Emma Pooley has welcomed the news that Amaury Sports Organisation (ASO) will organise a women’s one day race that will coincide with the final day of this year’s Tour de France in Paris. The internationally televised event, La Course by Le Tour de France, came as a result of the work carried out by Pooley and her colleagues at Le Tour Entier, who set up a petition to strengthen women’s professional road cycling.
The petition attracted over 97,000 signatures in the second half of 2013 and in December ASO began discussions with Le Tour Entier.
“They had come to us because of the petition but this is an incredibly quick turn around,” Pooley told Cyclingnews from her training base in Perth, Australia.
The one-day race will take in the finishing circuit used by the men’s Tour de France, with a finish line sprint on the Champs-Elysées. It is hoped that the iconic backdrop will bolster women’s sport.
“I think it’s absolutely fantastic because it will be such a great platform for people to see women’s cycling,” Pooley said.
“I hope that it’s the start of bigger things but it’s going to be a great race in its own right because women’s races are often interesting to watch and this will be great in that people will get the chance to watch us race.”
“I think that there are people out that want to see women’s road racing but it’s just hard to find at the moment. The main thing about the petition is that it showed that people wanted to watch it.”
ASO currently organise the women’s Tour of Qatar and Fleche Wallone, events in their own rights, but Pooley, who said she was grateful for ASO's work, added that without the support of the petitioners ASO would not have been moved to plan for their Paris-based race.
“If there’s one thing that I want to say, it’s a big thank you to those that signed the petition. I’ve had a few questions from people asking about how things were developing and it was hard because we don’t have contact details for everyone but this race is partly a testament to the great response we had and those people that signed the petition.”
The race will mark what Pooley hopes is an initial but crucial step in the development of women’s cycling.
“If the public response is good, and I hope it will be, then I hope that this becomes a commercially viable race that’s sustainable. Our campaign called for a three-week Tour like the men’s and obviously that’s what I’d love to see but I know it’s not going to happen next year. The point is that this can help women’s cycling grown, that it can become a commercially viable sport. That’s not going to happen overnight, but if this race goes well then maybe ASO will put it on the year after, or make it longer. I’m not going to march around demanding it but this is essentially a brilliant showcase and a brilliant start.”
While ASO will organise the race, Pooley also praised the work of Brian Cookson and the UCI, who stepped up and sanctioned the race. As part of his manifesto in the UCI presidential election in 2013, Cookson pledged to improve the women’s side of the sport.
“To sanction a race without much warning isn’t easy when it’s already the end of January. I know he’s very supportive of trying to support women’s cycling and played a positive role.”
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