British Cycling president Brian Cookson is now backing the return of women in the world-famous cycling competition
Female cyclists could return to the Tour de France in a groundbreaking move for women’s sport. The President of British Cycling, Brian Cookson, is the latest in a long line of high-profile names backing the campaign, which was kickstarted earlier this month by national champion cyclist and filmmaker, Kathryn Bertine.
Kathryn has compiled a petition fighting for female teams to race in the Tour de France, and she’s already gathered an incredible 84,271 sigantures.
She says: ‘For 100 years, the Tour de France has been the pinnacle endurance sports event of the world, watched by and inspiring millions of people. And for 100 years, it has been an exclusively male race.’
Women were catered for in the sport from 1984 until 2009 in a separate Tour Feminin, but the race was shelved when it failed to generate enough funding from sponsors and support from media outlets.
She adds: ‘After a century, it is about time women are allowed to race the Tour de France, too. While many women’s sports face battles of inequity, road cycling remains one of the worst offenders: fewer race opportunities, no televised coverage, shorter distances, and therefore salary and prize money inequity.
‘We seek not to race against the men, but to have our own professional field running in conjunction with the men’s event, at the same time, over the same distances, on the same days, with modifications in start/finish times so neither gender’s race interferes with the other.
‘The women’s road race at the London Olympics was a showcase for how impressive, exciting, and entertaining women’s cycling can be. The Tour of Flanders and Flèche Wallonne hold similar top ranked men’s and women’s races on the same day, with great success. Having a women’s pro field at the Tour de France will also create an equal opportunity to debunk the myths of physical “limitations” placed upon female athletes.
‘In the late 1960s people assumed that women couldn’t run the marathon. 30 years on we can look back and see how erroneous this was. Hopefully 30 years from now, we will see 2014 as the year that opened people’s eyes to true equality in the sport of cycling.
‘If you’d like to see more women’s road racing on television and from the roadside, please sign this petition to call for road cycling to take a major step in the right direction. Help us break down the barriers that unjustly keep female athletes from the same opportunities as men.’
The petition has been signed by Emma Pooley (pictured), our own GB silver medallist for cycling and Chrissie Wellington, the GB World Ironman Triathlon champion.
Brian adds: ‘Undoubtedly having a female equivalent of the biggest bike race in the world is an objective we need to explore. This is why I am setting up a meeting involving [Olympic road race champion] 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.’
Last week Harriet Harman, the shadow culture secretary, wrote to the Tour de France’s director to back the campaign. She’s also called for a women’s race to be held alongside the Grand Depart in Yorkshire next year. Watch this space!
You can sign the petition here. Should women be allowed to compete? Let us know in the comments box below.
Fancy trying a cycling event? See cycling events in the UK here.