For the editorial letter accompanying our Tour de France issue back in the summer, I wrote in support of the excellent Women’s Tour here in the UK and took ASO to task for failing to up their game and produce races worthy of the womens’ talents.
The glorified crits that accompany both the Tour and La Vuelta (also owned by ASO) on their final days are nothing short of tokenism. Who better than the sport’s biggest players to lead the way and give the female side of the sport the helping hand it so desperately needs?
Cycling News got excited last week, speculating that La Course may expand to a multi-stage race for 2017. Sadly, they couldn’t have been more wrong.
Laps of the Champs-Élysées have been replaced by a piffling 66km mountain race finishing on the Col d’Izoard. It is a sideways move worthy of Ray ‘The Crab’ Wilkins playing for England – no discernible forward motion whatsoever.
It’s like the London Marathon organisers deciding that anyone possessing two X chromosomes would be incapable of running the full 26-plus miles and should therefore do a 5km fun run instead. It is an absolute insult, just moved to a new arena.
ASO, it could be argued, is a commercial organisation, with no pressing remit to promote a branch of the sport it considers unprofitable. That is down to the UCI.
But they are missing a trick here. Women’s cycling is expanding rapidly, as any bike or clothing manufacturer producing female-specific gear will tell you. There is no better way of advertising product than televised professional racing, which is why so many companies pump millions of pounds into the coffers of men’s teams. Give the women a suitable platform to display their prowess and the backing would surely follow.
Everyday sexism writ large? Probably. The correct response to this backward step from ASO is to kick up an almighty stink and let them know in the strongest terms that this situation is not acceptable.
But there is alternative approach that came to my attention following the letter in issue 63. If ASO is really not interested in promoting a women’s Tour de France, why bother pressing them? As several people pointed out to me, there are existing stage races out there – including the Women’s Tour – that deserve our support far more than La Course and its truncated Tour stage.
It is time to let the notion of a women’s Tour de France go. Let’s focus on realistic and attainable goals with people who genuinely want to see the female side of the sport progress, and understand how to go about it. ASO seem to lack both the skills and the will to make it happen.
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