Christian Prudhomme, race director of the Tour de France, told AFP that women's professional cycling could anticipate a Tour de France of its own as soon as 2022. The suggestion comes after the UCI announced Tuesday that Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO) agreed to host a first-ever women's Paris-Roubaix as part of the post-COVID-19 revised Women's WorldTour calendar.
"We want to expand, step by step, the number of women’s races," Prudhomme told AFP. "The UCI has clearly set the path for women’s cycling. We have to keep adapting."
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 at that time did not say it would be a women's Tour de France. It also stated that it had set up a special working group intended to help the development of women's cycling.
ASO stressed that it would be 'logistically impossible' to have simultaneous men's and women's Tours.
Earlier this year, Prudhomme reiterated in a report in Le Telegramme that the organisation was working on a multi-day women's race and plans were set in motion to bring back a women's stage race.
"Our goal remains the same, with the idea of having a race that would take place after the Tour de France," Prudhomme told AFP. "Now the calendar is considerably shaken up. And now, in 2021, there will be the Olympic Games. It would be logical to envision it for 2022."
The UCI announced Tuesday a revised 2020 Women’s WorldTour calendar, a replacement for plans that were halted due to the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic. The top-tier series has retained 18 of the 22 events, now set to take place from August 1 to November 8.
The revised calendar includes five stage races and 13 one-day events that include ASO's La Course by Le Tour de France, Flèche Wallonne, Liège-Bastogne-Liège, Madrid Challenge by La Vuelta, and now Paris-Roubaix.
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 successful petition to ASO to include a women's race alongside the Tour de France. The seventh edition of the Women’s WorldTour one-day race has been rescheduled to take place on August 29 in conjunction with the opening stage of the men's Tour de France in Nice.