When Title IX was passed in 1972, it had significant impact on women’s funding for sports and forever changed women’s participation in athletics. But, with all of the milestones women have achieved since, there are still some places where we are sitting on the sidelines, one being the Tour de France, cycling’s hallmark event, celebrating its 100th year.
Last week, St. Kitts & Nevis National Champion cyclist Kathryn Bertine, joined forces with elite competitors Emma Pooley of Great Britain Olympian & World Champion, Marianne Vos, Netherlands World & Olympic Champion and Chrissie Wellington, Great Britain World Ironman Triathlon Champion, to petition Mr. Christian Prudhomme, Director of Tour de France, to allow women to participate in next year’s race.
“After a century, it is about time women are allowed to race the Tour de France, too.”
“While many women’s sports face battles of inequity, road cycling remains one of the worst offenders: fewer race opportunities, no televised coverage, shorter distances, and therefore salary and prize money inequity.” The women are not asking to compete against the men, but have a parallel race, over the same distances, at the same time.
The petition has been gaining significant momentum, garnering over 20,000 signatures in just a few days. But, still no word from Mr. Prudhomme who yesterday, when speaking to the press regarding the 16th stage of this year’s race, quickly dismissed a question about the women’s petition responding “We are saying nothing for the moment,” and then he walked away.
“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,” the petition goes on to say. “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.”
We’re hoping so!
Allow female professional cycling teams to race the Tour de France
Christian Prudhomme, Director of Tour de France
For 100 years, the Tour de France has been the pinnacle endurance sports event of the world, watched by and inspiring millions of people. And for 100 years, it has been an exclusively male race (there was a separate Tour Feminin in the 1980s, but it lacked parity, media coverage, and sponsorship). After a century, it is about time women are allowed to race the Tour de France, too. While many women’s sports face battles of inequity, road cycling remains one of the worst offenders: fewer race opportunities, no televised coverage, shorter distances, and therefore salary and prize money inequity. 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.The women’s road race at the London Olympics was a showcase for how impressive, exciting, and entertaining women’s cycling can be. The Tour of Flanders and Flèche Wallonne hold similar top ranked men’s and women’s races on the same day, with great 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. 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. If you’d like to see more women’s road racing on television and from the roadside, please sign this petition to call for road cycling to take a major step in the right direction. Help us break down the barriers that unjustly keep female athletes from the same opportunities as men.
We respectfully request that a women’s professional field is added to the 2014 Tour de France, and we will work with the ASO to show how such parity is smart, just and lucrative for all parties concerned.
Emma Pooley, GBR Olympian & World Champion Cyclist
Kathryn Bertine, SKN National Champion Cyclist & Filmmaker
Marianne Vos, NED World & Olympic Champion Cyclist
Chrissie Wellington, GBR World Ironman Triathlon Champion