Tour de France considering ending use of podium girls

French race could become second Grand Tour to do so

Tour de France owners ASO are considering bringing an end to the tradition of using podium girls to hand out prizes at the race, according to a report published in The Times on Thursday.

The news follows recent announcements by The Professional Darts Corporation, which said in January that it would no longer use walk-on girls to accompany players onto the stage, and from Formula 1, which axed their "grid girls" the following week.

Podium girls have been a common feature in cycling but it has been a divisive issue, particularly in recent seasons. While some call it a traditional part of cycling, the treatment of the women and the sexualisation of their role have also been questioned. In 2013, podium hostess Maja Leye was groped on the Tour of Flanders podium by Peter Sagan, who had finished second. Last year, Jan Bakelants had to apologise after he made sexist remarks about podium hostesses in an interview with a Belgian newspaper. Organisers of the women’s race the Flanders Diamond Tour were forced to apologise had bikini-clad women stand in front of the podium.

In cycling, the Tour Down Under was one of the first WorldTour races to do away with the traditional podium hostesses. The one-week race opted to use junior riders to hand out awards and jerseys. The Vuelta a Espana, which is owned by Tour de France organisers ASO, became the first Grand Tour to do so last year, with ‘tastefully’ dressed men and women replacing the traditional podium girls. Some women’s races have opted to reverse the roles with Gent-Wevelgem using ‘podium boys’.

This year Flanders Classic, organiser of the Tour of Flanders, decided to make changes to their podium ceremony by removing the 'handing over of the flowers and kissing by the podium girls'. Instead, Leye was given a different role as master of ceremonies.

If the Tour de France was to stop using podium girls, it would leave RCS-owned Giro d'Italia as the only Grand Tour still to use the practice. Speaking to Cycling Central, race director Mauro Vegni defended the practice and called the move by other race organisers a 'temporary trend.'

Cyclingnews has reached out to ASO who declined to comment on the matter.

The Tour de France is scheduled for July 7-19, with the start in Noirmoutier-En-L'Ïle.

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