Cycling, Olympics, Tour de France, Marianne Vos
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Olympic women’s cycling champion Marianne Vos wants to race in Tour de France

Jul 12, 2013, 8:39 AM EDT

Marianne Vos AP

The Tour de France is a three-week, 2,000-mile test of speed, strength and endurance like few other sporting events. The world’s best female road cyclist wants to join the men.

Dutch Olympic champion Marianne Vos was part of a group that started an online petition to allow female professional cycling teams to compete in the Tour de France next year.

Also in the group is Great Britain’s Emma Pooley, the 2008 Olympic time trial silver medalist, ESPNW columnist/cyclist/filmmaker Kathryn Bertine and British world ironman triathlon champion Chrissie Wellington.

“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,” they wrote in a letter to Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme.

The petition argues women’s road cycling faces some of the worst gender inequality among sports in terms of number of competitions, TV coverage and prize money.

“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,” they wrote. “In the late 1960s people assumed that women couldn’t run the marathon. Thirty 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.”

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  1. florida727 - Jul 12, 2013 at 11:56 AM

    A women’s pro field within the Tour de France? No.

    Equality, baby. Women want equal pay. Women want equal access. Let them compete. Let them compete AGAINST THE MEN.

    We just got done watching Wimbledon. The women play one less round in the tournament and they only play best-of-THREE sets per match, not best of five like the men play. But guess what? The prize money is the same! Sorry, but now it’s the MEN who are being treated unequally. Let the women compete, for sure. In the EXACT SAME ARENA AS THE MEN. And if they’re good enough, they’ll EARN their reward. Otherwise, shut up and go do your own thing.

    • bigalke - Jul 12, 2013 at 1:15 PM

      I don’t know what Wimbledon you were watching, but both the ladies’ and the gentlemen’s field contain 128 competitors… both the men’s and women’s champions have amassed seven wins, at every Grand Slam tournament, so your argument is moot there. An endurance sport like cycling would be more comparable to marathon racing, where the men and women compete on the same 26.2-mile course every race. That’s exactly what the women are asking for in this case… to compete in the EXACT SAME ARENA AS THE MEN. Not for a reduced, watered-down version of Le Tour, but to challenge themselves on the same parcours where their differently-genitaled fellow athletes test themselves. Your rant completely missed the point…

    • carryingconcealed - Jul 12, 2013 at 2:10 PM

      Ignore the liberal retards, florida, you’re not wrong. Women screamed for equal prize money on the pro tennis tour, yet they refused to play best-of-seven matches like the men do. Is this equality? Plus, to pay women equal prize money simply because they claim gender inequality is to ignore other realities such as in most sports where there is a women’s league and a men’s league, the viewership for the men’s league is much higher i.e. basketball, golf, etc., which results in much greater revenue from advertisers and sponsors. As such, the men’s leagues have the ability to pay out higher prize money.

      Letting women compete in the Tour de France is ridiculous as there’s simply no way they can physically compete with the men over 2,000 miles, and they’ll just make an already overcrowded race that much more crowded just to push their ignorant liberal agenda at the expense of safety.

      • carryingconcealed - Jul 12, 2013 at 2:11 PM

        I meant best-of-five…

  2. mogogo1 - Jul 12, 2013 at 12:47 PM

    A women’s Tour de France would be fine with me. But if I read the article correctly, the petition was to add women’s teams to the existing Tour which would be problematic. Best case is they’d do a separate start for the women well after the men are long gone, but it’d have to be quite a bit later to keep the women from running into the sea of traffic at the back of the peloton. I think they’d struggle to keep the course clear and it’d make for a really long day in terms of road closures, etc.

  3. lazarus718 - Jul 12, 2013 at 3:50 PM

    Wow, there are just a ton of little details that would have to be worked out to make it possible for both women and men to compete in the same tour. I would have to assume that Marianne Vos is aware of how the men of the tour conduct their roadside “breaks” to relieve themselves, would she just piss herself and get cleaned up after the finish line? Dilute herself with a water bottle so the guy/gal racing behind her doesn’t get some nasty splash back? On a serious note I wonder how her Olympic times compare to those of the men and if she would even have a chance to compete for either GC contention or any of the other jerseys in the Tour. The Tour de France isn’t simply just an endurance race like a marathon as stated above, obviously the female petitioners haven’t seen some of the tree trunks on the male sprinters in the tour. The strongmen of the climber’s teams are tasked with some seriously insane duties to bring these teams up to the mountains as well. I don’t see it even being remotely possible for an all women cycling team to compete with the men’s teams. If you wanted to mix teams, maybe. But really, anyone who is a cyclist knows just how grueling that competition is and in all honesty you can attend any number of century ride events in any country, all of which will be mixed gender, and you will always see the men finishing first. I would not call it a physical “limitation” between men and women, but there is a physical advantage that men share.

  4. meredithob - Jul 12, 2013 at 8:46 PM

    It’s so obvious none of the commenters so far 1. race bikes; 2. know anything about racing bikes. 3; know any professional women who race bikes – or for that matter, even amateur women racing bikes.

    Don’t you think that to race professionally, women cyclists know how their male counterparts go to the bathroom? Please. And do you think they *actually care*? (Uh, no). What is this, the Victorian era? My eyes, my burning eyes! Pft. Don’t you think they’ve already ridden thousands and thousands of miles? Analyzed their power output? Suffered to get their teammates to the top of the climb? Outsprinted or outsmarted the field? Raced with men ALREADY? … although this isn’t what the petition is asking for. (Most pro women do race with men for training – and do land themselves on the podium.)

    As for Wimbledon, women have had to fight tooth and nail for equal pay there as well: http://thegrio.com/2013/07/02/venus-williams-fight-for-equal-pay-featured-in-new-espn-doc/. The same thing is happening in cycling right now.

  5. sashe78 - Jul 12, 2013 at 11:27 PM

    I think it would be a fine idea but I don’t think it would work or be accepted. First, 100 years of men racing in the Tour. Big obstacle would be the “history” and idea of diluting the talent. Perhaps start by admitting only the top women’s team according to UCI ranking, instead of the French “wild card” team. See how the competition is and perhaps add one or two more. Or allow co-ed teams. Many top teams have women and youth squads.
    Second, maybe the pressure to be better than the men (or the women) would add to the problem of PHD’s?

  6. zoedogisgod - Jul 13, 2013 at 9:17 AM

    I’m all for women having the same opportunities as men, and from what I’ve seen they already do have the same oppertunities as men in cycling. At the end of the day the tour de france, and pro sports in general, is nothing but a giant marketing medium for the companies sponsoring the riders. And if I remember correctly there use to be a “tour de france feminine” or whatever they called it. The reason this event no longer exists is because there was not enough sponsorship money or support from many of the french villages. In other words, the companies supporting that race did not feel they were getting a big enough return on their investment and terminated their support of the race.
    So if women want their own tour de france alls they have to do is get people to sponsor them and then draw big enough crowds and TV audiences to keep those sponsors. This is exactly how mens cycling works and in that sense this is an equal opportunity.
    People always seem to confuse an opportunity and a right. Women 100% have the same rights as men in pro sports they just don’t get as much opportunity because they simply don’t bring in enough revenue.
    You could flip this thing around and say men deserve to be paid as much a female prostitutes and call girls and that they are being oppressed but at the end of the day women prostitutes make more money because there is a higher demand for their services. This is first grade level economics here people.

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