The Tour de France, an event which is now known as the largest annual sporting even in the world, seems to have one big thing missing. Women.
Although this year we are delighted to see the women's La Course race in Paris coinciding with the final leg of the men's three week race, women were once a very important part of the event.
The new race is a great step for women's cycling, which has seen a steady growth of interest and support from world class cyclists such as Marianne Vos and Emma Pooley. And who knows what next awaits, but for now let's recap the female presence throughout the Tour de France...
- Women have only raced in the female version of the Tour de France 23 times, compared to the 101 years the TDF has been running.
- Beginning in 1984 as the Tour Cycliste Feminin, the 15 stage race also saw female riders race for 21 days, complete with mountain courses, however they would finish half an hour before the men.
- The first race in 1984 race was won by Marianne Martin. The annual race ran on until 1989 and then was suddenly cut.
- After returning in 1992, it ran through to 2003 before being cancelled in 2004.
- The race had to be renamed to La Grand Boucle (the big loop) in 1998 because of the trademark attached to the Tour de France.
- Being brought back in 2005, the race saw a new, mere five stage format.
- Britsh former professional cyclist, Nicole Cooke won the race in both 2006 and 2007.
- In 2008 the race only lasted for six days, with only six stages and was won by Christiane Soeder.
- The last La Grand Boucle which ran in 2009, won by Emma Pooley, was axed due to lack of commercial sponsorship and interest.
- The 2009 race was only four days long, with a mere 66 riders after the British stages fell through.
The 90km one day race, La Course will take place on the 27th of July, with 120 female riders making their way around the Champs Elysées 13 times.
Nicole Cooke: "In the 1980s, there was a women's Tour de France. It was held over the same stages as the men's race. They celebrated with equality. Since then, women's cycling has kind of been swept under the mat." (via bbc.co.uk)
Marianna Vos: La Course gives a "chance to make a dream come true" (via bbc.co.uk)
Emma Pooley: "I think we can be really happy that there's an increased profile for women's cycling caused by this race" (via itv.com)