FDJ-Suez manager: ‘There is only one grand tour that respects the women’
Stephen Delcourt says there is no room for organizers who leave it until the last minute to provide details on their races.
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FDJ-Suez team manager Stephen Delcourt made clear his discontent with the organizers of the Vuelta Femenina and Giro d’Italia Donne for their failure to release race routes far enough in advance.
Neither event has released any details of the 2023 routes just a few months before the races are set to take place. The rescheduled Vuelta is set for May, while the Giro will be held at the start of July.
At a press conference ahead of the 2023 season, Delcourt was keen to make the point absolutely clear, “I’m not happy today about one side of women’s cycling,” he said.
“We spoke a lot about the professionalization, the new prizes, a lot of visibility, but for example, we target three grand tours. But for me, there is only one grand tour that respects the women [the Tour de France Femmes].”
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He continued: “At this date, we have no stage details of the Giro and the Vuelta. We start the Vuelta first week of May [and] we don’t know. We have only rumors about the details. If we want to respect the girls and to say we invest in women’s cycling, they need to respect this part.”
The FDJ manager also pointed out the inconsistencies between teams as well as race organizers and that some were lagging behind.
“During the last UCI meeting in Morocco, we push a lot. I know that the UCI tries, but I know also that the improvement is not at the same level for a few organizers I saw,” he said. “Also in the teams, women’s cycling, for example, improves a lot, but maybe 10 teams improve a lot. And we need to wait, for example, for the others.”
Pointing to whether or not all teams would currently be capable of racing a two-week Tour de France, Delcourt said: “The girls are ready, physically they are ready. But the teams no … maybe we are only 10 teams that can do two weeks. We need to advance them step by step.
“But on my side, I want to continue to push for the integrity of the rider. Integrity about the calendar, for example, I think we miss a part of the Women’s WorldTour this season. We don’t go for Simac, for example, because the security is not ready,” he added, referring to safety concerns at the Dutch stage race last year.
Both Delcourt and FDJ leader Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig praised stand-alone women’s races such as Trofeo Alfredo Binda and the Swedish Vårgårda road race and time trial events, which were recently canceled by organizers.
“We don’t want to forget races like Vargarda, like Binda, because they arrived before the visibility of women’s cycling and it’s our priority to always respect their story. If we can help the Vårgårda organization we are here but it’s hard for everybody,” Delcourt said.
On the cancellation of the Swedish races, Uttrup Ludwig – who won the neighboring Tour of Scandinavia last year – added: “I think it’s so sad because Vårgårda was exactly one of the races that have been on for so many years and that was like a dedicated race for women’s cycling. And it was just so heart-warming to see all the people that came there voluntarily and they were just so passionate about this race in Sweden, getting broadcasted and everything and just like growing.
“I feel that’s super sad that a race like that is missing from the calendar. I mean, obviously, women’s cycling is progressing year by year and getting a bit like races where we have a men’s edition are getting bigger and bigger, which is like the way that we need to say like, ‘come on people watch women’s cycling, it’s as exciting as men’s races.’ But I feel that that’s a loss for women’s cycling that the race in Sweden is no longer on the calendar.”
Uttrup Ludwig’s co-leader, Marta Cavalli, took a more pragmatic approach to the development of women’s racing. Cavalli finished second to Annemiek van Vleuten at the 2022 Giro d’Italia Donne.
On the lack of information coming from two of the three ‘grand tours’ the Italian said: “It could be nice because maybe we can find some camp to do recon or train in a similar purpose.”
But, she added: “We would like to have everything perfect as soon as possible. But at the same time, we have to stop one moment and think, okay but two years ago, it was really really far from that then we have to also give enough time to all the movements to develop and we know not everybody is developing at the same speed. I think in two years everything will be like we dream.”