Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme has made a long-awaited confirmation that Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO) will launch a women's Tour de France in 2022. It has been speculated that the women's race will be called Tour de France Femmes.
In an interview with the Guardian, Prudhomme stated that the women’s stage race would take place following the men’s three-week event next summer. ASO have stressed that it would be 'logistically impossible' to have the men's and women's events held at the same time.
“It will take place next year, that’s certain,” Prudhomme told the Guardian. “It would have happened this year if it had not been for the COVID-19 pandemic, obviously, and above all if the Tokyo Olympics had not been after the [men's] Tour, so the best riders may not be available. But the decision has been taken. There will be a Tour de France femmes in 2022 following closely after the [men's] Tour.”
ASO confirmed to Cyclingnews, that even with the addition of the women's Tour de France next summer, it will continue to organise its one-day race La Course by Le Tour de France. La Course will embark on its eighth edition on June 26 in Brest.
"There is no plan of not organizing La Course by Le Tour [in the] next years," a representative from ASO told Cyclingnews.
The women's peloton raced their first official launch of the women's Tour de France until 1984 won by American Marianne Martin. It was an 18-day race held simultaneously as the men's event and along much of the same but shortened routes with shared finish lines. The Société du Tour de France, which later became part of ASO in 1992, managed both men's and women's events.
The women's Tour de France ended in 1989, and while ASO went on to organise women's one-day races like La Flèche Wallonne, Liège-Bastogne-Liège, La Course, and the inaugural Paris-Roubaix (in October), the women's peloton has not been included as part of the official Tour de France for the past 30 years.
Other women's stage races in France, not run by ASO, took place including the Tour Cycliste Féminin, which had started in 1992, and the re-named Grande Boucle Féminine Internationale, until it came to an end in 2009.
ASO have not revealed the stages or distance of the women's Tour de France, however, it has been reported that it is expected to host an eight-day women's race that would start in Paris on the same day the men finish their stage 21 of Tour de France on the Champs Élysées.
Prudhomme stated that the new version of the women's Tour de France will only be successful if it has strong financial stability.
“In my view, you have to put to one side the idea of parity between men and women. Why? Because there was a reason why that race only lasted for six years, and that was a lack of economic balance. What we want to do is create a race that will stay the course, that will be set up and stand the test of time. What that means is that the race cannot lose money," he told the Guardian.
Prudhomme warned, however, that if the women's Tour de France loses ASO money then it could face another cancellation.
"Today, all the women’s races that we organise lose us money," he said. "Even so, we’ve been running Flèche Wallonne, Liège-Bastogne-Liège, La Course by Le Tour. There was the Tour of Yorkshire and the Tour de Qatar Feminin, there will be Paris-Roubaix in October. If it makes money, that’s great, but it mustn’t lose money or it will end up like the Tour in the 80s and it will die."
Prudhomme said that if the former women's Tour de France held in the 80s had found a financial balance then it would have survived.
"The challenge is to set up a race that can live for 100 years. That’s why we want it to follow the men’s Tour, so that the majority of the channels which broadcast the men’s Tour will cover it as well," he said.
Prudhomme also said it would be easier to design a route for the women's Tour de France, and hinted that next year's stage race will have some throwbacks to its 1980s history.
“To run a women’s race is more simple, you don’t need 50 hyper-steep climbs, you can be more natural about it. Women’s cycling is far less controlled than men’s. I can tell you there will be links with the past, with the present, and perhaps the future on the route of the [women’s] Tour," he said.
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