Why can’t we have a women’s Tour de France?

Does cycling’s institutional sexism mean women will never make it in pro racing? Asks Sarah Barth

by Sarah Barth   July 14, 2013  

Emma Pooley in London 2012 TT (copyright www.britishcycling.org.uk)

Three thousand, two hundred kilometres of blood, sweat and tears; 21 days of mental and physical achievement; up mountains and through headwinds, the Tour de France is without doubt the pinnacle of the racing calendar for pro cyclists and spectators alike. But only if those pros are men.

There’s no women’s Tour de France, at least not any more. Since 2009, the event known as the Tour Cycliste Feminin has not been held. Its demise followed decades of scrambling for adequate sponsorship to allow the race to be held, and the lack of esteem in which it was held is demonstrated by the fact that in 1997 the organisers of the men’s Tour de France declared its name a breach of trademark, so it was renamed La Grande Boucle (the big loop).

By the time it eventually came to a halt in 2009 the race was only four days long with 66 riders, a shadow of its heyday of 15 stages. That year, three British stages were plannned; when that fell through the race’s winner Emma Pooley dismissed it as "more of a Petite Boucle than Grande."

Speaking again about the race on BBC Radio 4's Women’s Hour this week, Pooley said that there was no good reason not to have a women’s event on the same scale as the enormously popular Tour de France.

Speaking from her Zurich training base, Pooley, an Olympic Silver Medallist and 2010 World Time Trial Champion, told the programme: “There did used to be a real women’s Tour de France back in the 80s; two weeks long and really tough with proper mountain stages, but it sort of fizzled out because of lack of sponsorship.

“2009 was the last time that the daughter race of the Tour happened.”

But, she said, she saw no evidence that women’s cycling was any less exciting or watchable than men’s, citing the audiences for the women’s Olympic cycling events at the 2012 Games in London.

“It’s a a real opportunity that’s being missed, frankly,” she continued. “There’s a real growth in women's cycling and we saw in the UK last year with the Olympics that there’s the same Olympic events in cycling for women as for men.

“People said to me: ‘where can we watch more of your racing?’ and I said, ‘well you can’t, because it’s not on television.’

“We have plenty of races but they don’t get much media coverage so people don’t watch it and the sponsors aren’t interested."

Old-fashioned sexism

She said she could envisage a situation where women rode the same Tour course as the men each day, passing through earlier and giving the public who turn out to line the streets another opportunity to see top-class racing passing through their local area.

She said: “The Tour is such a huge logistical challenge anyway that adding 50 or 70 women wouldn’t make a huge difference. I’ve heard people say that there wouldn’t be enough hotels, but I mean, honestly!

“For the spectators it would be quite a good thing because they stand by the side of the road in pouring rain or sweltering heat for hours and hours and they only see the race go past once."

Asked whether women simply weren’t capable of the physical challenge of the Tour, she was quick to reject the idea.

She said: “It annoys me a little bit because there used to be the argument that women couldn’t run a marathon, and that died a death a long time ago.”

She said that the financial pressures on women to afford to race meant that many did not race full time, so to start with there wouldn’t be a huge field.

“Most women can’t afford to race full time, so I don’t think you have 100 women...but you have 50.

“I want to do the tour... I’m sure I could finish - I know I could do the distance. I couldn’t finish probably the men’s race because they ride faster than us uphill.

“We’re not actually allowed to ride as far in a single stage... it’s old fashioned sexism in my opinion. But women play fewer sets at Wimbledon and people still want to watch it.”

Half The Road: too much to ask?

Pooley, who took part in the filming of a documentary called Half The Road, which explores the world of women’s professional cycling, focusing on both the love of sport and the inequality that modern-day female riders face in a male dominated sport, said that given Britain’s involvement in next year’s Tour Grand Depart, we might be able to exert a little pressure on the race organisers to let women in.

She said: “The Tour starts in Yorkshire next year and you’d think they’d be desperate to organise a women’s race. The governing body of cycling should start to legislate on this... They could say you’re not getting a licence unless you have a women’s race as well.”

Along with the American rider Kathryn Bertine, Pooley has begun a petition asking Christian Prudhomme, Director of the Tour de France, to "break down the barriers that unjustly keep female athletes from the same opportunities as men."

The petition, which you can sign here, demands:

-- Women should have the opportunity to compete at the same cycling events as men.
-- Women should be on the starting line of the 101st Tour de France in 2014.

Perhaps there is hope: in his manifesto to become the next President of the UCI, Brian Cookson wrote:

“I strongly believe there is huge potential to grow women’s cycling at all levels. As UCI President, I will make it my priority to create new opportunities for women’s cycling in all disciplines, and also create a new UCI Women’s Commission, appoint at least one woman to every UCI Commission, establish a minimum wage for women pro road riders and formalise proper and modern terms of employment.”

