Women’s stars petition ASO for their own Tour de France
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Friday, July 12, 2013

Women’s stars petition ASO for their own Tour de France

by Ben Atkins at 5:46 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Tour de France
 
Marianne Vos and Emma Pooley add their weight to Kathryn Bertine’s campaign

marianne vosWorld and Olympic champion Marianne Vos (Rabobank-Liv/Giant), former World time trial champion Emma Pooley (Bigla) have added their weight to an online petition, set up by St Kitts and Nevis rider Kathryn Bertine, which urges the Amaury Sport Association (ASO) to create a women’s Tour de France. The petition, which is also supported by women’s World Ironman champion Chrissie Wellington, cites the women’s versions of several of the men’s Classic races that have women’s versions run in parallel, and argues that the Tour de France could also be run along similar lines.

The letter to Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme calls for a women’s race to follow the exact course as the men’s Tour, on the same day, just as the women’s Ronde van Vlaanderen and Flèche Wallonne. While women’s races are currently far shorter than men’s - and are restricted to a maximum of 130km for a tour stage by International Cycling Union (UCI) regulations - the letter cites the fact that in the 1960s it was assumed that the marathon distance was too far for women to run.

Mentioned in the petition is the fact that, between 1984 and 2009, there was a women’s Tour de France - originally known as le Tour Féminin; Jeannie Longo, the first French winner, appearing on the podium of the men’s race in 1987, alongside Stephen Roche, Pedro Delgado and Jean-François Bernard. Following the 1997 version, however, ASO forced the race to change its name due to what it termed trademark infractions, and it became known as la Grande Boucle Féminine for the remainder of its existence.

The race, which had been run over two weeks in its early years, fell victim to various financial and organisational challenges and, by the time Pooley won its final edition in 2009, it was just four stages long. Since the race’s demise, the Giro d’Italia Femminile - now known as the Giro Rosa - is the only women’s “Grand Tour” remaining.

Anybody signing the petition agrees that:

- Women should have the opportunity to compete at the same cycling events as men. 

- Women should be on the starting line of the 101st Tour de France in 2014.

At the time of writing the petition had collected just over 5,000 signatures.

To read and/or sign the petition, follow this link.

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The text of the petition is as follows:

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 (there was a separate Tour Feminin in the 1980s, but it lacked parity, media coverage, and sponsorship). After a century, it is about time women are allowed to race the Tour de France, too. While many women's sports face battles of inequity, road cycling remains one of the worst offenders: fewer race opportunities, no televised coverage, shorter distances, and therefore salary and prize money inequity. We seek not to race against the men, but to have our own professional field running in conjunction with the men's event, at the same time, over the same distances, on the same days, with modifications in start/finish times so neither gender's race interferes with the other. The women's road race at the London Olympics was a showcase for how impressive, exciting, and entertaining women's cycling can be. The Tour of Flanders and Flèche Wallonne hold similar top ranked men's and women's races on the same day, with great success.  Having a women's pro field at the Tour de France will also create an equal opportunity to debunk the myths of physical "limitations" placed upon female athletes. In the late 1960s people assumed that women couldn't run the marathon. 30 years on we can look back and see how erroneous this was. 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. If you'd like to see more women's road racing on television and from the roadside, please sign this petition to call for road cycling to take a major step in the right direction. Help us break down the barriers that unjustly keep female athletes from the same opportunities as men. 

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