Women’s Fitness caught up with 24-year-old Manx rider Lizzie Holden during stage five of the Tour de France Femmes, where she talked us through a day in the life of the historic event…
This summer saw the launch of the historic Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift. Despite the male equivalent of their sport taking part in the famous Tour de France annually, until this July the women’s professional peloton weren’t afforded their own version. The last attempt at a women’s Tour de France was over 30 years ago – before many of the current crop of riders was even born – so the news and addition of an eight-day Tour de France Femmes has been lauded as a pivotal moment in women’s cycling.
Last month, Women’s Fitness were fortunate enough to be on the ground in France for this major moment, following the only British cycling team in the race, Le Col-Wahoo. We caught up with 24-year-old Manx rider Lizzie Holden during stage five of the Tour de France Femmes, where she talked us through her day, all the way from jazzing up her morning porridge to catching up with Love Island post-race.
Lizzie Holden: A Day in the Life at the Tour de France Femmes
Because of today’s longer stage (175km – the longest of the eight Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift stages) I woke up a bit earlier than on other days this week. I always push it as far as I can to get the most sleep, hence the 8.10am rather than 8am. On the Tour we move hotels most days as the race travels across France, so I have my suitcase packed and I take it with me when I go down for breakfast.
Sometimes it’s hard to eat in the morning, just because every day you’re doing the same thing: waking up and trying to eat loads of food. I always have porridge, which gets a bit boring, so I try to mix up the toppings. I’ll also have bread with something sweet – usually peanut butter and jam. Then there’s just enough time for me to brush my teeth and jump on to the team bus.
We’ve had short journeys to the start of each day’s race for the most part but for today’s in Bar Le Duc (north-eastern France) it was an hour’s drive. So, I shut my eyes and tried to sleep for 30 minutes. It’s nice to have that moment before the race to just chill out a bit.
Sometimes I don’t like looking at my phone before racing but during a multi-day stage race, I don’t mind it. I think it’s nice to talk to my boyfriend or my family before and then I’m just like ‘okay, bye. Got to go!’, like it’s a normal routine. I’ll also scroll through Instagram and watch some stories – it’s good in a way as it can take your mind off the race a bit and stop you getting too nervous.
On arrival, myself and the six other riders in my team get changed into our kits and then we go to the main stage for a team presentation. You get set presentation times every day and today’s was quite early. Afterwards, we cycle back to the team bus for a pre-race meeting with our directeur sportif, Nico [Marche], where we talk about the day before and what’s coming up.
Then it’s all about the final preparations: getting the food ready in the back pockets, putting suncream on and any last toilet stops.
The race is due to start so we head to the start. It feels a bit weird in that you just roll up to the start line 10 minutes before. I think in a stage race each day you get a bit more relaxed whereas on a day race, you’d be ready on the start line 20 minutes before. Here people will roll up two or three minutes before sometimes.
It depends on what’s coming up in the day as to whether I get nervous before racing. During a stage race, I get less nervous. I think it’s because on the first day you’re more nervous and then you get into it and the nerves just go away a bit. You can just feel that the mood and everyone is a lot more relaxed after the first few days.
Most of the racing at the Tour de France Femmes so far has been full gas [riding full out] and you’ve not had time to speak to other people or friends on other teams, but today I actually had a few conversations with different people. It’s really nice. You see how everyone is feeling and see everyone else is also tired.
We cross the finish line to crowds and cheers, which is incredible. Sometimes you forget you’re in the Tour de France Femmes. It just feels like a normal race and then you’re like ‘oh my God, it’s actually the Tour’.
Straight away, our soigneur Caro is there with recovery shakes, Fanta and water. I take a moment to breathe and then it’s straight to the team bus and onto the turbo trainer for warming down. Warming down is important because obviously [on a multi-stage race] it’s not just about today. The next few days of racing are coming up and I think it’s important to flush the day out of the legs.
Then it’s time for a rapid shower and change. Normally, all the riders are on top of each other in the team bus trying to find their stuff and there’s only one shower. You have to literally hop into the shower, scrub yourself and hop out. There’s no time for a double shampoo or condition. It definitely wouldn’t go down well if you just hung out in the shower.
Our soigneurs also prepare us food to eat post-race, so I grab mine (today we have pesto pasta with tomatoes) and hop into the car to transfer to the hotel. The transfers after the stages have been roughly an hour and a half each day, so I’ve actually been using it as a chance to catch up on Love Island, which I’ve downloaded. I’m still really far behind on it though.
When we arrive at the hotel, we check into our rooms and then it’s time for a massage with a soigneur. I usually don’t take my phone in and just close my eyes for 30 minutes and try to relax a bit. I also like talking to the soigneurs and hearing about their day. It’s nice to get a different perspective.
Post massage, myself and the other riders have dinner and try to fuel up. After dinner, myself and the other girls have time to chill and chat. I’ll call my boyfriend and family. I might also watch something on Netflix to take my mind off the racing.
I’m quite a late sleeper so normally I’ll go to bed at around 11.30pm. Sometimes it will be earlier depending how tired I am from the day’s racing.
Words: Amy Sedghi | Images: Zac Williams & Arne Mill