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Archive for July 27, 2019

July 27, 2019 — A road to equality?

The last couple of days, stages in the nearly 3,200 km test which is the 2019 Tour de France have had to be significantly shortened — once because of a hailstorm and the blockage of the route by a mudslide, and today because of a threatened heavy rainstorm which could have done more road damage.

While the Tour has been going on, a group of women have been riding the stages of the Tour de France a day before the men come through, in a demonstration and protest about the lack of an official women’s Tour de France.

The Amaury Sports Organization has not organized a Tour Feminin since 1989. It runs a one-day stage race in the midst of the men’s Tour, but that’s it.

I wrote about this disparity in the sport, in comparison to many other distance events such as swimming, running, and triathlon, a few years ago. Amazingly, the problem still exists.

Now, I look back to a quote I got from the former Saturn race director Giana Roberge the day I did the story:

By keeping the races shorter, it becomes more of a race of tactics and less of a race of attrition.

Think about it: the last two days of the Tour de France had to be shortened, which changed the nature of the competition for this year’s yellow jersey altogether. But the people of France still came out to see the race.

I can understand the conundrum that Tour organizers may have when it comes to having women in the race. But I think it’s high time that there be true equality — eventually — when it comes to cycling.

Now, I’m not saying that the tour should race over the exact same length and difficulty as the men. But the women can put on a good account in races that last four to six hours in a day, and with a reasonable climbing difficulty in the Alps and Pyrenees.

Yep, I’m advocating that the women get the chance to climb Pau and Mont Ventoux and Tourmalet and Alpe d’Huez. It’s just that I think the races that lead to these mountains need to be shorter so that the race is tactical and not just one of survival.

I envision what is happening right now; the women ride the course one day, and the men ride the next day. Only the Tour’s traveling circus would have to close public roads for two days, rather than one, and crews would have to leapfrog each other as the two Tours go around France.

In order for this to come to pass, women are going to have be at the table within ASO. They need to have the agency to make the decisions on length and difficulty.

It’s about time.