The Inaugural Race That is Changing the Face of Cycling

The race returns after a long absence.

Aug 4, 2022
The Inaugural Race That is Changing the Face of Cycling | The race returns after a long absence.

There is no cycling race more celebrated than the Tour de France. Departing from the Eiffel Tower in Paris, this 8-day race winds through vineyards on gravel roads, up mountains and finishes at the top of La Planche des Belles Filles, reported CNN Sport.

Huge crowds cheer on the riders, all men, every year and the 2022 race was no exception. Except for a brief time period between 1984 and 1989, there hasn’t been a Tour de France for women riders until now.

 “The biggest race that most people have ever heard of ... is the Tour de France," pro cyclist Ayesha McGowan told CNN.

“And so whenever I tell people what I do ... they would always ask, 'Oh, like ... you ride in the Tour de France?' And I'd have to inform them that women didn't currently have a Tour de France. But now I don't have to do that anymore.”

Tour De France Femmes
On Sunday, July 24, on the same day that the men’s race finished, the inaugural  Tour De France Femmes (women’s race) began in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower. The route to this race actually began in 1955 when a special five-day woman’s race occurred. It would not return until 1984.

“In France, they didn't think we would finish,” said Marianne Martin, the winner of the 1984 Tour de France Féminin. “That was the word on the street or that was the overall feeling. And of course, we all knew that we would.”

The women’s version lasted until 1989 and then was replace by an unofficial version that was discontinued in 2009. But just four years later, professional cyclists Kathryn Bertine, Emma Pooley, Chrissie Wellington, and Marianne Vos started advocating for an official women’s race and they received 97,000 signatures on a petition. The new Tour de France Femmes is the result.

Gender Inequality in Racing
While women have their own race, the prizes for the women are not equal. The female winners will receive eight times less than the men, reported The New York Times.

There isn’t parity in other aspects too. The International Cycling Federation caps how far women can ride in a day and it is a shorter distance than what men can ride.

Linda Jackson, owner of EF Education-TIBCO-SVB women’s cycling team told the NYT that obtaining equity will take time and a calculated plan if they are to build something that is sustainable.

This will only happen if there is media coverage – and serious interest – of the women’s race. “This one race has the potential to change our sport forever.” Kathrin Hammes, who rides for Jackson’s team, told NYT: “People pay attention when they hear about the Tour de France. It’s the one race that everybody knows.”

The inaugural race ended on July 31 with 39-year-old veteran rider Annemiek Van Vleuten from The Netherlands winning the eighth and final stage, according to The Guardian.

“I’m super proud to be the first winner of the Tour de France for women, of this new version,” Van Vleuten told The Guardian. “I hope it’s a big start and we can build this into an even bigger event. It’s a milestone to win the first one of, hopefully, many more.”

This City to Become More Bicycle Friendly
Bike Kitchens are Helping Boost Cycling Culture
When the Tour de France Went Virtual, It Was an Instant Winner

Bonnie has dedicated her life to promoting social justice. She loves to write about empowering women, helping children, educational innovations, and advocating for the environment & sustainability.