March is Women’s History Month. We couldn’t let the month pass without acknowledging a huge victory for women’s cycling.
We’re a little over 100 days before the 2014 edition of the Le Tour de France, the oldest and most prestigious of the three European “Grand Tours.” Le Tour is an annual 21-stage race that takes place in France and surrounding countries.
Traditionally, Le Tour concludes on the famous Champs d’Élysée and this year’s Tour will be no exception. For those awaiting the Tour de France’s racers arrivals – and for those with a passion for women’s sports – there be one notable difference on July 27th:
On the final stage of the 2014 Tour de France, before the Tour leaders arrive in Paris, the Champs d’Élysée will be taken over by professional women cyclists, competing in the first edition of La Course by Le Tour de France.
“For 100 years, the Tour de France has been the pinnacle endurance sports event of the world, watched by and inspiring millions of people. And for 100 years, it has been an exclusively male race… After a century, it is about time women are allowed to race the Tour de France, too…”
So began a petition submitted to Christian Prudhomme, Director of the Tour de France by Le Tour Entier (LTE). Founded by Marianne Vos, (NED) World and Olympic Champion Cyclist, Chrissie Wellington, (GBR) four-time World Ironman Triathlon Champion, Emma Pooley, (GBR) Olympian & World Champion Cyclist and Kathryn Bertine, (SKN) National Champion Cyclist and Filmmaker, LTE sought to open the doors for women’s professional cycling.
A few hours before the men’s peloton arrives in Paris, the world’s elite women cyclists will race the circuit in the historic heart of the city before fighting out a final sprint at the finish line on the Champs-Elysées. The event will be broadcast live on France Télévisions and Eurosport International. Details of the race format will be revealed during a press conference some time this spring.
While a criterium on the Champs d’Élysée is still 20 days shy of a three-week tour, it is a step in the right direction. Most feel that this “one small step” can be seen as a greater “leap for [womankind].” The LTE said of their victory, “While this is not a full three week race, it is a huge step forward. We now have the opportunity to showcase our talents to the world and grow the sport.”
Le Tour de France is the biggest event in the cycling calendar. Even those who don’t consider themselves cycling enthusiasts follow the news of the Tour. It is followed by TV audiences in 190 countries, receiving more media attention than any other race.
Two-time Australian national champion and Specialized-Lululemon team owner Kristy Scrymgeour admits:
“I’ve never been a big advocate of adding women’s races to men’s races, because I think the best way to grow women’s cycling is to create something uniquely for women, built around what inspires women. The Tour de France, however, is something special.”
Specialized-Lululemon cyclist and 2012 Olympian Evelyn Stevens said of Le Tour de France:
“The event transcends cycling and is a global inspiration. As a cyclist, it is something you dream about (even as a woman), and to finally have the chance to participate in one stage and to be a small part of it is so thrilling. The thought of it gives me goosebumps. I know that all of the racers will be so motivated to show the world how beautiful and exciting our sport is.”
LTE co-founder Marianne Vos said:
“I am very excited to be taking part, especially with the majestic finish on the Champs-Elysées. The launch of this race is a revolutionary development in our sport. The Tour is the pinnacle of professional cycling, and I have no doubt that La Course by Le Tour identifies a new era for women’s cycling and will significantly contribute to the growth of road racing.”
As the LTE said in their petition, “Hopefully 30 years from now, we will see 2014 as the year that opened people’s eyes to true equality in the sport of cycling.” In the meantime, we look forward to great racing on July 27th, ladies.
In Other Professional Women’s Cycling News
Baseball legend Barry Bonds is financially backing a women’s professional team called Twenty16. Bonds reportedly got into cycling through his girlfriend, Mari Holden, a former world champion, an Olympian and Twenty16’s sports director.
Check out the video below to see why Twenty16 professional cyclist Alison Tetrick prefers to race at the same events versus having separate women’s races:
For more reading about La Tour Entier and the future of women’s professional cycling:
- Here’s a link to the original petition submitted by LTE.
- Here is the official announcement about La Course by Le Tour de France.
- Read the article about La Course in VeloNews.
- Check out the article about La Course in Bicycling Magazine.
- Here’s an article about La Course in Shape Magazine.
- Read about Barry Bonds becoming a cyclist and a women’s cycling team sponsor.
In the market for a women’s road bike? Meet our March 2014 Bike of the Month, the Specialized Ruby Comp Ultegra.