Sport on TV: More than just a diversion, the Women’s Tour paves the way

When cycling’s inaugural Women’s Tour (ITV4, Wednesday) styled itself as the world’s best women’s stage race before it had even begun, it was easy to feel a little uneasy about the launch. After all, some cable company was bound to rip up the road without warning anyone – “you’ll have to turn around and go down the bypass, love”, accompanied by wolf whistles.

The guest of honour, Dame Tanni Grey-Thompson, had to be told to wave her Union flag on the start line as the countdown reached its climax. They were wheeling out of Oundle, which no one knows how to pronounce, and heading for the “historic market town of Northampton”. Well places like La Planche des Belles Filles, on stage 10 of this summer’s Tour de France, may sound more exotic to our thick Anglo-Saxon ears but it’s probably a right dump.

Talking of belles filles, before the race ITV interviewed some hale and hearty fellow called Hugh Roberts, the chief executive of Sweetspot Group, who organised the event. It was enough to make you groan like a fat old bloke squeezing into a Lycra body suit. “They are not only great riders but, without sounding chauvinistic, they are very marketable, very photogenic, far more so than their male counterparts,” he said, sounding really quite chauvinistic, and not unlike Fifa president Sepp Blatter suggesting that women footballers should wear tight shorts. It’s not as if it matters what male footballers look like, is it? Then you remember David Beckham’s tiresome propensity to walk around in his pants.

As it happens, the British public’s enthusiasm for cycling meant that the race didn’t need to sell itself. The crowds turned out in force and were so vociferous that the home favourite Lizzie Armitstead began her sprint to the line too early, thinking that she must be near the finish.

So it’s a shame that for all ITV’s efforts to showcase the event, they were not showing it live – the Indian Premier League, a dodgy cricket jamboree in a far-flung land, takes precedence. The only similarity is that it’s where Kevin Pietersen ended up when the England selectors told him to get on his bike.

ITV were certainly trying their hardest, digging out Jose Been, “one of the only women’s cycling commentators in the world”. Presenter Ned Boulting was talking up the showdown between Armitstead and Dutch tour de force Marianne Vos as hard as he could. “You’re really trying to get this rivalry going, aren’t you?” said Lizzie as she and Vos sat happily side by side. Surely she had the advantage, being on home Tarmac. “Well I am British, but I don’t know the roads at all.” At least he didn’t say that she would understand the road signs better.

On the final sprint into Northampton a sign said that two lanes were closed up ahead and you feared the worst. But it was fine, the workmen must have been on an extended lunch break. The worst was yet to come anyway. On the podium the winners of the various categories were kissed and hugged not by the equivalent of glamorous girls of the men’s races but by a few gawky, awkward blokes who looked like they had just finished knocking up the podium.

No chiselled cheekbones and six-packs for these ladies as there will be on the women’s Tour de France this year, they had to make do with Bob the builder and his hairy buttcheeks. The lack of potholes had been remarkable but a crack or two had to open up somewhere.

So Alan Hansen’s tenure at Match of the Day comes to an end tonight, apart from World Cup specials. One wonders whether he will growl anything along the lines of “You can’t do punditry with kids”. And in the case of the Liverpool centre-half who stepped into his shoes, Jamie Carragher, he is proved right on a weekly basis.

Arts and Entertainment
Supporting role: at the Supreme Court, Rhodes was accompanied by a famous friend, the actor Benedict Cumberbatch
booksPianist James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to stop the injunction of his memoirs
Arts and Entertainment
Jesuthasan Antonythasan as Dheepan
filmDheepan, film review
Sport
Steven Gerrard scores for Liverpool
sport
News
peopleComedian star of Ed Sullivan Show was mother to Ben Stiller
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?