Race owner Unipublic takes action in response to debate on social media

Podium hostesses at the Vuelta a Espana will no longer be obliged to plant kisses on the cheeks of riders, organisers have announced - and they will also be introducing male podium hosts.

Race owner Unipublic, which is owned by Tour de France organisers ASO, says it has decided to change its approach to podium ceremonies, which have attracted criticism on social media for being sexist and objectifying women.

Unipublic's Laura Cueto Morillo told the BBC: "We are not eliminating the hostesses altogether. We are not getting rid of those jobs.

"What we don't want is the usual photo of a winner getting a kiss on each cheek."

But Cueto explained that kisses won't be banned outright.

"Kisses are a typical greeting here. If the hostesses or the local mayor or whoever else wants to give kisses, that's fine," she said.

Meanwhile, today at the Tour de France ... President Macron "picks up all the jerseys."

Last month, AG2R-La Mondiale rider Jan Bakelants apologised for comments made in an interview in which he said he'd be packing condoms in his suitcase for the Tour de France.

He had said: "You never know where those podiummissen [podium hostesses] hang out!”

> Jan Bakelants apologises for podium hostess comments

This year's Tour Down Under saw podium hostesses replaced by junior riders following a decision by the South Australian Government, which organises the race and had already withdrawn funding for'grid girls' at motor racing events in the state.

> Young riders to replace podium hostesses at Tour Down Under

This year's Vuelta starts in Nimes, southern France, on 19 August.

Mark Cavendish in 2014 Tirreno-Adriatico leader's jersey (photo LaPresse)

Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.