The organisers of the Tour de France aren’t doing much for women’s cycling, according to British double Olympic gold medallist Joanna Rowsell Shand. ASO holds only a women’s one-day race, La Course, during the Tour, and recently pulled two other races out of the Women’s World Tour, as – together with its partner broadcasters – it is not willing to provide the 45 minutes of live TV coverage required by the UCI.
"The biggest bike race in the world is the Tour and they don't really seem to care much about women's cycling," Rowsell Shand told BBC Sport. "I don't think it's unfair to say that really, because they're not doing much for it.”
At present, the 10-stage Giro Rosa is the sole ‘Grand Tour’ on the women's calendar.
UCI President David Lappartient has urged ASO to extend La Course to 10 stages, but race organiser Christian Prudhomme said this wasn’t an option, “simply because we do not know how to do that during the Tour de France.”
The OVO Energy Women’s Tour starts on Monday. At six stages, it is one of the longer races on the calendar. (The men’s race is eight stages.)
Rowsell Shand retired from racing in 2017 and she said that towards the end of her career, “everyone from around Europe said they loved racing in the UK because there is great coverage and support on the roads.”
She said the situation varied around the world. “The biggest platform for sport is the Olympic Games, when we have equal events. That's great, but it's the gap in between which needs to be filled.”
The Women’s Tour offers the same prize money as the men’s Tour of Britain, but Rowsell Shand said this was only part of the picture.
"Of all the years I was on a pro team I was on a salary for two of them. For the rest I was over the moon to be on a pro contract, but it was for zero money – that was normal, and you were lucky if you got some kit or a bike or something."
Like the UCI, she believes that TV coverage is key, "because that's what brings in the sponsors, therefore pays salaries."