Annemiek van Vleuten of the Netherlands clinched the Tour de France Femmes on Sunday, bringing home the yellow jersey in the historic race.

The 39-year-old beat out her fellow Dutch rider Demi Vollering by 3 minutes and 48 seconds, with Poland’s Katarzyna Niewiadoma finishing third.

The eight-stage race was the first women’s Tour de France since 1989, serving as a turning point for the sport.

“I’m super proud to be the first winner of the Tour de France for women, of this new version,” Van Vleuten said. “I hope it’s a big start and we can build this into an even bigger event. It’s a milestone to win the first one of, hopefully, many more.”

That she finished the race at all — let alone took the victory — is a testament to her perseverance. She battled through a stomach bug in first half of the week and came close to quitting, the Guardian reported, and she called her win “a little bit of a miracle.”

Forty-four racers from 24 teams competed in the Tour de France Femmes, which kicked off as the men’s race wrapped on the Champs-Elysees in Paris and covered 639 miles in eastern France.

“The real relevance of us having a Tour de France is that now young girls or women in general can turn on the TV and watch women racing for the biggest race in the world,” veteran cyclist Ashleigh Moolman Pasio told Just Women’s Sports. “And that’s when the sport really grows. Because then the depth grows, and suddenly you have young girls who aspire to become pro cyclists.”

The race marks a significant push for progress, but more work still needs to be done, with the competition’s purse a tenth of men’s €2.2 million prize.

For the first time in more than 30 years, women will compete in a multistage Tour de France event.

As the men’s event comes to a close in Paris on Sunday, the women’s will kick off, featuring some of the world’s best riders.

Tour de France organizers, however, are being called out for the women’s event prize of €250,000. Though Amaury Sports Organisation’s purse, furnished by headline sponsor Zwift, is this year’s largest, it is just a tenth of the men’s €2.2 million prize.

“If the women are racing over eight days and the men 21, then no, I don’t think it should be a 50-50 split,” cycling activist Kathryn Bertine told The Telegraph. “But it absolutely should be equal to what men are earning in those eight days. It’s insulting that they [ASO] are promoting this as the biggest prize money ever and it’s only one-tenth of the men’s prize purse. Record prize money cannot be a band-aid for the fact that if it isn’t equal, it isn’t equal.”

The winner of Tour de France Femmes will take home €50,000, with a €200,000 pot divided among stage winners, jersey holders and top finishers.

All male riders who finish in Paris will receive at least €1,000, while €200,000 and €100,000 will be reserved for podium places.

“I wouldn’t expect the prize money to be the same as the men when it’s not the same kind of race, in terms of the types of stages or length, but that’s where our battle will continue,” said Louise Gibson, who co-founded the Internationelles team that in has ridden in stage the men’s Tour in protest for a female equivalent. “It’s not equality. We’ll keep battling until there is something as prestigious as the Tour de France that women can aspire to race.”

The eight-stage event will start Sunday, with the race averaging 80 miles per stage.

On Sunday, for the first time since 1989, women will ride in their own Tour De France.

The Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift will begin on the Champs Elysées in Paris and finish atop La Super Planche des Belles Filles. The eight-day race will be the first Tour de France for women since the event was staged from 1984-89. While past women’s races have taken place, such as La Course by the Tour de France, they haven’t been the Tour.

“It’s a race that most people in the world have heard about,” veteran cyclist Ashleigh Moolman Pasio told Just Women’s Sports. “If you meet someone out on the street and you tell them that you’re a professional cyclist, then they’ll be like, ‘Have you ridden the Tour de France?’

“Now the response is totally different. You can go, ‘Yes, I’m going to be racing the Tour de France.”

The public’s perception about women’s cycling is not the only thing Moolman Pasio believes the Tour will change.

“The real relevance of us having a Tour de France is that now young girls or women in general can turn on the TV and watch women racing for the biggest race in the world,” she said. “And that’s when the sport really grows. Because then the depth grows, and suddenly you have young girls who aspire to become pro cyclists.”

A Tour de France Femmes became possible during the COVID-19 pandemic. When the Tour de France approached Zwift, a virtual training app for cycling and running, about holding a virtual race in 2020, the company also pushed for a women’s race.

“True to Zwift’s values, they stuck firmly to the fact that everything they do, they do equal,” said Moolman Pasio. “So if there were to be a men’s virtual Tour de France, there had to be a women’s one, too.”

