ASO Confirms There Will Be a Women’s Tour de France in 2022
- Christian Prudhomme, the director of the Tour de France, confirmed in an interview with The Guardian that there will be a women’s Tour de France in 2022.
- However, Prudhomme has received criticism for other comments he made about issues in women’s cycling, including the financial situation of the races, and about whether women can handle the same course as men.
This week, Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme confirmed in an interview with The Guardian that a women’s version of the Tour de France will be on the racing schedule for 2022. The race will reportedly be called the Tour de France Femmes, and it will follow the men’s race, though the exact dates and course have not yet been announced. It will not impact La Course by le Tour de France, the ASO women’s one-day race which is scheduled to take place on June 26 this year.
“It will take place next year, that’s certain,” Prudhomme, speaking as the race director for Tour de France owner Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO), told The Guardian. “It would have happened this year if it had not been for the COVID-19 pandemic, obviously, and above all if the Tokyo Olympics had not been after the [men’s] Tour, so the best riders may not be available. But the decision has been taken. There will be a Tour de France femmes in 2022 following closely after the [men’s] Tour.”
The push for a true Tour de France equivalent for women’s pro cycling has been happening for a long time. There was, in fact, a Tour de France Feminin stage race from 1984 to ’89, which ran as a three-week race parallel to the men’s for two years before being cut back to two weeks. Since then, the race has been held in different variations, under different names.
Then last year, we heard more rumours about bringing the women’s Tour de France back to the schedule. In August 2020, David Lappartient, the president of the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI), told WielerFlits, “I am assured that ASO will be ready to put this event on the calendar in 2022.”
“The announcement about the Women’s Tour de France in 2022 is really positive news. The Tour de France is the most recognised cycling event in the world,” women’s WorldTour racer Leah Kirchmann, of Team DSM, told Bicycling. “In my personal experience, my podium finishes in La Course have led to the most media coverage, especially in more mainstream publications. I think a well-run women’s event with dynamic stages and global broadcasting would allow us to draw new fans to a sport and help raise the profile of women’s cycling as a whole.”
Yes, ASO should be applauded for finally bringing back the women’s Tour. But that’s not the only newsworthy item in Prudhomme’s interview with The Guardian; his additional comments about women’s cycling revealed a problematic mindset. First, he calls out the financial situation.
“In my view, you have to put to one side the idea of parity between men and women. Why? Because there was a reason why [the Tour de France Feminin] only lasted for six years, and that was a lack of economic balance,” he said in the interview. “What we want to do is create a race that will stay the course, that will be set up and stand the test of time. What that means is that the race cannot lose money. … Today, all the women’s races that we organise lose us money.”
Kathryn Bertine—the author of the recent memoir on activism, Stand, and one of the original forces behind bringing La Course to the Tour de France—explained that by starting with the mindset that women’s races don’t make money, the race organisers are setting themselves up for failure.
“It’s not that the women’s Tour de France lost money in the eighties, it’s that ASO didn’t choose to invest in the women’s race,” Bertine said. “They treated it as a secondary sideshow. While it was very apparent that the fans loved it, ASO didn’t include the women’s race in the broadcast rights and negotiations. They canceled it instead.”
Tomas Van Den Spiegel, the CEO of the race organising company Flanders Classics, also stood up for women’s racing in a tweet.
We believe in women’s cycling so instead of calling it losing money I rather call it investing. We are almost at the tipping point where broadcasters and sponsors are wanting in on women’s cycling. We all just need to keep up the good work.
Additionally, Prudhomme has been criticised for telling The Guardian, “To run a women’s race is more simple, you don’t need 50 hyper-steep climbs, you can be more natural about it. Women’s cycling is far less controlled than men’s.”
Bertine again calls out Prudhomme, saying that it’s “outdated” of him to think that women can’t handle the same course as men, and that they need a shortened or flattened course.
“That is a load of bullshit,” Bertine said. “Clearly, Christian Prudhomme has not seen Marianne Vos or Annemiek van Vleuten attack a climb. … In professional triathlon, or running disciplines, they don’t change the distance of an Ironman or a marathon course for the women, so why would we do it in this situation? If ASO wants the Tour de France to be equal and appreciated by all the fans and all the sponsors, then they need to educate themselves on the power of women’s racing.
“The Tour de France is the pinnacle race that everyone in the world knows. You don’t have to be a cyclist to know what the Tour de France is,” Bertine added. “Change must come from the top. That’s how the trickle down effect happens. So the Tour de France is where we need to see change happen. If women aren’t included equally there, they won’t be included equally elsewhere.”