Cookson says he wants to help work towards women’s Tour de France and Tour of Britain
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Friday, July 26, 2013

Cookson says he wants to help work towards women’s Tour de France and Tour of Britain

by VeloNation Press at 8:36 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Tour de France, Tour of Britain
UCI presidential candidate wants to bring ASO and top women riders together for talks

Brian CooksonAfter recent indications that the Tour de France organisers ASO may be open to considering a female equivalent of the race, UCI presidential candidate Brian Cookson has now pledged to work to try to make it happen.

“Undoubtedly having a female equivalent of the biggest bike race in the world is an objective we should need to explore,” he wrote on his blog, referring to the online petition pushing for the event, and which has gained over 77,000 signatures.

“This is why I am currently setting up a meeting involving Marianne Vos, Emma Pooley and other key representatives behind the petition with the right people, including Tour de France owners ASO and UCI Management Committee member Tracey Gaudry.

“It is vital that we work as a group and tap into the wealth of knowhow of people like Tracey, who as a pro rider rode three editions of the Tour Feminin. 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.”

Cookson has also indicated that he wants to try to do the same with the Tour of Britain, noting that there is need to hold a new international event as a stopgap until that can happen.

“At British Cycling we’ve got hold of the issue and are coming to the end of tendering for the organiser who will be responsible for our biggest international event, the Tour of Britain, for the next five years,” he wrote. “It was really important to me that we used that process to secure a transformation in elite women's racing so I'm pleased to be able to confirm that there will now be a five-day international stage race for women in Britain in 2014.

“The event will be separate from the men's race, but 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.”

The current British Cycling president adds that he sees the introduction of the stage race as a template for the changes he wants to bring in if elected as UCI president.

Wages and events:

Covering the subject in his manifesto, Cookson has already elaborated on what changes he would like to bring about for what is an under-developed women’s wing of the sport. He returned to a couple of those points in his latest blog entry, saying that the guaranteeing of a minimum wage and modern employment standards for top level teams is necessary.

In addition to that, he sees new races as being crucial. “We need to work closely with organisers, sponsors, teams and broadcasters to create new events on the professional calendar. A women’s equivalent of the Tour de France is one potential solution and the focus of attention of a really successful petition which now has over 77,000 signatures.”

That petition was set up earlier this month by competitor and journalist Kathryn Bertine and signed by her, world champion Marianne Vos, former champion Emma Pooley and the Ironman triathlete Chrissie Wellington. Since then the petition has also been signed by over 70,000 people and the campaign has gained momentum.

During the Tour de France, race director Christian Prudhomme was reported as appearing somewhat dismissive. However his superior, ASO chairman Jean-Etienne Amaury, recently told Bloomberg in a phone interview that the company would look at the subject.

“We need to work out the right economic model, get the media on board and discuss with public authorities about closing the roads,” he said. “All these parameters need to be planned.”

His comments appeared to be generally positive, although he stated that such an event was unlikely to be in place by next year.

Cookson has said that he will make it a priority to look at subjects such as this. “Cycling has a long way to go to ensure women’s cycling is given an equal stage to the men’s events. 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.”

He is the sole rival to current UCI president Pat McQuaid. The election will take place at the UCI Congress in September.


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