This past summer, Anouk Flesch (@anoukflesch) was the official photographer at the first edition of Tour de l'Avenir Femmes. The Tour de l'Avenir Femmes is a race exclusively for riders under the age of 23, and is something of a mini Tour de France Femmes: a five-day stage race in the southeast of France, taking on a challenging route with a visit to the Alps. Anouk Flesch managed to capture some beautiful, bold and aesthetic action shots of the women competing, as well as the stunning landscape and eager crowd. One thing noticed about Anouk's work is how vibrant and bold the images are, almost symbolising the women who took part in the race.
The Tour de l'Avenir Femmes is of tremendous significance due to the lack of female cyclist races. The Tour de France for example, at one time didn't include female cyclists due to the limited media coverage, sexism and trademark issues with the past organisers of the race. Anouk's work challenges these outdated beliefs by capturing images that empower the women within the Tour de l'Avenir Femmes, showing their strength, courage and determination. Claiming their place in the world of cycle sport, these women show great resilience, being an inspiration to all. The days of excluding women from major sporting events are beginning to become a thing of the past, especially the idea of cycle sports being a "man's sport". Races for women only are beginning to claim their space within the sport, such as Paris-Roubaix and of course the Tour de France Femmes.
The Tour de l'Avenir (originally for men only) was created more than sixty years ago, as a crucial stepping stone in the edifice of cycling; working almost as an essential base of the pyramid that leads to the top. When the Tour de France Femmes with Zwift became necessary in order to grow modern beliefs, there was no excuse for why the Tour de l'Avenir should not perform the same role through its women's version. The first edition Tour de l'Avenir Femmes spread across five days, in pursuit of the Men's Tour de l'Avenir. The formula was also consistent, like its male counterpart. The Tour de l'Avenir Femmes opened to hopefuls under the age of 23 and would've been a great encouragement for young female cyclists, as well as a gateway to the highest level in cycling sport.
Marking a momentous chapter in history, Shirin van Anrooij (Netherlands) glided across the finishing line in first place in 11H 01' 50" on the mountainous stage 5, claiming the first ever win of the Tour de l'Avenir Femmes. Anna Shackley (Great Britain) crossed the finishing line + 2' 15" for second place, closely followed by Petra Stiasny (Switzerland) who finished in third place at + 3' 50". Stage winner Gaia Realini (Italy) was only five seconds behind Stiasny, claiming fourth place.
These women represented a huge stepping stone in women's sports, being an enormous influence to other women and girls around the world. They show that women have a rightful place in cycling sport, as well as claiming a triumphant bookmark in cycling sport history.