Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme has described ideas to hold a women's Tour de France at the same time and in parallel to the men's race as 'impossible' due to logistical problems and the sheer size of the men's race.
Prudhomme dismissed the idea and the recent 70,000 signature petition while visiting Yorkshire to see the road work being done for the Grand Depart of next year's race.
Last week UK politician Harriet Harmon wrote an open letter to Prudhomme urging him to look at the idea of a women's Tour de France after former British rider Emma Pooley inspired the petition.
Prudhomme shared his displeasure with Harman's calls while speaking to the Telegraph newspaper. He and ASO are not against the idea of a women's version of the Tour de France but cannot see how it can be held in parallel with the men's race.
“It would have been much easier to talk to us directly instead of a petition and [finding out by] opening your mailbox one morning and you don’t know what has happened," he said.
“We are open to everything. Having women’s races is very important for sure. [But] the Tour is huge and you cannot have it bigger and bigger and bigger down the road – it is impossible.”
The men's Tour de France is a huge logistical operation with thousands of people involved in the race convoy and caravan, and many thousands of spectators watching from the roadside each day. Accommodation and travel is often complicated due to the size of the men's race. For this reason the Etape du Tour, the sportif rides on stage routes, are held away from the men's race.
More British Grand Departs
Prudhomme was shown several sections of freshly surfaced roads in Yorkshire as the region gets ready to host the 2014 Grand Depart and was positive about the start of next year's Tour de France in Britain.
Prudhomme knows that cycling is booming in Britain. He's keen to secure any extra funding that international Grand Departs bring and hinted that the Tour de France could return to Britain in the future. Scotland could bid for the 2017 Grand Depart after being beaten by Yorkshire for 2014.
"The future of cycling speaks English – and I am a Frenchman (saying that)," Prudhomme told the Telegraph.
"We had three bids and Yorkshire won, and we still have a bid from Scotland. There is a huge passion for cycling in the United Kingdom and it is very important to keep the passion here – very, very important," he said.
Prudhomme hopes that Mark Cavendish can win the first stage of the 2014 Tour de France in Harrogate.
"This will be one of the most difficult stages to start the Tour in history, and that is one of the reasons we chose Yorkshire," he said.
"It will be a stage for punchers and attackers. Overall it will be a tough start in outstanding scenery, and there will be a magnificent sprint to end the first stage."
"I can imagine for Mark Cavendish this first stage of 2014 is the most important sprint of his life. A win in Yorkshire, at his mother's place, for a yellow jersey. It would be his first yellow jersey," Prudhomme told the BBC.
The 2014 Tour de France starts in Yorkshire on Saturday July 5. The opening stage is from Leeds to Harrogate. The hillier second stage on Sunday July 6 is from York to Sheffield.
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