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.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
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: .NET Developer / Web Developer

£35-45K (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a .NET Developer / Web ...

Recruitment Genius: Full Time and Part Time Digital Designer - North Kent

£20000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This successful web design/deve...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Are you great at building rela...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Dublin (based in London)

£20000 - £25000 per annum + commission: SThree: Real Staffing's Pharmaceutical...

Revealed: Why Mohammed Emwazi chose the 'safe option' of fighting for Isis, rather than following his friends to al-Shabaab in Somalia

Why Mohammed Emwazi chose Isis

His friends were betrayed and killed by al-Shabaab
'The solution can never be to impassively watch on while desperate people drown'
An open letter to David Cameron: Building fortress Europe has had deadly results

Open letter to David Cameron

Building the walls of fortress Europe has had deadly results
Tory candidates' tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they seem - you don't say!

You don't say!

Tory candidates' election tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they appear
Mubi: Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash

So what is Mubi?

Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash all the time
The impossible job: how to follow Kevin Spacey?

The hardest job in theatre?

How to follow Kevin Spacey
Armenian genocide: To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie

Armenian genocide and the 'good Turks'

To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie
Lou Reed: The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths

'Lou needed care, but what he got was ECT'

The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond
Migrant boat disaster: This human tragedy has been brewing for four years and EU states can't say they were not warned

This human tragedy has been brewing for years

EU states can't say they were not warned
Women's sportswear: From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help

Women's sportswear

From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help
Hillary Clinton's outfits will be as important as her policies in her presidential bid

Clinton's clothes

Like it or not, her outfits will be as important as her policies
NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders