• Tour de France

Calls for a return of the women's Tour de France

ESPN staff
July 24, 2013
Emma Pooley is one British cyclist backing the return of the Tour de France Feminin © Getty Images

Tour de France champion Emma Pooley has launched a petition calling for a return of the women's race at cycling's biggest event.

Pooley, who is technically reigning champion as there has not been a race since she won in 2009, told the BBC there should be a women's Tour in which they ride the same stage routes and distances as the men.

Chris Froome was crowned Tour de France champion on Sunday, the second successive British winner following Sir Bradley Wiggins' success in 2012, and Pooley is keen to take advantage of that success.

"Having a women's pro field at the Tour de France will also create an equal opportunity to debunk the myths of physical 'limitations' placed upon female athletes," she said.

"In the late 1960s people assumed that women couldn't run the marathon. 30 years on we can look back and see how erroneous this was. Hopefully 30 years from now, we will see 2014 as the year that opened people's eyes to true equality in the sport of cycling."

Labour deputy leader Harriet Harman has backed the bid and has written to Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme.

"Britain has some of the best women cyclists in the world," Harman wrote. "But for years they had to compete for foreign teams as there was no investment in an elite women's team.

"After the success of the Olympics, women's cycling should not be allowed to slip back into the shadows."

Next year's Tour begins in Yorkshire, running between Leeds, Harrogate, York and Sheffield on July 5 and 6 before moving on to Cambridge and London on July 7.

"The Grand Depart being held in Yorkshire and from Cambridge to London in 2014 presents a great opportunity to hold a women's event and set an example to the rest of Europe and Le Tour," added Harman.

Pooley, an Olympic silver medallist 12 months before her Tour victory, was one of four British riders who published the petition which has been signed by more than 75,000 people.

The International Cycling Union has rules in place that limit the distance women can ride in a single stage to much less than that of the men, meaning a female Tour alongside the current event would not be possible unless they started or finished stages in different places.

Pooley added: "I think that's based on old-fashioned sexism, to be honest. Women play fewer sets at Wimbledon, but it doesn't mean no-one wants to watch.

"For the spectators it would be great. They wait around for hours and the riders are gone in a flash, so instead they'd get to see two races."

The women's Tour, known as the Tour de France Feminin, began in 1984 but has not been run since 2009, mainly due to problems finding sponsors.

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