As support for the campaign to allow women’s professional teams to race the Tour de France continues to grow, opinion is divided as to how viable such an event would be.
Christian Prudhomme, director of the Tour de France, suggested earlier this week that it may be ‘impossible’ to run a women’s race simultaneously and parallel to the men’s race.
Speaking as part of a visit to Yorkshire, location of the 2014 Grand Depart of the Tour, he indicated that a ‘bolted-on’ women’s event may face insurmountable logistical difficulties, as the Tour is itself currently stretched to capacity.
We are open to everything. Having women’s races is very important for sure. [But] the Tour is huge and you cannot have it bigger and bigger and bigger down the road – it is impossible.
His statement comes in response to the open letter sent by Labour deputy leader Harriet Harman, which called on the 2014 Grand Depart of the Tour de France to include a women’s race alongside the men’s.
In it, Harman comments that the event “presents a great opportunity to hold a women’s event and set an example to the rest of Europe and Le Tour."
After the success of the Olympics, women’s cycling should not be allowed to slip back into the shadows.
Prudhomme also hit back at the way the issue was raised, stating “It would have been better for [Harman] to talk to us at the end of one of the stages or after another race. We are not the only organisers of cycling in the world. Also, it would have been much easier to talk to us directly instead of a petition and [finding out by] opening your mailbox one morning and you don't know what has happened."
Harman’s letter was itself written in support of the petition started by top female professional cyclists including Emma Pooley and Marianne Vos. With over 85,000 signatures and counting, significant momentum is gathering behind the issue.
Brian Cookson, president of British Cycling, is also now involved. Cookson announced earlier this week that he will be facilitating a meeting between Tour organisers ASO, the UCI, and Pooley and Vos. Although generally supportive, Cookson is guarded about what he views is realistically achievable.
I would like to see a women's Tour de France. Undoubtedly having a female equivalent of the biggest bike race in the world is an objective we should need to explore. But I think you have to be very cautious about the terms and conditions and distances and so on and make sure you do something that's deliverable and sustainable rather than something that fails.