There’s bad news for anyone hoping to see an extended women’s stage race looped in alongside the men’s edition of the Tour de France.
Tour boss Christian Prudhomme threw cold water on the idea of holding a women’s stage race in conjunction with the men’s race. Some have suggested that a women’s peloton could race ahead of the men’s courses on select days on roads that are already closed.
Speaking during an interview on French Eurosport, Prudhomme said the idea would be “impossible.”
“We are incapable of organizing it during the Tour de France, incapable,” Prudhomme said. “We will never have the authorization. There are 29,000 police and pompiers (firemen), and 23,000 police gendarmes. There is the caravan … it is impossible to do.”
Prudhomme’s comments came during a nearly hour-long chat with Eurosport about a variety of topics, but his declarations about the women’s race are drawing the most attention.
Prudhomme said ASO, which runs the men’s race as well as a host of other races across Europe, indicated that holding a simultaneous edition of the women’s race during the Tour “is impossible to do.”
Backers of women’s racing have been pressing for a larger platform in France, and have suggested that piggy-backing on the men’s Tour would be an ideal answer. The idea is that roads are already closed, so why not just run the women down the road ahead of the men’s peloton?
Logistically that might make sense at first glance, but Prudhomme pointed out that the publicity caravan — which generates a significant amount of income for ASO and is a crowd-favorite — travels ahead of the men’s race by about two hours each day. Prudhomme suggested that closing roads even longer to accommodate a women’s race would be impractical and unpopular with local police and residents.
There are other logistical questions of booking hotel rooms to accommodate a women’s peloton and support staff, as well as security concerns by expanding the police protection for even longer each day. France deploys nearly 30,000 police, firefighters and military personnel to patrol the route, and Prudhomme said it would be difficult to assure additional permits and resources to hold a parallel women’s event.
Prudhomme didn’t say that ASO is against the idea of creating a women’s stage race and there have been hints that promoter is working on a possible event, but noted that holding one on the same roads at the same time as the men’s race is impractical in July.
A women’s version of the Tour de France, called Grande Boucle Feminine Internationale, ran through different iterations until its final version in 2009. Europe’s largest women’s stage race is the 10-day Giro Rosa, held in Italy but not at the same time as the men’s Giro d’Italia.
ASO picked up the mantle in 2014 with a one-day race dubbed La Course and expanded it to a two-day event in 2017, only to revert back to one day last year.
“It is impossible to do it. We don’t know how to do it,” Prudhomme said of a dual race. “The development of cycling is essential. We also have other races to organize, but we don’t know how we can do it during the Tour de France. It is just the truth.”
These comments come as women’s racing is set for a major overhaul in 2020, with a series of reforms scheduled to be introduced that could see more races and better salaries for elite women road racers.
UCI president David Lappartient has been pressing for a women’s version of a Tour-like event. It is still unclear whether sponsors have been secured to offset the costs of any would-be French stage race.