The Tour de France recently wrapped up its 100th edition. A race that was historic and memorable for South Africans. We watched local boy Darryl Impey write history as the first South African to wear the coveted Yellow jersey on Stage 6. The tour ended on another high note, as Kenyan born Chris Froome went on to claim first place. A victory South Africans celebrated as their own!
Whilst the guys battled it out on the saddles, a few women were waging their own battle. The Tour de France has been taking place for 100 years. It has seen cyclists from around the world and lived through wars, depressions, periods of economic prosperity and more than its share of drug related scandals.
What it has not seen, is women competing. We may be living in the 21st century. A century where women are active members in all spheres of life and have proven themselves to be athletic competitors. But the Tour de France remains a Boys only Club.
And so while the boys pedalled on, four female cyclist champions – Emma Pooley, Chrissie Wellington, Marianne Vos and Kathryn Bertine – made a call for the inclusion of women into the Tour de France. In their petition, which has gotten over 70 000 signatures, they propose that the Amuary Sports Organisation, owners of the Tour de France, create a women’s race that would run alongside the men’s.
Tour De France Equality: Practical or Just a Dream?
Instead of using the “Equality” argument, they have chosen to show the organisers that there is support for a women’s race. Support that translates into sponsorships and money, making it a viable business option for the organisers. Their vision is to have a women’s Tour de France which runs alongside the men’s. On the same roads, on the same days with the same stage finishes. Thus minimizing additional costs and maximizing the benefits of having spectators and media already on course watching the men’s race.
Not everyone is happy about this petition, namely Christian Prudhomme. The Tour de France director calls the petition impractical and says it is impossible to add a women’s race to an event stretched to capacity. While he supports women’s races and understands the importance of them; he believes there are better ways of doing that than “bolting” women to the men’s race. Sadly, he may have a valid point.
The problems of a Women’s Tour de France
Although Pooley believes it can be moved to another date, the Tour de France coincides the women’s tour of Italy – The Giro Rosa. One of the only women’s stage races. Overlapping the two events may cause more problems within the women’s cycling community.
The UCI Rulebook restricts women’s stage races to eight days. Individual stages are restricted to 130km and time trials to 40km. While exemption may be granted, the ASO would have to pull the strings to get it done.
While the petition may not have achieved its goal of getting a Women’s Tour de France – yet. It has begun a discussion. It has opened up the floor for a discussion on the future of women’s cycling. Thereby exposing the gross differences between the number of men’s and women’s events; the budgets; the sponsorships and salaries.
It may take years to see changes, but if the 2012 Olympics showed us anything it is that women’s cycling can be just as riveting and spectator worthy as the men’s races.
Now that the flood gates have opened and people are talking, changes are bound to happen. They may not be as the four cyclists envisaged but no doubt they will allow for a new generation of female cyclists to compete at the same levels as their male counterparts.
As Lindsay Kandra wrote “if women are ever going to be part of the Tour–or any other race longer than the Giro Donne–we all need to start paying attention to women’s racing and putting our money where our good intentions are.”.
What do you think about having a women’s Tour de France? Tell us in the comments!
Bicycling: Women Petition to Ride in the Tour de France; Le Tour: History; Taking the Lane: Why Don’t Women Ride in the Tour de France; The Guardian: Tour de France director slams Harriet Harman over women’s race proposal; The Telegraph: Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme says a women’s parallel event is ‘impossible’; Road.CC: Exclusive: Emma Pooley on women’s Tour de France sponsors, money & scheduling
Zissy is the co-founder of Nutreats. She likes to make things, do things and wear things.