The Tour of California has joined the growing list of races that are eliminating female podium hostesses from their post-race awards ceremonies.
Speaking at the pre-race press conference Friday in Long Beach, Tour of California Executive Director Kristen Klein said race owner AEG decided it as the right time to make the move.
"It's just been something that people have been talking about, I feel like for years now," Klein said. "You've been reading about it and you've been hearing about it, and this year it was just the timing, it felt like it was the right time to actually make that decision."
Australia's 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 hostesses. Some women's races have opted to reverse the roles with Gent-Wevelgem using 'podium boys'.
This year, Flanders Classics, 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".
Klein said the California decision was driven by AEG's desire to "do the right thing".
"You probably heard today that we made the decision to have equal prize money for the women and the men as well," Klein said. "I feel like AEG, with the Tour of California, we're always at the front end, trying to just do the right thing and make these decisions, and hopefully everyone will continue to follow and we'll continue to be a leader."
Klein said the race will continue to use stage managers to work the award ceremonies, but the podium kiss is a thing of the past at the race.
"We'll continue to have out stage management team and all of our partners that will be involved in all of our ceremonies, so there won't be many changes, per se, except there won't be podium hostesses, but we'll still have a stage management team that is involved in making sure everything goes smoothly up there."