Growing momentum

Pooley is not a lone voice on the subject; it’s an argument that has gathered pace since the British successes at the London 2012 Olympics gave some of our home-grown stars a real voice for the first time.

At the time, Pooley spoke out in the Guardian, and it’s sad to see how little has changed in a year.

She said: "Women's cycling really does have a problem. It's not a lack of enthusiasm or willingness, it's just the races aren't televised for the most part so for sponsors it's like night and day compared with men's cycling. There is a lot of uncertainty every year over teams. You think you've got a contract then the team decide women's racing is not of interest to main sponsors because it's not visible.

"[In] A lot of women's teams you're lucky if they buy you a sandwich at the race… sponsors keep pulling out of races so they get cancelled… the calendar has been more than decimated. I get enough to live off, better than most women in the sport. The depressing thing is that there is so much money in cycling but it all stays in one bit of the sport, not much of it trickles down."

Nicole Cook, road race World Champion and Olympic gold medalist, added her voice to the debate in her retirement statement, which you can read here in full.

She said: “One expects there to be an infrastructure for both boys and girls to develop and demonstrate their talents; to nurture them. One does not expect that nothing is available if you are a girl or that worse still, girls will be specifically excluded, not allowed to compete."

She blamed the doping scandal that has damned the men’s sport over the last few years for the lack of sponsorship for women’s cycling, which is crucial if talented women are to devote more of their time to racing.

She said: “Every scandal on the men's side has caused sponsors to leave on the women's side. And with such thin budgets, the losses have a greater relative impact on what survives. In areas where there was unique female development and growth, such as in Canada, which hosted a major Tour, a World Cup and the World Championships, all geared to supporting their number one rider — Genevieve Jeanson, there has been calamity. Perhaps Jeanson will not be a name familiar to you. She was the Canadian superstar, a national icon. She never tested positive. She missed a drugs test when she beat me and received a meaningless fine as a consequence. She exceeded the 50% Hematocrit level and the authorities acted in line with their legislation and imposed a "health rest" on her.”

Can't complain about the race that we don't yet have?

When we spoke to Sarah Storey, whose Paralympic successes have seen her become Britain's most successful female Paralympian, she echoed the sentiments, but in a more nuanced take on things, said that women had to bear some of the burden themselves, and fill all of the events that are currently open to them.

Storey, 34, won four gold medals at the London Games, for events as diverse as the 500m time trial and the C4-5 road race at Brand's Hatch, and now holds 22 Paralympic medals in all, a record shared with former wheelchair racer Tanni Grey-Thompson.
Speaking to Road.cc, she questioned why the turnout at women's races is often poor, and cited her own experiences of finding it hard to get started in elite racing.

"It can be quite daunting, so we need to find a way of supporting women to race, and allowing them to learn the skills before we put them in a field of people who are going so quick it's impossible to see what's happening.

She added: "To go to a road race and see that the field isn't full, despite the fact that there's a fantastic race has been organised, is disappointing. So if we don't support our races that we do have then we can't complain about the ones that we don't yet have in a more glamorous setting.

"The fields in the women's races are very oversubscribed in the early season, and then by the time you get to say the Essex Giro, which is the final one of the national series, there's only 45 riders maybe, when there could be a field of 80.

"Maybe it's because women have jobs and other commitments, and maybe some of the girls run out of money, but we have to support the events that are there before complaining about the ones that aren't."

A thousandth of the prize money

But affordability is clearly a factor in women's racing.

The Giro Rosa, previously known as the Giro Donne, features eight stages, a total length of 808 kilometres, with an average stage length of 101 km. It's a baby compared to the Tour de France (21 stages, 3404 km, average stage 162 km), but the Giro Rosa's prize money of 460 Euros is a mere thousandth of the Tour de France's 450,000 Euro top prize.

Missed opportunity

Lizzie Armitstead announced that Team Sky was "missing an opportunity" by failing to set up a women’s team, but fortunately Wiggle Honda stepped into the breach, hoovering up all those women like Laura Trott, Dani King and Joanna Rowsell, who had such success at the Olympics.

They have managed the difficult trick of getting coverage in the mainstream media, especially the Guardian newspaper. Some have noted that, in the same way as the mainstream media celebrates women’s tennis, less specialist media are able to come to the subject with fewer preconceptions and simply accept the idea that women's pro cycling is as worthy of attention as men's.

Speaking to us last month, Joanna Rowsell gave what she said was an example of how the profile in Britain of not just cycling, but women’s cycling specifically, has been transformed.

