint this season.
But the wearer of the rainbow jersey, less well positioned, could not defend her chances on Sunday.
“I was completely locked in for the final sprint. I tried to sprint but my legs weren’t so good,” said the Italian.
French sports minister Amelie Oudea-Castera said at the starting line that she hopes the new race will be a breakthrough for women’s cycling.
“The investment of sponsors such as the development of a circuit all year round allows riders to be able to earn a living and become really great pros,” she said of the race wich has prize money totalling 250,000 euros ($255,000).