French time trial champion Audrey Cordon-Ragot (Trek-Segafredo) will be at the Palais des Congrès on Thursday for the presentation of the inaugural Tour de France Femmes and the versatile veteran knows the moment that Marion Rousse unveils the route will be one of the significant moments in women’s cycling.
The eight-stage event will start in Paris on July 24, at the conclusion of the men’s race, and Cordon-Ragot is hopeful that organisers ASO will provide a balanced race route that caters to different riders' needs.
"I hope that we’ll have stages for everyone so that there’s more suspense. Maybe a team time trial, a time trial on a nice up-and-down course, some stages for the sprinters, and then something for the climbers. We want an overall stage race for everyone because we really don’t have something like that on the calendar," Cordon-Ragot told Cyclingnews.
The men’s race is expected to visit both La Planche des Belles Filles and Alpe d’Huez, and those iconic finishes could well feature in the women’s race.
"We had La Planche des belles Filles in the Route de France in the past years and it would be nice to have something else but an iconic finish would be amazing," Cordon-Ragot said. "We’ve had it with the Champs Elysées and those things are really important for women’s cycling. It creates a really good picture."
The route aside, the very introduction of the race cannot be overlooked. Women in cycling have campaigned for equality with men’s cycling for decades and, while the introduction of La Course was an important and ground-breaking stepping stone along that journey, the fact that an eight-day race has been put together means that an entire generation of riders will have the chance to race a Tour de France.
More than that, a wider young female audience watching - on the side of the road or at home - can now be inspired by the likes of Cordon-Ragot.
"It’s going to be a big moment for women’s cycling and another big step after Paris-Roubaix," she said.
"I’m really looking forward to the race but having it on the calendar fills a gap. This is the race that we wanted on the calendar for a long time because of what it gives women’s cycling. It adds progress, media and it will help teams in their search for sponsors. It brings the riders to the next level too.
"I also hope that younger riders, at home, watching on TV or by the side of the road can feel inspired. Now they can watch the women’s Tour de France and pick their favourite rider. They can try and emulate us, look at our image and I hope to inspire that. We don’t have that yet in women’s cycling but it’s going to come with races like this.
"We have the stars, though, and if you look at men’s cycling, some fans like Alaphilippe, some like Cavendish, and now, with this race, women’s cycling can be the same. I think, and I really think this, that we have better characters than in men’s cycling. Maybe it’s rude to say but we come with different paths, we suffer through shit conditions and we know why we’re here. We work harder, and we’re going to enjoy this moment a lot."
There is also hope that France, a nation that hasn’t won the men’s Tour de France since Bernard Hinault in the 1980s, could celebrate its first female winner in 2022.
"Its’ not impossible. We weren’t far from it this year with Paris-Roubaix and I’m really confident in the next generation of French riders."
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Daniel Benson is the Editor in Chief at both Cyclingnews.com and BikePerfect.com. Based in the UK, he has worked within cycling for almost 15 years, and he joined the Cyclingnews team in 2008 as the site's first UK-based Managing Editor. In that time, he has reported on over a dozen editions of the Tour de France, several World Championships, the Tour Down Under, Spring Classics, and the London 2012 Olympic Games. With the help of the excellent editorial team, he runs the coverage on Cyclingnews and has interviewed leading figures in the sport including UCI Presidents and Tour de France winners.
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