“There was a picture of me and Lizzie [Armitstead, who finished second] on the podium in the Guardian,” she explains.

“When would that have made a picture in the newspaper before? The British national time trial championships?”

As Trott noted, the remaining battle is to get some air time for the women’s road team - as it’s television that attract the sponsors.
She said: "I think women's races need to be run alongside men's races. Obviously as a track rider we get just as much coverage on the TV and the same sponsorship, because we're there with the men. Twenty minutes to show the end of our road races isn't a lot to ask."

Sadly, these days, if you switch on your television you’re more likely to see a girl having her bottom pinched on a podium than standing on it in her own right.

Of course, supporting the successful female riders we already have is one thing, but building on the, for the future depends on a longer term process that includes getting more women cycling in general.

Step forward Team CTC, which hasn’t had so much coverage, but it’s another small step towards making sure women have the support they need to compete.

Formed as an offshoot of the Cyclist’s Touring Club, we reported chief executive Gordon Seabright’s comments in which he said it’s not just about winning races, but winning women around to cycling. Seabright recognises that the solution to the institutional sexism is not simply to put on a few more women’s races.

Seabright wrote: "Members of the team have committed their non-racing time to visiting CTC activities around the country to help us get them the media coverage they deserve.

"We also want to show by actions and not just by words our support for women’s cycling and what we think of the disgraceful disparity between support for sporting men and women.

"Getting women cycling is our job. CTC has always been a campaigning organisation, and as far back as the 1890s we were fighting for the rights of women cyclists to be just as welcome at wayside inns as their male counterparts."

Quietly, they have been doing their bit, recently putting in a solid performance in the Tour De Feminin - O cenu Ceského Švýcarska in the Czech Republic.

Girls on film

So is the idea of women’s cycling regularly appearing on television a bit of a pipe dream?

In the world of women’s football, things have slowly begun to change. From being something of a niche interest, the BBC has begun to show noticeably increased coverage of the sport, including extensive content from the Women’s Euros this month. It’s clear that with increased scheduling, the audiences will follow, and so, the sponsors - it’s hard to see how it’s not a winning combination for everyone.That’s a view echoed by William Fotheringham of The Guardian. If the cycle racing industry doesn’t want to change itself simply to address inequality, he argues, they should consider it simply because it might be good for its pockets.

He writes: “It is blatantly unfair that women racers should earn proportionately so much less than their male counterparts and face instability that they don't. But if that is not an argument that carries enough weight, the prospect of a massive untapped market should have the cycle industry beating the UCI's door down.”

34 user comments

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Forget a seperate womens Tour,why not just allow the best women riders to be included in the mens race?
It would be very interesting to see how they fared against the men afterall there are already seperate categories in the Tour ie;Best young rider,Green Jersey,King of The mountains etc
It would be easy to incorporate the womans standings so the logistics wouldnt be compromised in sending the women off unfairly at 6 in the morning ahead of the mens race

posted by ScotchPoth [49 posts]
14th July 2013 - 11:24

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wrevilo wrote:
To take a different view for arguments sake - is it wrong if no one wants to watch it? As the women say, men can do the events faster which makes for better TV.

that's an argument that's widely used for women's sport. i don't think it holds true for cycling at all. cycling races are about the tactics and the development of the race. the overall speed isn't that relevant.

chicken and egg here: women's cycling isn't watched because it isn't there to watch. when it *is* televised, people enjoy watching it.

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posted by Dave Atkinson [7036 posts]
14th July 2013 - 11:50

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I really like road.cc but I was disappointed that you had no coverage of the Giro Rosa. Not a news story, nothing. It's the biggest women's road event of the year. Was it a lack of money that meant you couldn't send anyone there? Not enough staff? Or simply indifference? Marianne Vos's amazing save over the line on stage 2 was surely worth mentioning.

It's a bit much when TdF buses get more coverage than Vos, Bronzini et al.

posted by Meaulnes [29 posts]
14th July 2013 - 12:46

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I've commented elsewhere, but as Dave said, it is a chicken and the egg. There's not much interest and so there is not much investment, but why should people invest if there's not much interest.

The thing for me is that women do not participate in sport and/or spectate sport in the same way men do. Women's sport is a curio. Just like the way that fashion magazines and jewellery is largely aimed at women, sport is largely aimed at men....because of our nature. There are fundamental aspects of our sexes which mean that boys/men tend to be competitive, and women tend towards other activities and interests (women are profoundly more interested in social interplay). To deny these things is counter productive, though I agree that like the black/white spectrum, we are all shades of grey, but what this means is that female sporting interest is an outlier, not the firm majority like it is for men's interest.

