A new elite women's race in France, the Tour Féminin International des Pyrénées, will take place for the first time this summer.
The three-day stage race will take place from the 5th-7th August, and has been awarded 2.1 status by the UCI. It was launched this week. The category puts it on the same level as more established races such as the Lotto Belgium Tour and the Tour Cycliste Féminin International de l'Ardèche.
Coming days after the first edition of the Tour de France Femmes, the race will pose a further mountainous test for the women's peloton, with the climb of the Col du Soulor included in the parcours.
"This first edition of the Tour Féminin International des Pyrénées marks a decisive turning point for female cyclists," Marion Clignet and Elisabeth Chevanne-Brachet said, co-presidents of the French Association of Female Cyclists (AFCC).
"They now have the same status as male cyclists and are recognized fully by the world of professional cycling. The stages that make up this tour will give them a beautiful opportunity to show the public that there is no longer any question of amateurism in their discipline."
The AFCC has been one of the major backers of the new event. It is a national women's association founded in 2019 to campaign for the professional recognition of female cyclists.
There will be two stages on the race's opening day, a team time trial from Artiguelouve to Lacq and a circuit race around Pau, which is one of the iconic towns of the Tour de France.
The second day will see riders race from Pierrefitte-Nestalas to Col du Soulor, a climb which has featured in the men's Tour de France six times, first in 1912 and last in 2019. It ramps up to 10 per cent over 20km.
Lourdes will host both the start and the finish of the final stage; the Tour de France has not visited there since 2011.
CIC, a major French bank, has stepped on board as title sponsor.
Patrice Cauvet, the managing director of CIC Sud Ouest, said: "This tour of the Pyrénées is a beautiful advert for a territory that we support locally."
"This commitment is in line with our partnership with the French Cycling Federation. We are proud to support this highly symbolic event. As a company with a mission, CIC works in particular for inclusion and parity, and it is essential that women's professional cycling has all the recognition it deserves."
It comes in the same week that it was announced Zwift is to sponsor Paris-Roubaix Femmes from this year.
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Hello, I'm Cycling Weekly's digital staff writer. I like pretending to be part of the great history of cycling writing, and acting like a pseudo-intellectual in general.
Before joining the team here I wrote for Procycling for almost two years, interviewing riders and writing about racing. My favourite event is Strade Bianche, but I haven't quite made it to the Piazza del Campo just yet.
Prior to covering the sport of cycling, I wrote about ecclesiastical matters for the Church Times and politics for Business Insider. I have degrees in history and journalism.
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