Can women compete in the Tour de France or is their destiny elsewhere? Let's take a look at the near future of female cycling.
With the Tour de France 2019 ending on July 28th, Colombian youngster Egan Bernal taking home both the Yellow and White jerseys. His double championship was a remarkable achievement, and his push to win it all made the final stages so much fun.
Controversy surrounded Stage 19 ending early due to weather conditions, but this decision was in the favor of Bernal who lead at the time the stage was called. All in all, it was a wonderful race, and I was lucky enough to catch about half the stages. Thank god for DVR.
I am by no means a cycling expert. I merely enjoy the Tour de France each year, catching what I can when I can. I also do a bit of cycling myself as a hobby. I have a both cycling road bike and an indoor spin bike.
With that said, cycling has been a bit of a pet project with me for a while, especially around TdF time. I guess I lack the confidence to write about it here on Scorum, but I do very much enjoy the sport.
Now the final stage has been played out, the winners announced, I thought it time to look at another side of the sport. The Women’s World Cup just finished weeks ago, it’s kept the female sport fresh in my mind, and as if coincidence, the first person across the Tour de France finish line this year wasn’t actually Bernal.
It was a woman.
But let me Explain
Women in the Tour de France
The desire, or the resistance towards, allowing females to compete in the Tour de France (TdF) has been a topic of contention for many years, spanning decades, yet it is no closer to being settled today than it was all those years ago.
The conversation was brought to life once again this year by a team of female riders pledging to ride the entire TdF one day ahead of the men. The 10-female group, consisting of riders from 3 continents, will advocate for the women’s sport by completing the entire tour with traffic, barely any support staff, with little fanfare and no reward money. They have been doing this since 2015.
If you like to know more, NPR has a great piece about it. Found here.
Organizers of the TdF have been questioned about allowing female teams in the race for years now. This pressure comes alongside additional pressure to expand the competition, allowing more men’s teams to compete.
The race has swollen over the years, as it expanded to allow more and more riders into it. This has now created somewhat of a bloated field, making it very unlikely a women’s team would be granted a place in the tour as it currently stands.
Others have suggested two separate races, one for each gender, but Amaury Sport Organization (the governing body for TdF) says:
“We cannot have a women’s Tour de France at the same moment as the men’s Tour because it would be logistically impossible. The Tour has grown so much and is so big that having two races at the same time would not be feasible.”
Make of that what you will, but the AOS has promoted a female version of the Tour de France back in 1989 with little success. Since then, the closest competition for females is a one-day race called La Course.
Despite all this, the AOS says they have dedicated a group to explore possibilities for the female sport. They’ve also agreed to a Belgium TV deal to air two female races in 2020.
Giro d'Italia Femminile (Giro Rosa) is currently the longest female cycling race. The 8-10 day race has been going strong since 1988 and features a slog through the mountainous roads of Italy.
But a new race might just change all that.
What is The Battle of the North
For me, the most exciting prospect for the women cycling is the proposed Battle of the North. What is that, you might ask.
The Battle of the North will hopefully stir up the female sport. Slotted to being in 2021, this 10-day race with challenge the Giro Rosa has the most prestigious women’s race. It also has the added benefit of not running at the same time as the TdF.
Set in the Scandinavian countries of Denmark, Sweden and Norway, the competition will include a few previous single day races as part of the over all stages. Promoters spent little time before dubbing it “the Tour de France for Women.”
The race has been given a projected budget of 2.2 million Euro to put it on. With the organizers securing extra funding along the way. TV deals are currently in the works as promotors try to secure coverage. Both of these will likely be the deciding factors. Launching a grand cycling tour, as proposed, will be no easy feat.
Even if organizers successful pull it off, there is no promise that the governing bodies will go along with it and grant the race proper validity. So many questions still dangle around the proposed race, but one thing is for sure: it’s certainly a cool idea.
Would You Be Interested?
Perhaps one of the most telling questions about this whole discussion is whether there is a fan base out there wanting to see women cycling akin to the Tour de France. I know for myself, I absolutely do but is there the large scale support?
Are you interested in seeing women’s cycling? Would you watch it on TV?
Be sure to let me know your thoughts in the comments. And as always, be nice. No sexist remarks please.