Tour de France organiser Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO) is examining the possibility of running a women’s Tour de France alongside the men’s race, according to a report from Bloomberg.
The impetus for ASO to examine resurrecting a race it was last involved with in 1989 has come from a petition headed by top riders Marianne Vos, Emma Pooley, Chrissie Wellington and Kathryn Bertine. Their campaign has gathered over 70,000 signatures in 12 days.
Jean-Etienne Amaury, chairman of the family-owned company, told Bloomberg that executives have discussed the subject as a result of the petition.
A women’s race with the nominal status of ‘women’s Tour de France’ ran from 1984 to 2009, but was only run by ASO (then the Societé du Tour de France) until 1989. The 1984-89 version of the race had shorter stages that used the same finishes as the men’s race, but - if memory serves - the women finished after the men, relegating the event to the status of a little-regarded sideshow.
A separate women’s tour, known as the Le Tour Cycliste Féminin or, after ASO complained of breach of trademark in 1997, as La Grand Boucle Féminine Internationale ran from 1992 to 2009. Emma Pooley was the last winner of that event.
“We need to work out the right economic model, get the media on board and discuss with public authorities about closing the roads,” Amaury told Bloomberg. “All these parameters need to be planned. It’s not likely to happen next year.”
Amaury said ASO hasn’t yet had any contact with the organizers of the petition. He said the previous version of the race in the 1980s failed to garner a “strong following or interest from television.”
Vos, Pooley, Wellington and Bertine would doubtless point out that ‘that was then’. The Olympic women’s road race had a peak audience of 7.6 million showing that there is a TV audience for women’s racing.
Bertine pointed out that triathlon and marathon races manage to accommodate men ad women on the same course, and Pooley believes that this is a key requirement for a women’s Tour,
“The key request from our side is that the men's and women's stages are all run on the same roads, on the same day and with the same stage finish,” Pooley told road.cc. “That is the point about benefiting from the spectators and media that are there to watch the men's race anyway.”
Our official grumpy Northerner, John has been riding bikes for over 30 years since discovering as an uncoordinated teen that a sport could be fun if it didn't require you to catch a ball or get in the way of a hulking prop forward.
Road touring was followed by mountain biking and a career racing in the mud that was as brief as it was unsuccessful.
Somewhere along the line came the discovery that he could string a few words together, followed by the even more remarkable discovery that people were mug enough to pay for this rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work. He's pretty certain he's worked for even more bike publications than Mat Brett.
The inevitable 30-something MAMIL transition saw him shift to skinny tyres and these days he lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.