The question is whether men are interested to watch women's sport too. The evidence is not particularly encouraging in respect to other women's sport, and this is why investment doesn't happen. Cycling is not a particularly cheap sport to televise (utilising helicopters) and there are no gate receipts. I think Armistead mentioned how no one turns out to watch them race on the side of the road. Yes, investment/marketing/advertising can draw them in, but signs of where an artificial boost occurs (a la WNBA) usually means a spike with a massive drop off.

Those that think they can have a men's and women's race on the same day and on the same route vastly over estimate the capabilities of women. You only have to look at the difference in the number of climbs up Boxhill in the Olympics to know that steeper gradients will have a dramatic effect on the time between the winners and the last finisher. A finish on Mont Ventoux like today would be chaos. That said the coverage of the National series was quite positive.

posted by Colin Peyresourde [977 posts]
14th July 2013 - 14:07

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Quote:
Forget a seperate womens Tour,why not just allow the best women riders to be included in the mens race?

Two reasons:
1) you're trying to increase the amount/coverage of women's sport so give them their own race
2) they''d be shelled out the back within minutes.

That's not intended to be derogatory, it's a simple fact. That doesn't give a good specatcle, it gives the very opposite.

Going back to domestic racing though, Sarah Storey has a very valid point; there ARE domestic races for women but by this time of the year there's a field of 40 but the CHeshire Classic (at the start of the year) had over 100 entrants and a field of 80 starters.

But yes, I commented on this in another thread somewhere - where was the coverage of the Giro Rosa? What's the point in a women's TdF when the existing races are so poorly covered. The one exception was probably the Women's Tour of Oman which was good racing - just a shame that scenery wise it was spectacularly dull.

posted by crazy-legs [436 posts]
14th July 2013 - 14:51

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Really? You're saying the women don't race fast enough for the TV?

So you can genuinely tell the difference between an average speed of 45km/h and say 38km/h, from your armchair? Really, can you look at that image and say that there is a difference, beyond looking at the split times provided on the feed?

Because I think you'll find the sensation of speed on a TV comes a lot from the camera focus motion and angles, and not, funnily enough, from actual speed the riders are doing.

posted by Not KOM [79 posts]
14th July 2013 - 16:40

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Colin Peyresourde wrote:

The thing for me is that women do not participate in sport and/or spectate sport in the same way men do. Women's sport is a curio. Just like the way that fashion magazines and jewellery is largely aimed at women, sport is largely aimed at men....because of our nature. There are fundamental aspects of our sexes which mean that boys/men tend to be competitive, and women tend towards other activities and interests (women are profoundly more interested in social interplay). To deny these things is counter productive, though I agree that like the black/white spectrum, we are all shades of grey, but what this means is that female sporting interest is an outlier, not the firm majority like it is for men's interest.

I do deny it, in fact I'd go as far to say as it's an offensive stereotype.

Did you ever consider that the reason many women are not involved in sport is because they don't ever see other women involved in sport? Because it's a gender stereotype that a lot of women should remain pretty at all times, not push themselves or do anything that makes them ugly? Or that, competition by it's very nature, is discouraged amongst young women because it's 'unlady-like'? And to compete is to be associate with 'manliness' which actually isn't something our culture values in socially acceptable young woman?

Because that's a culture, not 'innate differences' (whatever nonsense that is) and that's the deeply sexist culture you're predicating with comments like this.

They probably said the same thing at the state of the WTA, or when women started riding the velodrome. You've just insulted all our female Olympians, and Marianne Vos amongst many, many others.

At no point do women lack the competitive edge you are describing, and many woman love to watch sports. They just aren't 'meant' to, because that's not our expectation of them.

So we should all change our attitudes towards that, and not spout sexist drivel.

posted by Not KOM [79 posts]
14th July 2013 - 16:55

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There's no way you could add women to the men's tour. It would be embarrassing watching them all be beaten by Marianne Vos.

posted by Jonathing [42 posts]
14th July 2013 - 20:44

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Not KOM wrote:

Did you ever consider that the reason many women are not involved in sport is because they don't ever see other women involved in sport? Because it's a gender stereotype that a lot of women should remain pretty at all times, not push themselves or do anything that makes them ugly? Or that, competition by it's very nature, is discouraged amongst young women because it's 'unlady-like'? And to compete is to be associate with 'manliness' which actually isn't something our culture values in socially acceptable young woman?

That entire paragraph is utter bollocks. My wife's obsession with her appearance is what motivates her to get out of bed early in the morning and go ride her mountain bike in the pissing rain. You have oversimplified the whole situation to a ridiculous degree.

posted by drfabulous0 [187 posts]
14th July 2013 - 21:32

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I posted this in the original article about Pooley and Vos:

Ladies tennis isn't a lot different from men's, but women's cycling, football, rugby, boxing etc are very different and as such the dynamic from the spectator's perspective is vastly different. Having said that, ladies track cycling gathers the same size crowds and excitement as the men.