The success of that race led main sponsor Zwift to commit to the real thing, and Amaury Sport Organization — which runs the Tour de France — to reconsider their stance on holding a women’s Tour.

In June 2021, ASO announced the launch of the new stage race to take place in July 2022. With a prize fund of €250,000, and the winner taking home €50,000, it’s the richest race in women’s cycling.

For Tour de France Director Christian Prudhomme, the response to the announcement has led him to believe that the race will stick.

“When presenting the women’s Tour de France, the women racers looked very eager,” Prudhomme told Cycling News. “So, we are naturally optimistic and confident in the interest that will be shown in the Tour de France. It feels like we are experiencing a movement in cycling that is continuously gaining momentum.”

Ashleigh Moolman Pasio of South Africa enters the Tour de France with title hopes. (Justin Setterfield/Getty Images)

Moolman Pasio grew up riding, taking part in the Cape Town Cycle Tour with her mother when she was growing up in South Africa. She also enjoyed other sports, like field hockey and tennis, but soon found herself focusing on her academics at Stellenbosch University.

Her now husband Carl, a semi-professional cross triathlete, later noticed her talent on a bicycle and encouraged her to pursue it. From there, she seized on an opportunity to begin riding overseas and her career took off.

“Cycling has been such an incredible journey for me really because — it sounds pretty cliché, but it’s 100 percent true — it’s really been a form of empowerment for me,” she said. “I’m very lucky to be pursuing a career and for it to be a relatively lucrative career.”

After spending some time with CCC Liv and winning the first edition of the UCI Cycling eSports World Championships in 2020, Moolman Pasio now races with SD Worx. The No. 1 team in the world is based in the Netherlands and has a roster of racers like Demi Vollering, who won last year’s La Course by Le Tour de France.

With eight stages over eight days, the Tour de France Femmes covers every type of terrain, including gravel, which will be a Tour de France first. The amount of climbing will steadily increase each day, appealing to riders of every specialty.

“The course has been designed particularly well,” said Moolmain Pasio. “It’s gonna keep the crowd engaged, the fans engaged over the entire duration of the race.”

There’s also the historical significance of the course. Nestled in the Vosges mountains is the Ballon d’Alsace, home of the first “significant summit” crested in the Tour de France, during the race’s third edition in 1905.

“We wanted to show that we were creating a woman’s race that would be perennial, and therefore add an emblematic aspect to the race,” Prudhomme said. “So we added some historic Tour references to the race. As well as the Ballon d’Alsace, there is also the arrival at Epernay. This was the finale of a stage in 2019, in which Julian Alaphilippe took his first yellow jersey.”

Three-time World Champion and two-time Giro Rosa winner Annemiek van Vleuten, a member of Movistar and an expert climber, is widely considered the favorite to take the yellow jersey. But Moolman Pasio has climbing skills of her own, as do teammates Niamh Fisher-Black and Vollering.

“At some point, we hope to catch her out,” added Moolman Pasio. “I think it’s going to be a really exciting eight days because there are plenty of strong women and a lot of passion. And when you ride with passion, it’s a force to be reckoned with.”

They also have the French to worry about. The French team FDJ Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope is aiming to win the yellow jersey at home, and they have the rider to do it: Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig, who finished second in La Course last year.

“I hope there can be a French rider in the mix, such as Évita Muzic or Audrey Cordon-Ragot, who is a personality,” said Prudhomme.

As for her career beyond the Tour, Moolman Pasio has continued to improve this season, prompting her to reconsider her decision to retire. Deciding to step into the e-cycling space and start Rocacorba Collective, a membership-based indoor cycling community that’s created a space for women to come together to cycle, has helped her reap new benefits as she’s taken her training from the virtual world into reality.

“I really feel that it allows me to access a sort of a zone that is something that’s very difficult to achieve on the road,” she said. “You can just put all your focus into getting the best out of your body. What I’ve found is that accessing this zone while I’m on Zwift is now translating to the road as well. It’s enabling me to switch my mind off even in the races, get really into the zone and focus on getting the best out of myself.

“So I’ve just seen that, as a result, I’ve reached a whole new level as a cyclist on the road.”

She’ll attempt to reach even higher levels on Sunday when she begins the first stage of the Tour de France alongside familiar faces, all looking to be the first champion of the Tour de France Femmes.

