By Owen Rogers
Lizzie Deignan’s victory at La Course last Saturday finished a stunning week of women’s racing. She won a nail-biting edition GP Plouay the Tuesday before, and the Euros was equally gripping, all three making excellent adverts for women’s racing.
However, it was La Course which made the headlines, once again providing huge exposure for the women’s sport.
I’ve worked at all the European Women’s WorldTour races, and while those run alongside men’s events like Flanders and Liège-Bastogne-Liège attract some headlines, I can safely say La Course attracts more coverage than all the standalone women’s races put together.
As always La Course this year brought the annual bout of indignation about the lack of a Tour de France from those who follow the women’s sport only for the one race, and accusations ASO has dragged its feet are entirely fair.
When it was created in 2014, my first year working in the women’s sport, the event was touted as a precursor to a full stage race, however, while the event moved away from its Paris debut, nothing bigger materialised.
Until now that is. Not only has UCI president David Lappartient mentioned the creation of a French multi-day race in recent days, more importantly, Tour organiser ASO has been hinting at it for a while.
Details came in mid-August when Tour boss, Christian Prudhomme met with Les Donnons des Elles au Vélo, a group of women riding the route of the Tour to raise awareness of the lack of a women’s event.
A tweet from Les Donnons’ sponsor, Pete Geyer of race livestream website cyclingfans.com failed to gain much traction.
As well as congratulating the women on their achievements and tenacious campaigning, Prudhomme confirmed the creation of a women’s Tour de France. He told them it would begin on the final day of the 2022 Tour and last for one week.
For anyone believing in justice and equality this is very welcome news. At last, the women’s peloton can properly take advantage of the world’s biggest race, and reap the benefits of the publicity that hopefully comes with it.
But there is continued criticism the new race is not coming soon enough, and even ludicrous suggestions they should have found space for a stage race in 2020’s reorganised calendar.
Not only does the re-scheduled nine-day Giro Rosa begin on September 11, Tuesday this week should have seen the start of the six-day Boels Ladies Tour in the Netherlands. Organising a French stage race in the five weeks since the Dutch race was cancelled is unworkable.
We complain when men’s WorldTour stage races overlap, but overlapping top tier women’s races is not possible when even the biggest teams lack the numbers to deal with a double programme. Of the eight newly created WorldTour teams, two have only 11 riders and the biggest, Canyon-SRAM has 16, so with six-woman race rosters it’s not going to happen.
So what about next year? Surely there’s time?
Possibly, however, COVID-19 has disrupted 2021 already, the re-scheduling of the Olympics throwing a spanner in the works, causing even the men’s Tour to change dates and postpone the proposed start in Copenhagen.
What’s more, other races will already have set dates and begun organising their events. Why should those who have been successfully run for years be forced aside at ASO’s whim?
Any new stage race must be properly integrated or risk disrupting what is a relatively structured season. The UCI will need to work with organisers to re-schedule dates, and the traditional Women’s WorldTour hiatus after the Giro Rosa is a perfect spot making the proposed date after the men’s race perfect. Except next year the Olympics will be in that spot.
ASO is a naturally conservative organisation and it will have weighed the pros and cons of staging a women’s Tour, and if Prudhomme and Lappartient are talking publicly about it they are highly unlikely to go back on their word.
When I watch the Tour I often think how, as boys the riders dreamt of competing for yellow as they raced their mates in the park. How they jabbered with enthusiasm, their parents patiently and sceptically listening to their boys’ aspirations.
It’s been a while coming, but now young girls can have that same dream.
Israel Start-Up Nation rider breaks collarbone riding back to hotel after Giro d'Italia time trial
Israel Start-Up Nation's Krists Neilands crashed and broke his collarbone while riding back to his hotel after the opening time trial of the Giro d'Italia
By Jonny Long •
Britain's Alice Barnes 'relieved' to take long-awaited victory at Setmana Ciclista Valenciana
The British champion sprinted to the win on the third stage of the Spanish race
By Richard Windsor •
Here is the Great Britain women’s team for World Championships 2020 in Imola
The swiftly re-arranged World Championships are just a few weeks away and the Great Britain women’s team has been confirmed.
By Alex Ballinger •
Brian Cookson column: Do we really need a new economic model for pro cycling?
Be careful what you wish for, says the former UCI president
By Brian Cookson •
UCI releases names of 19 WorldTour teams for 2020
The UCI has published the names of the 19 teams racing at WorldTour level, as cycling’s Premier League is due to increase in size.
By Alex Ballinger •
‘I thought it was a weird sport’: Lizzie Deignan on how she started cycling on ‘Home Roads’ podcast
Lizzie Deignan as offered an honest insight into her home life, being scouted from school, and how she spent her year away from racing in the ‘Home Roads’ podcast.
By Alex Ballinger •
Julian Alaphilippe heads up GP Québec and Grand Prix de Montréal 2019 start lists
With this collection of hitters, we know we're in for fireworks
By Michelle Arthurs-Brennan •
Five teams launch bids for promotion to WorldTour
The number of WorldTour teams looks likely to increase as five outfits have launched bids to be promoted to cycling’s Premier League.
By Alex Ballinger •
Iconic Places: The Cauberg, Amstel Gold Race's most famous climb
As the Classics head for the hills, for the Amstel Gold Race no ascent is more famous than the Cauberg climb
By Chris Sidwells •
Jolien D'hoore wins hectic edition of Driedaagse De Panne-Koksijde
Sprint victory for Belgian road race champion Jolien D'hoore as riders navigate bad weather, tram tracks and numerous crashes
By Nigel Wynn •