I’ve been meaning to talk about this for some time, and a morning WhatsApp chat with a friend in Paris motivated me to do it before it’s lost in the mists of my fading memory: What was missing from ASO’s Tour de France presentation a few weeks ago.
First, a little history: there actually was a ‘Tour de France’ for women pros way back in 1984, which continued under different names and distances, all the way to 2009. After a lull of 5 years, La Course by le Tour de France appeared in 2014, which is a vastly-reduced race of only one or two stages. This continues to today and you’ll get to see an exciting stage next July that finishes on the Mûr-de-Bretagne.
Meanwhile, other stage races popped up, including another old-timer – the Giro Rosa, the women’s version of the Giro d’Italia. Amazingly, this has been held nearly every year since 1988 and is still a true stage race (usually 9 or 10). It is now the most important of its kind on the women’s UCI calendar.
Anyway, back to the over one-hour TDF presentation. The graph that sparked this blog article off, below, shows the time allocated to La Course by the announcer – 31 seconds. I haven’t gone back to confirm, but I remember thinking that it was pretty pathetic when I watched it.
The text under the graph mentions the 2022 Women’s Tour de France, which is a little more than a rumor, I think, but not much more. ASO said it will happen, however, so there’s room for hope. A quick search online doesn’t bring news up after August this year, so nobody is talking about it publicly right now.
ASO has been under a lot of pressure in recent years to promote women’s pro cycling more and I must admit that I haven’t been paying enough attention to tell whether they have or haven’t. I think I know this, though: Amaury Sport Organisation is far and away the biggest race organizer out there (they run La Vuelta d’Espagne and bunch of other biggies, as well as Le Tour) and even though La Course is only one day, it brings more attention to women’s cycling than any other race, by a long, long shot. The following statement is well above my pay grade, but it might not be an exaggeration to say that the future of women’s cycling is in the hands of Jean-Etienne Amaury, CEO of ASO, and Christian Prudhomme, Grand Poobah of the Tour de France.
The good news is that the Tour de France can effectively be seen as being 4 weeks long from 2022 because La Course (or whatever they will call it) will start the day after the TDF finishes in Paris. It will also be televised, hopefully by France TV (they already have an expert commentator as part of their TDF team – Marion Rousse), which should give a giant boost to the sport. If the organizers are good to their word, we should see a bit more than 31 seconds next October.