While news that the women’s Tour de France will return in 2022 has been broadly celebrated across the cycling world, the organiser has come under fire for his choice of words when announcing the race.
Christian Prudhomme, the head of cycling events for Tour de France organiser ASO, has confirmed that the women’s Tour de France will return to the calendar for the first time since 1989, taking place shortly after the men’s event.
But announcing the race, Prudhomme said that every women’s race organised by ASO loses money, with his choice of words being criticised.
Amy Lauren Jones, a freelance writer based in Girona, said: “It’s fine to state that parts of your business aren’t profitable if you do it about both the men’s and women’s events in equal measure. Alas, old mate is out here harping on about what good souls he and his company are for deigning to give the women a crumb.”
The debate around women’s races prompted a response for the head of Flanders Classics Tomas Van Den Spiegel, who organises the Tour of Flanders and other prestigious one-day events.
Van Den Spiegel said: “We believe in women’s cycling so instead of calling it losing money I rather call it investing. We are almost at the tipping point where broadcasters and sponsors are wanting in on women’s cycling. We all just need to keep up the good work.”
Flanders Classics has been a leader among race organisers for supporting its women’s races, introducing new women’s events to run alongside the men’s and scheduling women’s races to finish after the men, in the hopes of bringing in a bigger TV audience.
Van Den Spiegel’s words were met with support from cycling broadcaster Orla Chennaoui, who said: “It’s so important to change the narrative and framing of staging women’s sport.
“Investment is key.”
But not everyone was critical of Prudhomme’s choice of words, with some suggesting that ASO’s actions speak louder than words.
Dutch commentator José Been said: “ ASO is a multimillion business employing 100s of people. It's not a charity or non-profit.
“I don't see an issue stating that certain parts of your business aren't profitable.
“And who cares whether Prudhomme's heart doesn't seem to be into women's cycling? ASO are doing it. They are organising women's races, even though they are losing money.
“That's the win here .”
Cycling journalist and author Peter Cossins said: “I'm sure if you ask Prudhomme about the Dauphiné, for instance, he'll be equally upfront about the financial difficulties in running a race that has to roam a long way from the Dauphiné area to find stage towns that will back it.”
Prudhomme did offer further details of what the women’s Tour de France will look like, but said if the race loses money it will “die” like the 1980s version.
Later this year, ASO will also organise the first ever women’s edition of Paris-Roubaix, a long awaited addition to the calendar.
Cycling Weekly has approached ASO for comment.
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