Women cycling ahead of Tour de France demand parity

The women's group rode one day ahead of the Tour de France official route

A group of female cyclists is gaining in popularity after once again completing this year’s Tour de France one day ahead of the famous male peloton, to demand equivalent recognition for their sport.

The Club Omnisport de Courcouronnes Cyclisme Féminin (COCCF), which is affiliated with the French cycling group La Fédération Française de Cyclisme, organised for 13 amateur female cyclists to complete the 2018 Tour de France, cycling the exact 3,251km, 21-stage route one day ahead of the “official” male riders.

The group - which is made up of many different nationalities - first launched the project in 2015, calling it “Donnons des Elles Au Vélo J-1”.

It aims to promote women’s cycling; to give amateur female riders the chance to take part in a long, stage-based race; and to show organisers that women can successfully complete such competitions.

It is part of a wider campaign to call for an equivalent Tour de France race for female riders.

The event has gathered popularity and publicity in recent years and months, and this is the fourth year the group has cycled ahead of the men’s Tour, to wide acclaim.

The group publicised their journey on their Facebook page to raise awareness of their cause, and to help “break through clichés about women’s cycling”.

Their growing profile means that certain sponsors have become interested, including FDJ, Skoda and even the cycling Federation itself. In 2017, France Télévisions followed the women while racing, giving them their own daily television programme to explore their journey.

The 2018 Tour de France finished on Sunday July 29, with Welshman Geraint Thomas for Team Sky taking the ultimate yellow jersey.

Yet, there has been no “female version” of the Tour de France of any kind, for almost ten years.

From 1984 to 2009, there was a Tour Cycliste Féminin of varying stages (from 18 to four), which was seen by some as an equivalent to the men’s Tour, despite the small amount of prize money given compared to the men’s prize.

It ended in 2009 due to a lack of funding, despite many claiming that media coverage and public demand for the women’s version was just as high as that of the men.

In 2012, organisers relented and created a one-stage, 90km women’s race as part of the wider Tour, which is now called “La Course by le Tour de France”.

At one point, this was expanded to two stages, but later reverted to just one.

Yet, the amateur female group alleges that this is not well-known among the public, and is calling for a reinstatement of a similar official race for women, complete with prizes and a podium waiting at the end.

Tetiana Kalachova, one of the cyclists, has said: “We want a women’s stage race with the same media coverage and the same attention as men have. Not necessarily the same roads and not necessarily the same quantity of dates, but with the same appreciation.”

Currently, the only women’s race with as high of a profile is the Giro Rosa, the dates of which usually overlap with the Tour de France, meaning that some feel it is consistently overshadowed by the men’s race.

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