In order for there to be a successful female TDF, the women's sport needs to grow first. There aren't 'that' many women who cycle compared to men, so the number who compete and in turn work their way up into elite pro level is a lot less. This means that they haven't had to fight past as many opposition to get to where they are and that the 'top' level in female cycling isn't as much of a pinnacle as the men's.

So, based on that the women's races aren't as hard fought. There are only 2 or 3 riders that contest the majority of wins in each discipline. Usually Vos! Compare that to the men where in a TT the usual suspects (Martin, Cancellara, Wiggins) are likely to win, but there are about 10/11 others who could (Kessiakoff, Chavanel, Millar, TJVG etc...). Same case in the sprints where Cav is expected to win (Like Vos), but we have a mass battle going on with Sagan, Griepel, Kittel as well as 10 others that could win. This doesn't happen in the women's event really. Head to head, there are 2 or 3 that can do it.

In terms of hill-climbing, a lot of good amateur men will beat even the fastest pro women up a col. That just takes the God-like aura away from it all. Someone like Contador, Quintana etc, provides us with a superhuman display, where you won't get that with the women's climbing.

So, my point is that unless the women's sport grows and becomes as much as a spectacle as the men's, they won't get a TDF. I apologise if I've come across mildly sexist with what I've said as this truly isn't the case, it's just what I believe the reasons to be for women not/ never getting a TDF.

Get out there and get riding people.

Chiggety check yourself before you wreck yourself

posted by therealsmallboy [84 posts]
14th July 2013 - 21:57

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Problem is that the TDF is a commercial exercise, there to make money, if the sponsors, organisers, riders no long found it commercially viable then they would stop running the tour, unfortunately women's pro cycling struggles to sustain the races it already has and a women's tour has already been tried and failed.. You wouldn't expect a company to produce products for men or women just because they did so for the opposite sex if it didn't make financial sense..

That said as the father to a daughter I would love to see her have the opportunity to compete in this kind of event if she was to be sufficiently talented and hard working..

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posted by J Montaño [5 posts]
14th July 2013 - 22:29

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drfabulous0 wrote:
Not KOM wrote:

Did you ever consider that the reason many women are not involved in sport is because they don't ever see other women involved in sport? Because it's a gender stereotype that a lot of women should remain pretty at all times, not push themselves or do anything that makes them ugly? Or that, competition by it's very nature, is discouraged amongst young women because it's 'unlady-like'? And to compete is to be associate with 'manliness' which actually isn't something our culture values in socially acceptable young woman?

That entire paragraph is utter bollocks. My wife's obsession with her appearance is what motivates her to get out of bed early in the morning and go ride her mountain bike in the pissing rain. You have oversimplified the whole situation to a ridiculous degree.

Nice response there. Notice I used the quantifier 'most' and not 'all'. You're a lucky man to be married to an active out-going lady. But the studies they've done on activity indicate that that women get less physical activity than men. The reason for this is cultural.

http://www.sustrans.org.uk/policy-evidence/related-academic-research/phy...

The reference here is a sustrans article, indicating that 40% and 22% of women do the recommended physical activity each week. Therefore 'most' women do not. It supports what I said - with evidence.

http://www.noo.org.uk/uploads/doc/vid_11171_Attitudes.pdf

This is a long NHS document indicating the cultural reasons why this might be the case. If you wade through it, you'll see that what I said about the culture of exercise is also correct. There are also dietary elements to the general lack of fitness amongst, as well as more child care responsibilities and corresponding loss of time to exercise.

Like I said, I'm happy for you that your wife is a clearly avid mountain biker. But your anecdotal evidence stands in direct contradiction to the real evidence above.

posted by Not KOM [79 posts]
14th July 2013 - 23:11

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Great suggestions in this comment thread to incorporate women's field into the Tour de France (and other events). I'd like to see the men and women race the same day, it wouldn't cost that much extra to run on top of the initial setup and would be exciting to see the two more connected. I assume there are some commercial issues to contend with but over time with more women cycling the number of women fans will grow.

posted by TeamCC [146 posts]
14th July 2013 - 23:16

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therealsmallboy wrote:

In terms of hill-climbing, a lot of good amateur men will beat even the fastest pro women up a col.

Are you sure about that? Morgan Arritola, the fastest Woman in last year's ascent of Mont Ventoux, finished 10th overall out of 308, 258 of whom were Men. And she was a Skier.

If Marianne Vos thinks she can ride the TdF (without, as some have suggested, immediately falling off the back), I say let her. She knows a damn site more about road racing than most of us.

posted by The Rumpo Kid [590 posts]
14th July 2013 - 23:26

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Call me sexist, but women in tight lycra riding bikes on TV? Yes, please.

