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Tour de France organisers 'seriously working on' women's stage race

Marianne Vos wins 2019 La Course
Marianne Vos wins 2019 La Course (Image credit: Getty Images)

Organisers of the Tour de France and La Course have told the press they are planning to bring back a women's stage race, soon. In an interview with Le Telegramme, ASO's Christian Prudhomme said the organisation is working on a multi-day women's race, echoing the same plans that made the mainstream news last year.

"We are seriously working on a project for a women's stage race. We want to organize it in the short term," Prudhomme, the general director of the Tour de France, told Le Telegramme Wednesday. 

"We want to talk to everyone, not just 50% of the population."

ASO stated last year that it was looking into a women's stage race that would be the equivalent of its marquee men's Grand Tour, but did not say it would be a women's Tour de France.  

Instead, ASO stated that it would be 'logistically impossible' to have simultaneous men's and women's Tours.

Prudhomme maintained that stance confirming that a women's multi-day race will not be held at the same time as the men's Tour de France.

"Before the men's race, it is no longer possible," Prudhomme said. "The Tour de France has grown, society is not the same at all. It is now unplayable,” he added, without giving further details. "It will not be during the Tour de France, but it will be during the summer."

ASO also stated last year that, in addition to considerations to launch a women’s stage race, it was setting up a special working group intended to help the development of women's cycling.

Some members of the cycling community have suggested that rather than host a Tour de France women's stage race at the same as the men, perhaps shorter stage races could be considered in conjunction with races like Paris-Nice or Critérium du Dauphiné.

The first version of a women's Tour de France was held in the 1950s, but it was only one edition. ASO launched its version of the women's Tour de France between 1984 and 1989. There have been other versions of the French stage race over the years, through the 1990s and the early 2000s, but it officially ended in 2009. ASO then launched the one-day La Course by Le Tour de France in 2014, after a petition to ASO to include a women's race.

The seventh edition of the Women’s WorldTour event La Course is currently scheduled for this July 19 in conjunction with the final stage of the men's Tour de France in Paris. The women will complete 13 laps of the Champs-Élysées circuit for a total of 90km of racing.

Some have expressed disappointment that the race is neither multi-day or challenging enough. World champion Annemiek van Vleuten (Mitchelton-Scott) called this year's edition nothing more than a criterium.

It will be returning to its roots, however, as the inaugural La Course was established by ASO as a circuit race on the Champs-Élysées. The sprinter-friendly format saw victories for Marianne Vos, Anna van der Breggen and Chloe Hosking in the first three editions.

The race then shifted to a two-day experiment in 2017, which saw a summit finish on the Col d'Izoard on the same day as stage 18 of the men's race, followed by a handicapped time trial in Marseille. Van Vleuten won both stages and the overall title.

Organisers set the race back to a one-day in 2018, as a mountainous road race that linked Annecy and Le Grand-Bornand. Van Vleuten won that edition as well, which was held in conjunction with stage 10 of the Tour de France.

Last year, it remained a one-day event on circuits in Pau. It used the same 27km circuit that the men used for their stage 13 time trial later the same day at the Tour de France. Vos stormed to victory to secure her second title at La Course.

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Kirsten Frattini is an honours graduate of Kinesiology and Health Science from York University in Toronto, Canada. She has been involved in bike racing from the grassroots level to professional cycling's WorldTour. She has worked in both print and digital publishing, and started with Cyclingnews as a North American Correspondent in 2006. Moving into a Production Editor's role in 2014, she produces and publishes international race coverage for all cycling disciplines, edits news and writes features. Currently the Women's Editor at Cyclingnews, Kirsten coordinates global coverage of races, news, features and podcasts about women's professional cycling.