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Emma Pooley & Marianne Vos back petition for women's Tour de France

"It is about time women are allowed to race the Tour de France."...

Four top female cyclists have put their names to a petition to Tour de France organisers ASO requesting a women’s version of the Tour de France from 2014.

The four represent some serious racing horsepower. Marianne Vos is the most successful female bike racer of all time, and a multiple world and Olympic champion; Emma Pooley is a British Olympian and 2010 time trial world champion;  Chrissie Wellington is world Ironman triathlon champion and Kathryn Bertine is a film-maker and Saint Kitts and Nevis national champion.

The Tour de France, they say, is “the pinnacle endurance sports event of the world, watched by and inspiring millions of people.”

But there’s a problem. The Tour has always been an exclusively male race, except for a brief dalliance with a Tour Feminin in the 1980s that lacked parity, media coverage, and sponsorship.

In a letter to Christian Prudhomme, director of the Tour de France, they say: “After a century, it is about time women are allowed to race the Tour de France, too. While many women's sports face battles of inequity, road cycling remains one of the worst offenders: fewer race opportunities, no televised coverage, shorter distances, and therefore salary and prize money inequity.”

Women’s cycling has never had a bigger following, and both UCI presidential candidates Pat McQuaid and Brian Cookson, have pledged to accelerate the development of women’s racing. One event almost certainly woke the world up to the idea that women’s racing can be just as exciting as men’s, if not more exciting.

“The women's road race at the London Olympics was a showcase for how impressive, exciting, and entertaining women's cycling can be. The Tour of Flanders and Flèche Wallonne hold similar top ranked men's and women's races on the same day, with great success.”

Emma Pooley told BBC Radio 4’s Women’s Hour that she thought there should be a women’s Tour de France in which women rode the same stage routes and distances as the men. She and her three co-campaigners expand on the theme in the petition.

“Having a women's pro field at the Tour de France will also create an equal opportunity to debunk the myths of physical "limitations" placed upon female athletes,” they say. “In the late 1960s people assumed that women couldn't run the marathon. 30 years on we can look back and see how erroneous this was. Hopefully 30 years from now, we will see 2014 as the year that opened people's eyes to true equality in the sport of cycling.”

There’s no word yet from the four as to how they think a parallel women’s race would work commercially and logistically, but the idea is clearly popular. Since the petition went live this morning it has garnered over 2,500 signatures.

John has been writing about bikes and cycling for over 30 years since discovering that people were mug enough to pay him for it rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work.

He was heavily involved in the mountain bike boom of the late 1980s as a racer, team manager and race promoter, and that led to writing for Mountain Biking UK magazine shortly after its inception. He got the gig by phoning up the editor and telling him the magazine was rubbish and he could do better. Rather than telling him to get lost, MBUK editor Tym Manley called John’s bluff and the rest is history.

Since then he has worked on MTB Pro magazine and was editor of Maximum Mountain Bike and Australian Mountain Bike magazines, before switching to the web in 2000 to work for Along with founder Tony Farrelly, John was on the launch team for and subsequently became editor in chief of Future Publishing’s group of cycling magazines and websites, including Cycling Plus, MBUK, What Mountain Bike and Procycling.

John has also written for Cyclist magazine, edited the BikeMagic website and was founding editor of before handing over to someone far more representative of the site's main audience.

He joined in 2013. He lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.

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sidesaddle | 10 years ago

I just hope it's as exciting and enthralling as womens tennis...

therealsmallboy | 10 years ago

On paper this all sounds well and good, but like the above say it's about funding. Look at women's football- the men's game is the most popular spectator sport on the planet by a long way, but the ladies are only just now getting noticed.

I very much doubt ladies football will ever grab the size of sponsorship deals, or the crowds that the men's game does.

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.

Dr. Ko | 10 years ago

I guess Skippy is right - it is about marketing potential. And I just can not see Lacoste, Hermes or any French Couture brand moving into cycling. Strellson (Switzerland) had a Gents range in 2011 or 2012.

Other options would include "healthy" food like Danone, but then cycling has a dirty reputation thanks to...

Although I see a rise in feminine cyclist in the next years, I just do not see a Ladies TDF, the Giro Donna is about the closest.

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skippy | 10 years ago

Emma Pooley's idea has merit but needs to be backed by Sponsors that can be brought to the Owners of the "Le TOUR" as part of the package !

ASO , the owners of " Le Tour " , run events that make them BUNDLES OF CASH , they are not interested in a breakeven situation and certainly will not give a penny piece towards setting up this project !

RAI TV did a terrific job of broadcasting the " GiroRosa "which was run during the first 8 days of the " Le Tour "!

How much publicity and how much sponsorship came their way ? In January2013 the Womens' Tour in New Zealand was cancelled due to UCI intransience , will it run in 2014 , when phat the rat & Cookson have finished their lection race ? Chances are NO !

Neither candidate for UCI President have given anything other than lipservice to the women , yet , had the UCI made the effort , Womens Cycling could be at the point Womens Tennis was in 2000 not as it is now , before billy Jean King got to rally the troops !

centurion48 | 10 years ago

Why do the women want to just copy what men do? I enjoy watching women's cycling but I doubt that a separate event would be a commercial success. Could they ride with the men? Almost certainly not. Based on speed, most would not be competitive and would probably be eliminated. Based on argy-bargy in the sprint to the finish they might well hold their own but, to contest the finish, first you have to be there and many of the men sprinters struggle to do that.
I totally reject any idea that any company should be forced to stage a women's race. The fact that some very talented women want to compete, and plenty of people like the idea as long as they don't have to pay for it, does not make it viable.
The Tour de France is unique. Let's just accept that and leave it as it is.

WolfieSmith | 10 years ago

Finally. Bring it on.

juan | 10 years ago

Good luck with that, I can't see happening in the TdF not with the French mentality

alun | 10 years ago

Just allow women to enter the existing TdF as they do with the marathon, either as a female team or part of a mixed team!

The Rumpo Kid | 10 years ago

I don't think "forcing" the TV companies would be necessary. Just tell them how big an audience they can get.

jollygoodvelo | 10 years ago

Should think so too. Run stages on the same day and the same roads as the men - shorter perhaps - and force TV companies to at least include brief highlights in the TV coverage to start with.

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