It’s official: the world’s first Virtual Tour de France will be held on Zwift, beginning this weekend!
In some ways, this event looks like the traditional TdF: most of the same teams and riders, broadcast on the same networks, competing in July on French roads for iconic leader jerseys. In other ways, it will be completely different: all the racing will be done on indoor trainers, after all! Plus there are only six stages, with smaller teams, and riders are competing for charity instead of a prize purse.
This is truly a Zwifty celebration of the TdF, and that is exactly what it should be. Let’s look at the details of the world’s first virtual Tour de France, including the Virtual l’Etape du Tour, where all Zwifters can ride stages on Zwift’s just-released France and Paris maps.
New Zwift Maps
The Zwift community has been abuzz with news of new virtual tarmac to ride thanks to two new maps built specifically for the virtual TdF. We are still putting together the details of the new routes, but here are some screenshots and other teasers released today by Zwift.
According to Zwift, “The French map takes inspiration from the country and should evoke strong connections with the country as Zwifters pass through vineyards, over Roman aqueducts, and through sunflower fields. The new map also plays host to a virtual replica of Mont Ventoux. Zwift’s Mont Ven-Top, meaning snowy peak in gallic, is a punishing climb that is sure to test the legs of any rider.”
The Paris map is much smaller than the France map, “taking in the finishing circuit we’ve all come to associate with the final stage of the Tour de France. Zwifters will be able to ride around the famed Arc de Triomphe, navigate around the Place de la Concorde and sprint down the cobbled Champs-Élysées just like the best sprinters of the Tour de France. Zwifters will be able to join events on the new maps during the Virtual Tour de France.”
Virtual Tour de France Stage Details
The pros will be racing on Saturday and Sunday for three consecutive weekends beginning July 4th. In contrast to the TdF’s grueling 21-day schedule of long daily events, the virtual TdF races are meant to “deliver the best virtual racing experience for both competitors and viewers,” so each stage is only about an hour long.
Every stage is designed to mimic iconic portions of La Grande Boucle. Here is the schedule as we know it (we will update with additional links once route details for the new Paris and France maps are published):
- Saturday 4th July, Stage 1: Nice, 36.4 km (4 x 9.1 km, hilly stage) – Watopia Hilly Route (Reverse)
- Sunday 5th July, Stage 2: Nice, 29.5 km (682 m of ascent, mountain stage) – Watopia Mountain Route
- Saturday 11th July, Stage 3: North-East France, 48 km (2 x 24 km laps, flat stage) – France R.G.V. Route
- Sunday 12th July, Stage 4: South-West France, 45.8 km (2 x 22.9 km laps, hilly stage) – France Casse-Pattes Route
- Saturday 18th July, Stage 5: Mont Ventoux, 22.8 km (finish at Chalet-Reynard, mountain stage) – France La Reine Route
- Sunday 19th July, Stage 6: Paris Champs-Elysées, 42.8 km (6 laps of the circuit) – Paris Champs-Elysées Route
Gender parity is a hot-button issue in pro cycling, and the virtual TdF is clearly planned to delivery equal coverage and competition for both men’s and women’s teams. In fact, the women will kick off the virtual TdF by racing first on July 4th, followed immediately by the men!
Men’s and women’s stages will be held on identical courses over the same distances, and both events will receive equal broadcast coverage.
Pro Team Participation
The world’s top cycling teams will be lining up to battle it out in the virtual TdF. For each stage, teams will select four riders to compete. Riders can be rotated in and out for different stages, so we will certainly see a variety of top pros taking parts on routes that best suite their strengths.
Confirmed teams for the virtual TdF include:
AG2R La Mondiale
Astana Pro Team
B&B Hotels-Vital Concept
Team Bahrain McLaren
Deceuninck – Quick-Step
EF Education First Pro Cycling
Israel Start-Up Nation
NTT Pro Cycling
TOTAL Direct Énergie
Alé BTC Ljubljana
Boels-Dolmans Cycling Team
Ceratizit – WNT Pro Cycling
FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope
Lotto Soudal Ladies
TIBCO-Silicon Valley Bank
TWENTY20 Pro Cycling
Valcar Travel & Service
Confirmed riders from Zwift’s press release include the past three winners of the TdF (Chris Froome, Geraint Thomas, Egan Bernal) plus Greg Van Avermaet and other top pros for the men’s race. Marianne Vos, Chloé Dygert Owen, Kirsten Wild, and Anna Van der Breggen are among the big names confirmed for the women’s race.
In an interesting twist, DC Rainmaker did a little digging and learned that no male riders are allowed to race more than 3 stages total, and no female riders are allowed to race more than 4 stages total. This makes it even more of a team event since no single rider will be able to dominate the series.
Anyone who follows Le Tour knows about the “race within the race.” That is, there are multiple classifications or competitions happening concurrently during and across all stages. The virtual TdF will be similar, but competition will be entirely points-based. During each stage, riders will score points on specific climbs, sprints, and across the finish line. These points will be totaled on a team basis and used to designate a leading team in each classification:
- Best Sprinter classification (green jersey): for the team holding the most sprint points
- Best Climber classification (polka dot jersey): for the team holding the most KOM points
- General Classification (yellow jersey): for the team holding the most points overall
The teams leading each of these classifications will choose one rider on the day to wear the classification’s leader jersey.
Each stage will also see a rider awarded the Most Aggressive rider award, sponsored by Antargaz. A Best Young Rider classification (white jersey) will be awarded to the rider with the most points under 25 years old.
Keeping It Simple
Since this is a charity event, anti-cheating controls are being kept to a minimum. Zwift says that pre-race validation checks will be done to ensure accurate equipment and rider weights. No post-race performance verifications will be done.
Where to Watch
The virtual TdF will be broadcast to over 130 countries, with broadcasts taking place every Saturday and Sunday, July 4-19, from 3pm-5pm CET (9am-11am EDT/6am-8am PDT).
- Worldwide: GCN App, Zwift.com
Highlights will be available on Zwift’s YouTube channel after each stage.
Virtual L’Etape du Tour de France
Each year, L’Etape du Tour de France provides cyclists with the opportunity to get a slice of the Tour de France experience through a mass participation cyclo-sportive held on one of the Tour de France mountain stages. The Virtual l’Etape du Tour de France will be no different, allowing participants to test themselves on the same roads as the professionals!
Want to ride Zwift’s new French roads as soon as possible? There will be “Virtual Tour de France Discovery Rides” where you can ride the exact stage the pros raced the weekend before. See this ZwiftHacks search for a list of upcoming Discovery Rides (more will be added soon).
It appears that Sunday, July 12th, will see the first Discovery Rides events on the France map (for stages 3 and 4).
“Tour de France United” Charity Initiative
The virtual TdF kicks off a charity initiative in celebration of the Tour de France that will run until the conclusion of the rescheduled Tour de France in August. Called “Tour de France United”, the initiative has been created to raise funds for five charity partners: Emmaüs, Secours Populaire, Jeugdfonds Sport and Cultuur, BiJeVa, and Qhubeka.
Questions or Comments?
Share below! We’ll do our best to answer questions and comments as more information is released in the coming days.