To be honest, I can't stand men's tennis or swimming, but I do enjoy women's versions of those.

Independently of that, as a cyclist, I'd love to watch women's bike racing. Period.

It's unfair we can't watch Marianne Vos, Jeanie Longo or Anne Caro Chausson racing. They are some of the most dominant cyclists ever and we just can't watch them race. WTF?

Besides, with economies and markets being every time more specific (on TV we watch ads directed to each men and women, as an example), several brands are losing exposure from not sponsoring women. You just have to find the right sponsor for the right audience.

posted by warpo [8 posts]
15th July 2013 - 5:04

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The Rumpo Kid wrote:
therealsmallboy wrote:

In terms of hill-climbing, a lot of good amateur men will beat even the fastest pro women up a col.

Are you sure about that? Morgan Arritola, the fastest Woman in last year's ascent of Mont Ventoux, finished 10th overall out of 308, 258 of whom were Men. And she was a Skier.

If Marianne Vos thinks she can ride the TdF (without, as some have suggested, immediately falling off the back), I say let her. She knows a damn site more about road racing than most of us.

Fair point, I stand corrected. Remove 'fastest' and replace with 'most'. I still hold my point that the main spectacle (as we saw yesterday) at the TDF is the proper HC mountain stages. There was a group of 10 really good climbers, with 2 utterly awesome climbers ahead and up ahead of them were simply put, 2 super-humans. Further back were dribs and drabs of good climbers spread out down the mountain. Then, because of careful calculation, the autobus rolled in 32 minutes afterwards. This saved them from time cut-off.

That wouldn't be the case with the female race. The small hump that is box hill (I live in the peak district so I'm allowed that one) proved at the Olympics what would happen to most of the women's field. Multiply that by 10 and you have an idea what I'm getting at for Alpe d'Huez, Ventoux etc. Even if you set the women off 10 hours before the men, some would still be rolling in after the men had finished. The majority of the female field would be eliminated on time-cut, because they wouldn't be able to stay inside the percentage time of their winner. It would cause absolute chaos.

Just look at the Giro Rosa. 8 stages of almost pan flat racing, a few humps admittedly, but still on a stage that would be considered 'rolling', the first riders finished 30 min ahead of the slowest. The men would be finishing in a bunch gallop separated by a few seconds with perhaps a few off the back from mechanical, injury etc. So what would happen on an alpine stage? It would look like a sportive!

So, whilst I'm all for a women's TDF the idea of setting them off either before, with, or after the men may be fine on some stages. But it really wouldn't work come the big climbs. Which would mean either running a race that doesn't go up the HC/ CAT 1 climbs (Not really the TDF then), or removing the time-cut rules (which would cause logistical havoc for moving the rolling village that is the TDF)

The only other option is running a separate race on a separate route, which due to the reasons of funding mentioned by others above, isn't viable either.

I've thought hard and can't come to any other conclusion. It would be great for female sport and cycling as a whole, but I can't see it ever happening.

Chiggety check yourself before you wreck yourself

posted by therealsmallboy [84 posts]
15th July 2013 - 7:22

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Meaulnes wrote:
I really like road.cc but I was disappointed that you had no coverage of the Giro Rosa. Not a news story, nothing. It's the biggest women's road event of the year. Was it a lack of money that meant you couldn't send anyone there? Not enough staff? Or simply indifference? Marianne Vos's amazing save over the line on stage 2 was surely worth mentioning.

It's a bit much when TdF buses get more coverage than Vos, Bronzini et al.

I'd like Dave or someone else from road.cc to respond to this point. It's good that you're featuring articles about the debate, but as a media outlet you can make a direct impact on the situation by featuring women's races.

posted by thereandbackagain [151 posts]
15th July 2013 - 9:57

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A crucial point that has yet to be addressed. If a women's TdF were to go ahead, should we have Podium Dudes to hand out the prizes? Thinking

http://bikesnobnyc.blogspot.co.uk/2010/02/gender-issues-sealing-victory-...

posted by Arno du Galibier [22 posts]
15th July 2013 - 10:15

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wrevilo wrote:
To take a different view for arguments sake - is it wrong if no one wants to watch it? As the women say, men can do the events faster which makes for better TV.

I'll just point out that while it may or may not have been slower, the Women's Olympic road race last year was incredible - far more exciting than the dreary men's event.

thereandbackagain wrote:
I'd like Dave or someone else from road.cc to respond to this point. It's good that you're featuring articles about the debate, but as a media outlet you can make a direct impact on the situation by featuring women's races.

