There's shouldn't be a women's TdF, Giro or Vuelta

by Al__S   May 22, 2014  

No no, hear me out!

the idea of a "Women's Tour de France", and Giro/Vuelta equivalents, is a bad idea. If they were to run with the existing men's events, there would be huge logistical challenges and the women would be a sideshow to the men. Having a second three week tour in each country at a separate time of year would be very disruptive.

But clearly, especially if the whole women's side of the sport is raised up in level through more money, women should be perfectly capable of riding a three week tour of either similar time on the road or similar distance- or a compromise between the two. They may even, if training at a similar level, be able to do the bigger climbs as fast or even faster.

So, why play second fiddle? Why not have grand tours, but in other countries? lets make the definitive "Tour of Britain" not the week-ish long Men's race- lets have a true tour, over three weeks. We've got plenty of roads. It wouldn't have the high mountains of France, Italy or Spain, but there's still a fair number of decent hills, and it would be quite a different beast.

Going continental, Germany is huge and does have alps. So a Tour of Germany could be the next one?

To be honest, at this point I'm struggling though. Need a third, quite different country of a decent size?

They wouldn't have to jump straight to three weeks. Give the sport time to develop. One week, two week, then three week.

Also, don't call them the "Women's tour of" wherever. Just "the tour" (or local language equivalent). Make them each country's flagship bike race regardless of gender. Make the sport's collective language embrace the idea that there are six grand tours, but any given rider is only eligible for three!

(who's going to pay? not my problem)

(also, yes, a bit trolling for attention with the topic)

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Germany is huge, but cycling is still recovering in Germany from all the things of the past.

I'd like to see a tour of Scandinavian. Plenty of challenges there.

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posted by Gkam84 [8799 posts]
22nd May 2014 - 16:32

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The problem is that women's sport is not always as popular as men's. Apart from Tennis and a few others, there is often not the same level of interest in women's sport and therefore the sponsors are not so many. Sadly many female athletes end up being judged on their appearances rather than sporting prowess (Anna Kournikova for example), and in many cases there is not the same fanbase as the equivalent men's sport. Now women's cycling is having an upsurge in the UK because of the success of the Olympics and in the Tour - alongside cycling in general of course, and it is great that new races are cropping up. But in the long run, I doubt that the women's side of the sport will attract enough cash for long enough to truly develop like the men's has.

There was a Tour of Germany btw - but the Germans went massively off cycling in the late 2000's due to the doping problems (they close their eyes to other sports but that is a different topic!). Even having 2 or 3 top male sprinters winning lots of races has not changed this. Anyway, it could perhaps be run as a women's race, but I could only see that if Germany's cycling scene turned round and someone put the money in. It would be nice to see this happen though, but i am not holding my breath.

posted by domofarmfrites [19 posts]
22nd May 2014 - 16:39

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The lenght of the races doesn't matter that much. It's about building a solid amateur base and following. Mens cycling evolved for 100 years in an organic way, starting with amateur races where a few crazy adventurists agreed to see who could ride around france the fastest, and they slowly gained popularity with the people over time. More and more people wanted to try it, untill newspapers started supporting it financially because it had a large following, and therefor became commercially interesting. From there on the best riders won enough money to call it their job, and it slowly kept growing.

Trying to force it the other way around, first creating a professional league and hope that attracts more fans has worked for some sports, but not many. You need a fanbase, who both actively and passively participate in the sport if you want to get anywhere. That's mainly why I feel that attaching a female race to an existing mens race is forced and not productive. All it does is piggyback off the popularity of the mens races.

We need to get women to buy expensive racebikes, be interested in cycling, so they become a viable market to companies for sales and advertising.

posted by hubertoi [5 posts]
22nd May 2014 - 16:59

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I would definitely agree with 3 grand tours of other countries. Half the objections to big-time womens racing is the logistics of 2 TdFs, for example, but the fact that the Womens Tour was, geographically speaking, not much more than a tour of East Anglia and (just some of) the home counties, means that you could stretch that to a 3 week race and get crowds all the way, by covering the rest of the UK. Clearly though, it would take some serious organisation and funding to pull this off.

A Tour of Scandinavia would be seriously challenging.

For those that know the sport, the idea of dropping the 'Womens Tour' bit would appeal - you can be eligible for those 3, or for those 3 - but casual observers would be confused.

I also like that you started with a protest for us to shut up for a minute and hear you out!

Last night I would have considered trading a very loud baby for a really nice bike.

posted by notfastenough [3083 posts]
22nd May 2014 - 17:07

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Women's racing I have recently discovered often makes for much better viewing. The shorter distances allow a much wider range of tactical riding options for going for the win.

It's arguable the stage lengths in men's events is just too much; look how many stages are effectively a peleton controlled procession until the final few kilometres. The shorter stages in women's events can often give lone breakaway riders as much of a chance as the bunch sprint.

The ridiculous stage lengths made sense when the grand tours were started to sell newspapers like L'Equipe, tales of mad daring distances read great in print (How truthful the race results were back then is another matter...). In the television age shorter, faster stages work much better.

posted by giobox [271 posts]
23rd May 2014 - 2:39

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Tour of Germany (for women) might be a good idea - could give the sport, which is pretty tarnished in Germany, a new start.

