Tour de France: Britain’s female cyclists can conquer the Alps too

They hope their Olympic successes can help them to catch up with the men’s sport

There’s only one way that Chris Froome could have done any more if he nails his first Tour de France victory today – and that’s to have been a Christina. At least that is the belief of some of the biggest names in women’s cycling, who are fighting to get their own version of the world-famous event.

Britain’s former world champion and one of its many Olympic medallists Emma Pooley is spearheading a campaign along with Olympic champion Marianne Vos to convince race organisers ASO to include women in the Tour de France as early as next year. By Friday evening, 55,000 people around the world had added their voices to their cause, signing a petition calling for equality for road cycling.

Dani King, another Olympic gold medallist on the track, told the Independent on Sunday that having a women’s Tour “would be brilliant” for the sport, which lags its male counterpart in every possible way, from the number of races held to the amount of prize money up for grabs.

And as for television coverage, or sponsorship; forget it. There is, for example, no women’s version of the fantastically successful men’s Team Sky, which has done so much to transform British cycling over the past few years.

Pooley wants women to ride the same Tour course as the men each day, passing through earlier and giving cycling fans, who wait all day just to see their heroes whizz past in mere seconds, something else to watch. She said last week she was “sure I could finish [the race]. I know I could do the distance.” Current rules governing world cycling prevent women from cycling as far as men in a single stage.

King, who rides for Wiggle Honda, one of the very rare women’s professional cycling teams, is happy to have shorter stages and thinks the whole race could potentially be less than three weeks. “But having it alongside the men’s would get it on television, and show that our racing is just as exciting as the men’s. That would attract sponsorship, so it there would be a snowball effect.”

A women’s Tour is not a new idea. A race called the Tour Feminin was held intermittently from 1984 to 2009, but the event was fraught with disasters including unpaid prize money, poor sponsorship, and even a legal battle over its name. The latest person to win the event was Emma Pooley.

Humphrey Cobbald, chief executive of the online cycling retailer Wiggle, which struck a three-year sponsorship deal last December to support the professional women’s team, is among those backing the petition. He said a women’s version of the Tour would provide the crucial “anchor event” the sport needs to help raise its profile. “Women’s cycling cannot start to move towards achieving its potential until it has an anchor event, and it can’t have an anchor event until it has greater financial resources, recognition, and success.”

The differences between men’s and women’s road racing are stark. The longest stage race for women in 2013, Italy’s Giro Rosa, was 778.5km long, with a prize pot of just 460 euros. This compares to the 3,043-km Tour de France, with its 450,000 euro top reward.

Rochelle Gilmore, another Wiggle Honda rider, said the fact that female cyclists “do not earn the rewards, fame, income or careers they deserve for being so talented” put women off from pursuing cycling as a career.

Although women’s cycling in Britain is growing, the pace of change is slow and at the amateur level the sport is still very male. Race organisers often struggle to attract enough female entrants to events. And even popular ones, like the Prudential RideLondon-Surrey 100 on 4 August, which retraces the Olympic road route, attract just one woman for every five male riders. 

There are, however, a number of efforts to get more women on to two wheels, including a handful of female-focused cycling clubs, such as Kent Velo Girls, which has 140 members.

Bee Gregory, who started the group in 2008, said a big, televised women’s road race would inspire more people to get on their bikes.

Meanwhile, Rapha, the men’s cycling clothing brand, launched an initiative called the Women’s 100, to encourage women to ride 100 km on 7 July, the day of the Etape du Tour, which was set up to allow amateur cyclists to complete one of the great race’s mountain stages. The clothing label took 70 female cyclists to Annecy in France, the site of this year’s challenge.

Simon Mottram, Rapha’s co-founder and chief executive, said: “We’re in a huge boom for women’s cycling and with the Tour being the pinnacle of road racing, it’s important that [the women’s Tour] is reinstated so that women have the same race and platform as the men.”

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

Recruitment Genius: 3rd Line Virtualisation, Windows & Server Engineer

£40000 - £47000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A 3rd Line Virtualisation / Sto...

Recruitment Genius: Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Service Engineer

£26000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A successful national service f...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive / Sales - OTE £25,000

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Fixed Term Contract

£17500 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We currently require an experie...

Syria civil war: Meet the military commander who says his soldiers will not rest until every inch of their war torn country is free of Islamist 'terrorists'

‘We won’t stop until Syria is back to normal’

Near the front lines with Islamist-controlled towns where Assad’s troops were besieged just last month, Robert Fisk meets a commander confidently preparing his soldiers for battle
Fifa corruption: Strip Qatar of the World Cup? Not likely

Strip Qatar of the World Cup? Not likely

But if a real smoking gun is found, that might change things, says Tom Peck
Twenty two years later Jurassic Park series faces questions over accuracy of the fictional dinosaurs in it

Tyrannosaurus wrecked?

Twenty two years on, Jurassic Park faces questions over accuracy
The inside story of how Bill Clinton built a $2bn global foundation may undermine Hillary's chances

The inside story of how Bill Clinton built a $2bn global foundation...

... and how it may undermine Hillary's chances in 2016
Genes greatly influence when and how many babies a woman will have, study finds

Mother’s genes play key role in decision to start a family

Study's findings suggest that human fertility is still evolving
12 best olive oils

Extra-virgin, cold-press, early-harvest, ultra-premium: 12 best olive oils

Choosing an olive oil is a surprising minefield. Save yourself the hassle with our handy guide
Rafa Benitez Real Madrid unveiling: New manager full of emotion at Bernabeu homecoming

Benitez full of emotion at Bernabeu homecoming

There were tears in the former Liverpool manager’s eyes as he was unveiled as Real Madrid coach. But the Spaniard knows he must make tough decisions if he is to succeed
Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record