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Nearly 100,000 signatures on a petition to boost women's cycling - starting with the biggest race of all...

Following on from a high profile campaign, the cyclist Kathryn Bertine has launched a website aimed at setting up a Tour de France for women.

Le Tour Entier, which is also championed by Emma Pooley, Marianne Vos and Chrissie Wellington, bills itself as ‘a campaign to improve women’s cycling, starting with a women’s Tour de France’.

A petition launched on the website Change.org in July, which urges that

  • 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

has reached almost 100,000 signatures, a critical mass of opinion that can no longer be ignored.

The petition states that a Women’s Tour would “seek not to race against the men, but to have our own professional field running in conjunction with the men's event, at the same time, over the same distances, on the same days, with modifications in start/finish times so neither gender's race interferes with the other.”

Bertine says that her reason for targeting the Tour over the many other cycling events where women are not represented is simple: exposure.

She says: “Since its inception the Tour de France has been the most prominent endurance sports event in the world, watched by and inspiring millions of people worldwide.

“It is also the most commercially exploited and media saturated race on the cycling calendar. Yet today women don’t even have the chance to toe the line."

She adds: “Establishing a women’s race at the Tour would showcase women’s road cycling to the world; provide a huge boost in publicity and visibility; demonstrate the commercial viability of such an event; provide a model for success that can be replicated by other event organisers/owners and kick-start wider change and reform.

“It would not detract from the men’s race – it would add another dimension.”

Given the infrastructure already in place for the men’s race, she says, it wouldn’t be hard to run another race with a smaller field in conjunction, on the same closed roads, and providing another spectacle for those who turn out to cheer by the roadside.

The Tour Entier manifesto is available to read here, and the campaign's progress can be folloed on Twitter @LeTourEntier and with the hashtag #TDF4women

After an unpromising start, having to be bribed by her parents to learn to ride without stabilisers, Sarah became rather keener on cycling in her university years, and was eventually persuaded to upgrade to proper road cycling by the prospect of a shiny red Italian bike, which she promptly destroyed by trapping a pair of knickers in the rear derailleur. Sarah writes about about cycling every weekend on road.cc.