“There was a time when I thought I would never see the Tour de France Femmes in my career,” said Moolman Pasio. “I wouldn’t be surprised if there are some tears of joy from myself and from other members of the peloton [when we line up], because it’s going to be such a huge moment.”

Emma Hruby is an Associate Editor at Just Women’s Sports. Follow her on Twitter @EHruby.

A transgender cyclist in the United Kingdom received “threats of physical violence” after prime minister Boris Johnson said in April he doesn’t think “biological males should be competing in female sporting events.”

Emily Bridges, who told ITV she expected the threats after Johnson’s comments, has been unable to compete in women’s races since British Cycling suspended its trans and nonbinary inclusion policy in April.

“It’s really strange to see probably the most famous man in Britain talking about you and having an opinion on something that he doesn’t know anything about,” Bridges told ITV in an interview published Tuesday. “The response after that was as expected, I had threats of physical violence made against me by complete strangers online.

“People are entitled to hold an opinion about it, but there’s a way to go about voicing that opinion — and threatening to kneecap me is not that way.”

The 21-year-old had competed in men’s races until earlier this year, winning the last one she entered in February at the British Universities’ Championships.

“Immediately after I came off the track, I was like, ‘I kind of wish I hadn’t done that,'” she said, anticipating the backlash that would come from winning her final men’s race.

She then entered her first women’s race, with the blessing of British Cycling and in line with the organization’s inclusion policy. Before the race, though, she was told she could not compete in the race, and BC later suspended its inclusion policy.

“We sincerely apologise for the uncertainty caused by the suspension of our policy, particularly for the transgender and non-binary communities and women in our sport, and we will be actively engaging with these communities as part of our policy review,” a British Cycling spokesperson told ITV.

American cyclist Molly Cameron, 45, has long dealt with changing inclusion policies in cycling, as outlined in a feature for Bicycling magazine.

Cameron started hormone replacement therapy in 1999 and signed up for women’s starting in the early 2000s, but she had to quit after the IOC adopted a policy in 2003 that required transgender athletes to undergo gender reassignment surgery to compete.

“It was that simple,” Cameron said on the “Breakfast with Boz” podcast. “It was pretty heartbreaking, and I quit. I stepped back from racing.”

Eventually, she missed racing so much that she started competing in men’s races, but then came another hurdle: In 2015, she was told that as a woman she could not enter the men’s race at the Cyclocross National Championships.

“It was a little bit like the Wild West at the time,” said Cameron’s former coach Adam Myerson. “She didn’t have a path to follow, and neither did cycling.”

That IOC policy altered its policy again in 2015, removing the requirement for surgery and instead mandating hormone replacement therapy and specific testosterone limits. And in November 2021, the IOC again went back to the drawing board, this time recommending that sports organizations move away from testosterone limits.

Amid all the changes, and particularly in response to anti-trans sports bills that started gaining steam in the United States, Cameron created an organization called RIDE in 2021 that advocates for LGBTQ+ communities in cycling.

Bridges, too, sees her goal as making the sport better for those that come after her.

“I’ve got the opportunity and I’ve got to keep going and I feel like I’ve got the strength to keep going, to make things better for the people that come after me,” she said. “That’s the goal to kind of make people feel more comfortable in who they are and to hopefully make cycling and sport a more welcoming place.

“Not just for trans people, not just for LGBT people, but for everyone — because sport is, from what I’ve seen, not an inclusive space.”

Sarah Storey is unstoppable.

The paracyclist took home gold in the women’s C5 3000m individual pursuit final, marking her 15th Paralympics gold medal. It also marks four consecutive golds for Storey in the event.

Already Great Britain’s most successful female Paralympian, with two more she would become the most successful British Paralympian of all time, surpassing swimmer Mike Kenny at 16.

In total Storey has 26 Paralympic medals across both cycling and swimming.

The Tour de France is going to have a women’s race.

After years of female cyclists calling for a women’s version of the race, including petitions and some even riding every stage of the men’s race, they will now have a Tour de France to call their own. 

While there’s no word on what the route and length of the race will be, it is known that the race will start on Paris’ iconic Champs-Elysees boulevard after the conclusion of the men’s race.

There had been a women’s race from 1984-1989, but a so-called “lack of economic balance” led to the race’s failure. Zwift, an online fitness platform, has signed on in a four-year sponsorship. 

The “Tour de France Femmes” is scheduled to start on July 24, 2022.