Would like to see this.

posted by Yemble [22 posts]
15th July 2013 - 10:38

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therealsmallboy wrote:
The Rumpo Kid wrote:
therealsmallboy wrote:

In terms of hill-climbing, a lot of good amateur men will beat even the fastest pro women up a col.

Are you sure about that? Morgan Arritola, the fastest Woman in last year's ascent of Mont Ventoux, finished 10th overall out of 308, 258 of whom were Men. And she was a Skier.

If Marianne Vos thinks she can ride the TdF (without, as some have suggested, immediately falling off the back), I say let her. She knows a damn site more about road racing than most of us.

Fair point, I stand corrected. Remove 'fastest' and replace with 'most'. I still hold my point that the main spectacle (as we saw yesterday) at the TDF is the proper HC mountain stages. There was a group of 10 really good climbers, with 2 utterly awesome climbers ahead and up ahead of them were simply put, 2 super-humans. Further back were dribs and drabs of good climbers spread out down the mountain. Then, because of careful calculation, the autobus rolled in 32 minutes afterwards. This saved them from time cut-off.

That wouldn't be the case with the female race. The small hump that is box hill (I live in the peak district so I'm allowed that one) proved at the Olympics what would happen to most of the women's field. Multiply that by 10 and you have an idea what I'm getting at for Alpe d'Huez, Ventoux etc. Even if you set the women off 10 hours before the men, some would still be rolling in after the men had finished.


Let me get this right. You're saying some of the Women would have taken over sixteen and a half hours to do yesterday's stage?

posted by The Rumpo Kid [590 posts]
15th July 2013 - 10:53

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Rumpo Kid, you're picking and choosing what to read somewhat. My main point is more about the time cut-off than whether they can or cannot do it anyway. There is a huge gulf in ability in the women's side of the sport. That would need to change before the full TDF route could even be considered.

But yeah, for sure some of them definitely could take all day- I certainly would and I race week-in week-out. We actually have one of the female Tour Series riders in our weekly event and she regularly gets shelled out the back. The women rarely race more than 100km in a day, so to expect them to cover 242km (double what they are used to) including three Cat 4 climbs, a Cat 3 and an ascent of Ventoux at race pace? Did you not watch the womens Olympic road race? Half of the pelaton were gone after the first ascent of Box Hill. This isn't my opinion, it's just facts. The current women's pro field as it stands- a good half wouldn't have made it to the top- that is my opinion, which of course, is worth nothing.

Lets not forget that there are very specific physiological differences between the sexes. Cycling very much highlights these differences, especially when hills are involved (aside from that monstrous skier mentioned earlier)

Most people (me included) would die before getting to Tommy Simpson's memorial on Ventoux at race pace anyway, so it's not like I'm picking on anyone. It's a very very hard event and only the cream of the men's field get in, because only the cream of the men's field can get to Paris. Again, just my opinion, although it's strange how few from the men's pelaton have come out in full support of these latest revelations!

Chiggety check yourself before you wreck yourself

posted by therealsmallboy [84 posts]
15th July 2013 - 14:19

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There are all kinds of opinions, mostly from reading coming from people who have never run a race. Running two in parallel requires an essential doubling of resource, and if a commercial promoter did that there would have to be substantial financial support to allow it to happen. Then there issue of strength in depth - certainly in the UK it is not there, which is why women's races are spread over long stretches of road quite quickly, as the number of quality riders is low, and the fields are often made up of lots of 3/4 category riders, who with few exceptions seem to be "cannon fidder" for the class riders. The comment about dwindling fields is spot on. The races will get run IF the riders support them.
The best solution is probably NOT running alongside men's races, because they will simply be likely to be viewed as the "poor relation", a prologue to the "real race". Is that what the campaigners want?
Much better to go the route announced by the ToB organisers, start a separate race, 5 days, terrain not to demanding, see how it works, include all the proper support just as the ToB has, and see if it can be grown, attract more sponsor money. Properly presented, this could so easily be a winner, and rapidly rise to be the premier women's stage race in europe, if not the world. Then watch the interest generated. It's got to be worth a try. Perhaps the campaigners should forget the "TdF" focus and work to get a full and proper programme of races at sensible distances and terrain which will ENTERTAIN the TV audience, which surely is key to getting the finance to grow to a point where the pressure to run a TdF Feminin is a commercial proossition which will get the big organisers involved.
Now, anyone with £300,000 a day to run a top class women's stage race, bacause that's somewhere around the figure?

Doc

posted by doc [167 posts]
15th July 2013 - 15:44

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Fair enough, I don't. Not at the moment anyway. Maybe one day (hopefully) we'll get to see for real and won't just have to blow hot air at each other on a forum. I relish the thought of top-level men's and womens cycling getting bigger and better for as far as time will allow.

