Uneasy rider: Laura Trott questions Le Tour for women

Olympian thinks a female version of the race should not just mirror the men's

Ian Herbert
Saturday 17 August 2013 23:10
Comments

Britain's most high-profile women's cyclist has refused to endorse the petition calling for women to be included in the Tour de France next year.

Laura Trott has been at the forefront of the extraordinary take-up in women's cycling since last summer but is not among those who want the Tour to bow to moves to prematurely ditch its 100-year format in the interests of equality.

Trott's Olympic teammate Emma Pooley and Dutch Olympic road race champion Marianne Vos have been at the front of the campaign to convince the race organisers ASO to change. Their petition to Tour director Christian Prudhomme has topped 90,000 signatures and is still climbing this weekend.

But though Labour Party deputy leader Harriet Harman's open letter to Prudhomme has reinforced that demand, Trott insisted that the petition had been ill conceived, even suggesting that the women's Tour de France as envisaged by the two Olympians threatens to damage the infrastructure of women's cycling, rather than benefit it. "The little petition that was put out by Emma Pooley and Marianne Vos just hadn't been thought through very well," she said. "It's all well and good having a women's Tour de France – which I think we need and I think we should have. But I think we should slowly build it in and not just go 'bam' with three weeks over the same course and same length of time as the men's."

That is the idea being proposed by Pooley and Vos who believe the women should ride the same Tour course as the men each day, whisking through the villages and towns and scaling the peaks in front of the cycling fans who congregate in their millions to see the men rattling through ahead of the legendary cavalcade of promotional vehicles. The petition states: "After a century, it is about time women are allowed to race the Tour de France, too. 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."

Pooley has said she was "sure I could finish [the race]. I know I could do the distance," though current rules governing world cycling prevent women from cycling as far as men in a single stage.

But Trott believes that if the women mirror the men's event by going out in front the men will simply catch them up – and if they follow the men through the course, the crowds will have begun to disappear when the women race. She is also concerned that women's cycling should not forget the small events, with their myriad sponsors, who have supported the women and given them an arena during the three weeks of the Tour de France. They include Belgium's La Fleche Wallone and the Gent-Wevelgem race in Flanders. "We've got valuable sponsors in those races," said Trott. "The women's Giro d'Italia has also been running in July for years and it's not fair to say to them 'look we're going to put a women's Tour de France on now and forget your race.' People are not thinking about the knock-on effect. If we follow the little petition they put out, the smaller races fall away and the smaller teams that turn up at those races lose their sponsors because they're not racing for those three weeks. So, it just hadn't been thought through. I think we should slowly build it up instead."

Trott visualises two one-day stage races coinciding with the men's Tour, to take place on the men's two rest days. As she sees it, one stage could finish up the Alps – even the Alpe d'Huez, despite the size of that task – and another flatter stage on the Champs-Elysees. "A Tour de France needs to be introduced slowly into women's cycling," the 21-year-old said. "You can't just immediately expect it to be what the men's is. Remember that 20 or 30 years ago the men's Tour wasn't what it is today. I do think people are forgetting that."

Dani King, another British Olympic gold medallist on the track, echoes her concerns. "They work really well because they've all got the infrastructure in place," she said. "The women start earlier than the men on the same course and we do a shorter route because all the crowds are there and the media. It will be good to have a women's Tour in the future but we should work more slowly and not go too fast, too soon."

Trott was racing in France this week, as she continues her build up to the European track cycling championships at Apeldoorn, in the Netherlands, in October. "The world has become a different place for British women's cycling," she said.

Laura Trott and Dani King were riding at the 'Ride With Brad Sportive' in Lancashire, held in aid of the Bradley Wiggins Foundation

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in