Henrietta Christie from the Human Powered Health team is taking part in the first Women’s Tour de France With Zwift, which begins on Sunday in Paris.
I remember I was around nine years old watching the Tour de France on TV with my family. I told my parents, “I’m going to ride it one day.” I didn’t care that women couldn’t participate in the Tour de France. Now, over a decade later, it’s wonderful and surreal to realize my childhood dream. Sunday, in Paris, I will begin the inauguration Tour de France Women With Zwift.
My name is Henrietta Christie and I am a professional cyclist from New Zealand. At home, we have always felt a bit isolated from what was happening in professional cycling abroad. The big goal for me growing up was to race professionally in Europe, but there were people who thought that was impossible, wondering how I was actually going to make it into the European peloton.
My answer then was that I would go my own way. A big step was meeting my trainer, Elyse Fraser, and her husband Andrew, who both helped me along the way as I pursued my goal of racing in Europe. The 143 other cyclists who raced alongside me also made their own way to the Tour de France Women.
My Human Powered Health teammates and I are excited and nervous—as we make our final preparations. Everyone arrives in excellent physical condition. We expect a tough race, and there is something uplifting about the challenge: the best women in the world will bring their absolute A-game and make history.
We have reached a new high in women’s cycling. Everyone knows the Tour de France, even if they don’t follow cycling.
It’s been a long time coming, of course.
From the other side of the world, we have been following the evolution of women’s cycling for years. My father said to me: “When you arrive in Europe, there may be a Tour de France for women.” It’s an incredibly exciting time to be a female cyclist – there are more women’s races than ever, and new races will also be added to the World Tour next year.
All the professional cyclists I know are excited, because the Tour de France Women is a sign that we have more races, longer routes and tougher and more diverse courses. Our race is a real mix of terrain, with stages for sprinters, an extremely long stage, a gravel course, and mountain finishes. The diverse route answers a question we all had when the race was first announced: would it be an average event with the Tour de France logo stamped on it? Or would it be a real challenge? By my estimate, 95% of the women’s peloton believe we have received the Tour we are asking for.
It’s been a long time coming and, understandably, riders who are further along in their careers may be frustrated that they’re only now getting their chance at the Tour. But I’m at the start of my career and my main emotion heading into the event is gratitude that the race organizers have finally listened to the riders.
Our race is a real mix of terrain, with stages for sprinters, an extremely long stage, a gravel course, and mountain finishes.
I’m relatively new to stage racing at this level, and just want to be a giant sponge. I will absorb it all, learn and run hard.
I pursued cycling because I like it, even if it’s brutal. If you enjoy it, then you challenge yourself more and get out of your comfort zone.—that can make all the difference in a race.
My success will come from helping the team, supporting them and trying to be a teammate they can count on. But I also want to see what my climbing skills look like when the road dips into the mountains. When we work together as a unit, we can accomplish anything.
Behind every race there are hundreds of people who come together to make it happen: the teams, the organizers and the sponsors. The friendly and tight-knit cycling community is unique and beautiful. I would be remiss if I did not thank them now, before this historic moment.
The women’s peloton is stronger than ever: there is so much talent from all over the world. The fields of our races are immense. There has never been a better time for us to have this race.
There is something magical about the Tour. It is the calling card of our sport: the greatest advertisement for bicycle racing, something known around the world and with the power to inspire. We weren’t big cycling fans when my family tuned in to the Tour all those years ago, but the event captured our imaginations.
The men’s Tour shaped my whole idea of cycling, and it’s special to now have a women’s version, and to know that we can shape younger riders. We want to say to girls all over the world, from New Delhi to New Jersey, to New Zealand too: “Look, there is a women’s Tour de France, and yes, you can race it.”