As the petition to instate a women’s Tour de France race gains momentum, with over 85,000 signatures and counting, the issue is becoming one that cycling officials ignore at their peril.
President of British Cycling and UCI presidential candidate Brian Cookson is tackling the issue, announcing that he will facilitate a meeting between the organisers of the Tour de France, and top female cyclists who initiated the campaign.
People are passionate about the issue and are rightly frustrated that not enough is being done.
BRIAN COOKSON, President of British Cycling
Tour organisers ASO (Amaury Sports Organisation) will meet with Emma Pooley, Marianne Vos and other supporters of the petition, along with UCI Management Committee member Tracey Gaudry who herself competed in the Tour Féminin.
Historically, the Tour Féminin was seen as the female professional cycling equivalent event to the Tour de France. The Tour Féminin ran from the early 1980s, and was plagued with funding and sponsorship issues. This led to numerous cancelled events and reduced numbers of stages, with the tour finally ceasing in 2009.
Cookson recognises the challenges involved in trying to develop such an event, in terms of media coverage, sponsorship of events and the necessary development and support of female professional cyclists.
“Cycling has a long way to go to ensure women’s cycling is given an equal stage to the men’s events.
Cookson also states, "We won’t get there tomorrow, nor next week, but what riders like Marianne and Emma have achieved shows us the potential there is given the right focus, investment and, crucially, leadership by the UCI.
"We know that some previous attempts to simply replicate men's events and men's teams have been problematic and failed, so it is vital that we learn from the past."
Undoubtedly having a female equivalent of the biggest bike race in the world is an objective we should need to explore.
The development and support of women’s cycling forms a key element of Cookson’s UCI presidential campaign. As president of British Cycling, he has initiated several programs to increase female participation in the sport, and it was recently announced that next years Tour of Britain will include a 5 day international stage race for women which will run separately to the men’s.
It will be promoted to a high standard and will, I'm sure, be the first step in having a full equivalent Tour of Britain as it develops.
Want to get involved and show your support of a women's Tour de France? Sign and share the petition at Change.org