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The Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift, launched in 2022 with NTT DATA as a founding partner, has been instrumental in promoting gender parity in professional women’s cycling and increasing the visibility of the sport.

We are proud to be the Official Technology Partner of the race again this year, working with race organizers Amaury Sport Organisation (A.S.O.) to bring all the action to fans around the world.

The 2024 race will start on 12 August in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, and finish after eight stages in the French ski resort of the iconic Alpe d’Huez. Our robust digital infrastructure and services support the data collection, enhancement and analysis that make it possible to tell exciting stories about the insights behind every thrilling moment of the race: attacks on the climbs, sprints, descents or breakaways that shake up the order. It’s how we create a truly immersive experience for fans.

In a sport where there are so many inspiring stories to share, more coverage leads to greater participation by both professionals and amateurs. And greater participation means there are more opportunities for women, which helps to create a diverse and inclusive industry.

How it all started

For professional cycling, 2022 was a landmark year. After decades of campaigning for a race that’s equivalent to the prestigious men's Tour de France, the world’s top women cyclists hit the road in Paris on 24 July 2022 in the inaugural Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift – the first women’s Tour de France in more than 30 years.  

Twenty-four teams of six riders each competed in the eight-stage race, which took place the week after the men's tour.

It wasn’t just the riders who reveled in this historic moment: huge crowds lined the route to see the women go past and French TV viewership across the entire race shot up to 20 million people. Meanwhile, Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift website traffic increased by an impressive 80%, boosted by NTT DATA’s race-data insights – a trend that continued in 2023 with a 74% increase in audience numbers.

“I was always sure of one thing with this race,” said Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift director Marion Rousse at the time. “It wasn’t a gift that we were giving to women’s cycling, to create a women’s Tour de France. They simply deserve it … and even though it’s the first year, it’s a proper Tour de France, with the caravan, the crowds, placards, flags – it’s great. It gives me shivers when I see it.”

Digital platforms for cycling champions

We’re living in the age of IoT, where ever higher numbers of connected devices create new ways for people to engage with each other and the world.

At the 2024 Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift, we’re maintaining our momentum by using our technology to raise the profile of the women’s race even more.

Our focus is on data-driven insights from the edge. We gather and process a range of real-time data feeds from the riders and official event vehicles to enrich the fan experience and race broadcasts while enhancing race operations. The data, which feeds into Race Center, our platform that brings together all information coming from the race, including social media and race commentary, is based on the live tracking of riders.

Using advanced analytics and machine learning, we generate rider and team profiles, head-to-head comparisons and other insights that are used on social media and broadcast channels during the race. This makes our coverage of the women’s event the most comprehensive in the world.

This year, our data will once again power the Tour de France Femmes Fantasy League, with daily predictions from our AI-powered #NTTPredictor. Through this platform, fans get to know champions like 2023 Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift winner Demi Vollering and runners-up Lotte Kopecky and Katarzyna Niewiadoma, which increases fan excitement and engagement.

Our digital platforms also support race officials with more accurate information as they enforce the race rules while ensuring rider safety.

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WATCH | Edge to fans: data and insights power the Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift

A turning point in professional cycling

While we are excited about the technology we deploy to bring the women’s race to the world, we are also immensely proud of what the race stands for: parity, inclusivity and encouragement.

Early efforts to include women in the event date back to the 1950s, and there was an official women’s race in the 1980s, but it’s the Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift that’s bringing down the barriers to participation in the male-dominated cycling arena.

Showcasing their abilities in this world-class race makes it easier for women cyclists to build careers as professional athletes. Raising the profile of women cyclists and women’s races more broadly also helps to develop the racing calendar and advance equality in coverage, career opportunities, pay and prize money.

The men’s Tour de France still has noticeably higher prize funds than the women’s race, and male riders are paid more in general. Some of the women’s teams lack the funding to pay their riders, which means some cyclists may switch to a team that can pay them.

To address these issues, organizations such as Women in Sports Tech (WiST), a nonprofit, are at the forefront of creating growth opportunities for women to participate in sport at every level. WiST, for example, focuses on providing equitable access to opportunities and building inclusive cultures in the sports tech industry.

As more of these forums start recognizing and celebrating women cyclists, equal sponsorships and compensation will be the next barriers to overcome.

How NTT DATA fosters equality and diversity

More sponsorship and endorsement deals would create more career opportunities and financial stability for women cyclists, which in turn could contribute to better representation of women in leadership positions – both in teams and in cycling organizations.

There are parallels to be drawn here with women in technology, who face similar issues of diversity, equity and inclusion. Typically, we see pay gaps, a lack of support in the workplace and few women considered for leadership positions.

I work in the technology industry and I’m also a keen cyclist, so these are issues close to my heart that I want to help resolve. I am fortunate to work for an organization like NTT DATA that is addressing those challenges to become more inclusive and equitable.

We have policies and programs in place to support the recruitment, retention and advancement of women in high-performance and leadership positions. This drives a more vibrant, innovative and inclusive work culture with a broader range of skills among teams, diverse perspectives and increased productivity. We strive for female representation on leadership calls, for example.

We are incredibly proud of the positive impact the Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift has had in just two years. We are proud of the role we have played in elevating women’s cycling so far, as evidenced by massive growth in the viewing audience and more investment in the sport, and we look forward to building on this success in 2024.