The Tour will become the second Grand Tour race to ditch the controversial tradition. – By Molly Hurford
The Tour de France plans to do away with “podium girls,” the longstanding but controversial tradition in which models present awards and pose with winners after each stage of the race, according to The Times.
Podium girls, also known as hostesses, are a common sight in pro cycling. Their signature pose – two conventionally attractive women standing on either side of a male winner, each giving him a kiss on the cheek – makes for photo-ready moments that appear in the media every racing season.
But critics have said the use of podium girls reinforces a sexist culture that reduces women in cycling to their looks and harms the experiences of female competitors and fans.
In a blog post last month, pro mountain biker Amanda Batty referred to podium girls as “sexual placeholders” whose “job[s] relied solely on the assumed idea that only straight men participated and spent money inside of that sport.”
The Vuelta a España became the first Grand Tour race to end the tradition last year. Organisers for the Tour de France say they will likely follow suit this summer (both races are owned by ASO). If so, the Giro d’Italia will become the only event in the Grand Tour to still use podium girls.
Smaller races, like Australia’s Tour Down Under, have ditched podium girls in favour of junior racers and other presenters. The Cyclocross World Cup in Iowa City relies on young fans to give out awards.
Other racing series, however, have attracted nothing but controversy when it comes to podium girls. Peter Sagan – usually known for his fun, hammy media image – was caught on camera groping a podium girl during the 2013 Tour of Flanders. Two years later, the Belgian road race E3 Harelbeke came out with a poster that seemed to approve of the offensive butt-grab, prompting a swift and angry backlash:
The trend away from using women as eye candy has spread to other sports as well. In January, Formula 1 announced that it will stop using so-called grid girls during its motor races. Even the UK’s Professional Darts Corporation had walk-on girls as a selling point until this year.
The 2018 Tour de France kicks off on 7 July. Expect the only form-fitting clothes in sight to be racing kits.