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Rochelle Gilmore has called for the introduction of a female version of the Tour de France. The Australian believes that a race run in parallel with the men’s event would help the growth of women’s cycling.
Gilmore recently announced the formation of the DTPC Honda Pro Cycling team and signed Joanna Rowsell, Laura Trott, Danielle and double world champion Giorgia Bronzini. Bradley Wiggins also backed the team through his Wiggo Foundation, having stated in the summer that he was willing to back a women’s team.
Gilmore, the current Commonwealth Games road champion, told the BBC "It is my dream to see a women's Tour de France run in conjunction with the men's Tour.”
"It would not be for the full three weeks - two weeks would be great - and I'm thinking of half-stages, but on the same day and same roads.
"We could do the last 120km of each stage, and finish an hour before the men come in. I think it could work perfectly.
"It's probably not going to happen but it would be the answer to a lot of the problems facing women's cycling."
In recent years women’s cycling has struggled to grow with a number of setbacks stemming its progress. The lack of television exposure has harmed the potential for sponsors to come on board, while the shrinking European calendar has also been a factor. A number of high profile teams have also folded, with the AA Drink-Leontien.nl team being the most recent example.
The lack of television support is often cited as the most frustrating stumbling block by members of the women’s peloton. For example, the Tour of Flanders, holds a women’s race on the same day as the men’s classic but despite a similar route no coverage is devoted to the women’s race.
There have been some success stories though, with the Specialized Lululemon and GreenEdge teams creating stabalised structures and support. However without further UCI support, financial and administrative backing women’s cycling will continue to struggle.
"I think the UCI could work faster, but I also know it takes time," Gilmore also told the BBC, before adding that the sport’s governing body are only one piece in the jigsaw.
"But it's not only the responsibility of the UCI to develop women's cycling, it's also down to people like me who are managing women's teams to do it properly. People involved in women's cycling shouldn't just sit back and wait for the UCI to do it: we all need to make an effort."