UCI Women 2013




Late Start
Dateline: 5-Aug-2013
Despite the Olympics, the Worlds and some attempts to cover international / UK domestic events there has been a continuing gap in coverage of women’s races. So even though both men and women are equally impacted by the machinations of the UCI and the Olympic Committee there has been very little here, on International Cycle Sport, that has been specific to women’s elite racing.

However there are a few encouraging signs of changes ahead. The biggest definite sign of progress was the announcement, some 10 days ago, of a Women's Tour of Britain to be staged over five days in May 2014. In the weeks prior to this announcement, from British Cycling, there had also been various calls for a much bigger race - a Women’s Tour de France.

Ironman world champion Chrissie Wellington stated that the return of a women's Tour was a necessity for female cycling. BBC Sport reported these quotes - "I think some people have misconstrued it as us lobbying for equal prize money, and while that would be a fantastic long-term goal, the short-term goal would be to have a race in 2014." .. "I believe the Olympics has shown an appetite across the board for women's cycling.” .. "It makes excellent commercial sense for those who have commercial imperative. It's a win-win situation for the organisers, the media, the public and people at the grassroots who really need to see female cyclists performing on the world stage." Which is a reasonable opinion coming from a successful world-class competitor.


1984 Tour de France Feminin Stage Map

However it also emerged that the UK Labour Party’s deputy leader, Harriet Harman, had written to Tour de France director, Christian Prudhomme, calling for a women's event at the Tour. Sadly just the sort of ill-informed, politically motivated involvement that could be the kiss of death for any sporting event - let alone one in another country. It’s a bit like the comment many club cyclists still get from unaware friends and colleges - along the lines of “Will you be riding in the Tour de France ...”

But at least the BBC Sport article did make a brief reference to the fact that this has all been done before - many years ago.

Here, for example, is the route of the 1984 Tour Feminin that was run concurrently with the men’s Tour by the same organisation. This edition is commonly referred to as the first women’s TdF but, in fact, there was an earlier one organised by Jean Leulliot. It was a six stage event held over five days starting on 28 September 1955. Britain’s Millie Robinson won overall - taking two stages. Team-mate June Thackerey was second and took a stage. France’s Marie-Jeanne Donabedian was third after also taking a stage victory. But then there was the 29 year gap and by 1984 the first race had largely been forgotten.

Having made the effort in 1984 the Tour organisers persisted with the dual race format until 1989 - and it gave as much publicity as they could. But for 1990 the race moved to September and then finished completely in 1993. [Wikipedia says a race was not held in 1990 or 1991 but the Memoire du Cyclisme website has the results!]

Views were expressed that the Tour Feminin was not financially viable and had made losses every year. This may not be true but it is clear that the organisers would not have stopped something that was making them money.

However another organiser did try to run an equivalent race that started in 1992 - so overlapping the official version. This lead to the crazy situation of Leontin Van Moorsel winning two Tour De France races in the same year! She was even first and second in 1993 ... This independent race - La Grande Boucle (more) - continued until 2009 but was often struggling to keep going. There was a grand plan to start in Britain in 2009 - but that became more like an attempt to generate sponsorship interest than a serious proposal. Emma Pooley did win the final 2009 race which by then had been cut back to just four stages. This left the Tour de l’Aude Feminin as the main French stage race - but that too stopped the following year.


2013 Route de France Feminine

In 2006 the Route de France Feminine started - and despite missing out in 2011 - is actually in progress this week. Fifteen teams of six were down to start the race - which this year is over eight stages. It finishes next Saturday (10-Aug-2013). But despite the British calls for more, higher profile women’s races there are only four British riders named on the start list - Armistead (Boels Dolmans), Trott (Boels Dolmans), Laws (Lotto Belisol) and Roberts (Wiggle Honda).

Women’s racing keeps trying establish a presence for itself has an international elite sport on a par with, say, women’s athletics. Having a women’s equivalent to the men’s Tour de France would be wonderful - but there is no way to jump straight from having no international elite races in the UK to having a full elite racing season that builds up to a race with the scale and importance of Le Tour.

Even including everyone racing overseas there seem to be too few elite British women in the current squads and not enough sponsorship money to expand squad numbers. Even the 2014 Tour of Britain may struggle to get a full field let alone break-even.

But it does need to try - because one day it may well succeed.

UCI Women 2013 UCI Women 2011 UCI Women 2009 UCI Women 2008





UCI Women
UCI Women 2013
UCI Women 2011
UCI Women 2009
UCI Women 2008


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