Given increase in numbers of women cycling in the UK surely we must be able to do something about it in this country.

Big issue is how to pay for it, I don't think its appropriate to make a public problem (low profile of women's cycling, or most other sports) a private problem (by foisting it on already cash strapped promoters). Thought experiment, if the government proposed a law requiring TV channels (all of them - including pay) to show an equivalent amount of corresponding women's sports giving them equal prominence, do you think this woudl get made law? So why force promotoers to solve an issue that they can't solve all at their own expense.

Maybe something like adding £10 to the cost of every bike sold on ride to work scheme with funds being hypothecated to subsidise a major women's event.

posted by surly_by_name [142 posts]
23rd May 2014 - 8:55

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I am a little uncomfortable with the idea of forcing women's sport onto the public by introducing quotas and laws and levies etc. Although women's sport should be encouraged, it needs to have a more organic popularity base. Encourage races to be held, encourage media coverage and over time something may well develop. But if there is no real interest in the general public, then it is a little bit oppressive to say 'you will watch this, you will watch that'. In the UK we are lucky and can build on the back of Olympic and TDF success. If enough people start cycling and develop and interest in the racing side, then sponsors will come. But this is something to encourage and facilitate, not dictate.

I think any levy on Bike to Work would perhaps be best spent on proper bike lanes and infrastructure (although this should really be funded by the public purse). If I bought a bike to get to work on, then I would be a bit puzzled as to why I had to subsidise women's bike racing.

posted by domofarmfrites [19 posts]
23rd May 2014 - 10:16

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We already have a women's equivalent to the Giro by the way! It's not on at the same time but the UCI don't really give it much of a chance by way of viewing, it's called the Giro Donne and RAI Sport cover it if you like italian commentary Smile

I do agree to some degree, and I think a lot of the campaigners in the sport do too. Being second to the men isn't really what we want but in the same breath, using the mens events to gain publicity isn't a bad thing.

La Course this year is a great way to get the public interested, yes the race isn't quite what the ladies deserve, but it's a start - so I think there's no harm in it.

The women's tour the other week was a classic example of the sport working well for media and publicity. Hopefully it was a big middle finger to those who think the sports not at a point where it deserves its own grand tours and TV shows.

What the sport needs is not just chit chat, but viewers, if people are as in to the sport as they say they are then they should be making conscious efforts to watch it - whether its online, through the UCI site or on TV. If the fatcats see those ratings flowing in, they'll be forced to start making more of an effort.

Should be an interesting next few years anyway Smile

Merlin Cycles women's race team ~ http://www.merlincycles.com
Manx nerd peddler ~ http://mooleur.blogspot.com

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posted by mooleur [542 posts]
23rd May 2014 - 11:18

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mooleur wrote:
What the sport needs is not just chit chat, but viewers, if people are as in to the sport as they say they are then they should be making conscious efforts to watch it

This is the great conundrum. I am "in to" the sport to a signficant extent (I think) but I've also got a limited amount of time to watch TV. Right now I don't find women's cycling compelling enough to move up the ranking of "things I need to do in my spare time" from its current position of "possibly will get there if I get through all this other shit" to "must do". Part of this (at least for me) is because there isn't a narrative around women's cycling to buy into - its really easy to read about (males) pros and the (male) history of the sport. You have to work hard(er) to feel as involved with women's cycling. So better coverage is part of the solution. But better coverage won't happen without more eyeballs, so it's a bit of a vicious circle.

But at the risk of repeating myself: given the general rise in the popularity of cycling and the larger number of women now actively engaged in the sport (and by actively engaged, I mean buying and pedalling bikes) if we can't improve things now then we never will.

posted by surly_by_name [142 posts]
23rd May 2014 - 12:03

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I realise there's the Giro Donne, and I think that's kind of the OPs point - it's shorter and by contrast the men's Giro is a national institution, ingrained in the countrys' and the sports' culture. Would it be better to try and raise this to GT length/profile and hope everyone in Italy has the stomach to support a 2nd GT, or would it be better to try it in a country that doesn't have a GT? Based on last month, if they extended the Womens ToB to 3 weeks and included iconic climbs, TTs etc, I think the support would be mental.

Last night I would have considered trading a very loud baby for a really nice bike.

posted by notfastenough [3083 posts]
23rd May 2014 - 12:04

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Definitely agree, it's not something that's been done before - the public love a GT and bike racing is bike racing regardless of gender, I definitely thing it'd go down well with the public. It'd be great for the riders too, as it stands the races suit certain types of riders and there's not much give or take to claw things back in different types of stages - you look at the ladies tours and they're all one particular type of racing, Chong Ming sprinters, Donne climbers, things like that. It'd be lovely to see a nice long stage race that gives the variable talent in the women's peloton a good chance to fighting for a GC properly.

I think using countries that already have a good base & culture for GT riding would be better, personally, as there's the labels and reputation that goes with them. If they were in France or Italy then the public automatically associates good quality racing with those locations, but then the sports so open to experimentation at the moment perhaps trying something new wouldn't go amiss anyway Smile

Merlin Cycles women's race team ~ http://www.merlincycles.com
Manx nerd peddler ~ http://mooleur.blogspot.com

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posted by mooleur [542 posts]
23rd May 2014 - 13:40

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