The president of British Cycling has promised to press for the return of a women’s Tour de France, as a campaign to reinstate the race gathers pace.
British rider Chris Froome won the 100th edition of the classic road race in Paris on July 21, but there is currently no parallel women’s event. A women’s version of the tour was held in France between 1984 and 2009, but has not been run in recent years, largely due to problems finding sponsors.
Brian Cookson, the president of British Cycling, who is standing against incumbent Pat McQuaid to become president of the sport’s global governing body, the UCI, has promised to put his weight behind a campaign for a women’s race.
The campaign was launched earlier this month by athletes including former world champion and 2008 Olympic time trial silver medallist Emma Pooley and multiple world ironman triathlon champion Chrissie Wellington — while current British stars Dani King and Laura Trott have also backed the calls for a women’s race.
“There’s been a lot of attention recently on the need to develop women’s cycling at all levels of the sport and it is a key part of my election manifesto for the presidency of the UCI,” Cookson said. “People are passionate about the issue and are rightly frustrated that not enough is being done.”
“We need to work closely with organizers, sponsors, teams and broadcasters to create new events on the professional calendar,” he said. “A women’s equivalent of the Tour de France is one potential solution and the focus of attention of a really successful petition.”
Cookson will stand against McQuaid in September and has promised to reform the sport to rehabilitate its reputation after the Lance Armstrong affair.
“Undoubtedly having a female equivalent of the biggest bike race in the world is an objective we need to explore,” he said. “This is why I am setting up a meeting involving [Olympic road race champion] Marianne Vos, Emma Pooley and other key representatives behind the petition with the right people, including Tour de France owners ASO and UCI management committee member Tracey Gaudry.”
Cookson also announced that the Tour of Britain would have an accompanying five-day international women’s race from next year, as the first step to a full tour alongside the men’s race.
Cookson said it was important to understand why women’s teams and races had struggled to attract backing in the past in order to move forward.
“We must also work on rewarding the efforts of elite women riders by guaranteeing a minimum wage and ensuring modern employment standards are introduced for the top-level teams,” he said. “Coupling this with the wider development proposals I outlined in my election manifesto will begin to change the essential economics of women’s cycling.”