Chiggety check yourself before you wreck yourself

posted by therealsmallboy [84 posts]
15th July 2013 - 15:44

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therealsmallboy

The ascent of Mont Ventoux is a Mountain Running Race. My Point is that the differences between Men and Women are not quite as marked as one would think. The Women's record for the 1500 metres is 116% that of the Men's. In the Marathon, it is 117%. In long distance cycling events (using these isn't too accurate an indication because records are set years apart, and reflect technological changes) it's around the 116-120% mark. Obviously, not all Men and Women are record breakers, but if Women were in yesterday's stage, and only drafted other Women, and we take 118% as a benchmark, a time of around six hours forty five could be expected. Nothing to worry Marco Pantani I'll agree, but I dont think they would need a ten hour head start.

posted by The Rumpo Kid [590 posts]
15th July 2013 - 16:37

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Womens cycle racing is as exciting as the mens racing! Supporters are well aware of it. Comercial sponsers need to get on board now, while cycling and cycle racing is on the increase. The benefits from the publicity; will surely outweigh the cost to sponsership.

posted by Mostyn [387 posts]
15th July 2013 - 18:12

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I did a sportif at the weekend. There were NO women. There's just too little interest to secure a TdF femme.
Even women's Euro soccer playing to empty stadia.
You need to prove the audience is there and, frankly, it isn't. Give it 10 years?

posted by rivitman [9 posts]
16th July 2013 - 19:35

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rivitman wrote:
I did a sportif at the weekend. There were NO women. There's just too little interest to secure a TdF femme.
Even women's Euro soccer playing to empty stadia.
You need to prove the audience is there and, frankly, it isn't. Give it 10 years?

Marianne Vos doesn't ride sportifs. If an audience will watch the world's best Female Cyclists racing in London, what makes you think there would be no interest if they were racing in France?

posted by The Rumpo Kid [590 posts]
16th July 2013 - 19:50

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doc wrote:
There are all kinds of opinions, mostly from reading coming from people who have never run a race. Running two in parallel requires an essential doubling of resource, and if a commercial promoter did that there would have to be substantial financial support to allow it to happen. Then there issue of strength in depth - certainly in the UK it is not there, which is why women's races are spread over long stretches of road quite quickly, as the number of quality riders is low, and the fields are often made up of lots of 3/4 category riders, who with few exceptions seem to be "cannon fidder" for the class riders. The comment about dwindling fields is spot on. The races will get run IF the riders support them.
The best solution is probably NOT running alongside men's races, because they will simply be likely to be viewed as the "poor relation", a prologue to the "real race". Is that what the campaigners want?
Much better to go the route announced by the ToB organisers, start a separate race, 5 days, terrain not to demanding, see how it works, include all the proper support just as the ToB has, and see if it can be grown, attract more sponsor money. Properly presented, this could so easily be a winner, and rapidly rise to be the premier women's stage race in europe, if not the world. Then watch the interest generated. It's got to be worth a try. Perhaps the campaigners should forget the "TdF" focus and work to get a full and proper programme of races at sensible distances and terrain which will ENTERTAIN the TV audience, which surely is key to getting the finance to grow to a point where the pressure to run a TdF Feminin is a commercial proossition which will get the big organisers involved.
Now, anyone with £300,000 a day to run a top class women's stage race, bacause that's somewhere around the figure?

I agree. But then you and I awlays agree! Cool

posted by Guy E [7 posts]
17th July 2013 - 9:22

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During the Olympics many people will watch sports they will never watch the rest of the year. That is what makes the Olympics special. But it means you can't point at it to show that people will watch a sport.

Anyway, I think women's cycling should turn their weakness into a strength, instead of trying to be exactly like the men, but more mediocre. Start a breakaway league and do outrageous stuff. Camera's on bikes, special race formats, etc.

posted by Aapje [147 posts]
17th July 2013 - 9:42

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Aapje wrote:
During the Olympics many people will watch sports they will never watch the rest of the year. That is what makes the Olympics special. But it means you can't point at it to show that people will watch a sport.

Anyway, I think women's cycling should turn their weakness into a strength, instead of trying to be exactly like the men, but more mediocre. Start a breakaway league and do outrageous stuff. Camera's on bikes, special race formats, etc.


I'm not saying that the Olympics indicate people will watch a sport. I'm saying it indicates people will watch the best in the World. The TdF is special too!
I think a breakaway would only serve to further the perception that Womens Cycling is in some way trivial, and not the real sport. More to the point, if Women want to be in the Olympics, they're stuck with the UCI.

posted by The Rumpo Kid [590 posts]
17th July 2013 - 11:26

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