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The women’s Tour de France returns: “The women’s races we have now are jewels to cherish”

After more than thirty years since the last edition, the women’s Tour de France is finally back for the year 2022.

On Thursday at the Palais des Congrès in Paris, the Women’s Tour director Marion Rousse announced the route of the next women’s Tour de France. This was quite an event, considering women were not able to have a cycling race in France since 2009.

Rousse was appointed director of the Women’s Tour by Christian Prudhomme, director of the Men’s Tour de France. She is a former French cycling champion who retired from professional competition in 2015. She is now a consultant for France Télévisions and has been commentating on the last Men’s Tours de France.

So, in 2022 and maybe in the years to come, we will be able to have two Tours de France, with also women competing just as the men do.

The Women’s Tour de France 2011 consists in an eight-stage race which will begin on the 24th of July 2022, when the Men’s Tour de France will be ending.

Rousee said: “We wanted to start from Paris. With only eight stages, we couldn’t go down to the Alps or the Pyrenees, the transfers would be too long.

“The stages obviously are shorter for the women than for the men’s races. The men can go 225km. For the girls, the longest race on our roster is 175km and we even needed special dispensation for that.”

“It’s a balanced route that will suit several types of riders” added Rousse, while she was talking about the final stage ending at La Planche des Belles Filles.

This tour is obviously made to fit women riders, and not replicated on the men’s tour, since women can’t ride the same stages and for the same lengths as men. Unlike the men’s tour, the women’s tour won’t finish in Paris, but will begin in Paris with the first stage between the Eiffel Tower and the Champs-Elysées.

It won’t be as long as men’s tour and will over all take place in the North-East of the country, passing by the Vosges, the Haut-Rhin and through vineyards in Champagne.

Rousse added: “It was important to me to have a stage with white roads. I love these white gravel roads as a spectator and a broadcaster. These are always spectacular races. This stage will spice up the women’s Tour de France because it will require strength, good pilots’ skills, and certain part of success. This route is well designed because it can correspond to various profiles, such as adventurers and sprinters.”

So the tour’s stages are very diverse and made to suit every kind of riders.

It has been said that organising the tour is not the most complicated challenge. The most complicated will be broadcasting it in several countries.

The actual men’s tour is broadcasted in 190 countries, and for the women, the event will be broadcasted in 170 countries.

Director Rousse shared her feelings about this progress and showed herself pretty emotional and happy about this future event.

She said: “When I was a little girl, I watched the Tour de France on television with admiration, and when I started my career, I suspected that I would never have the opportunity to race in it. So, of course, I was very proud to be asked to take charge of the Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift, especially because we want to do our utmost to make it a dream for little girls to participate.

“Women’s cycling has come a long way in recent years, partly thanks to A.S.O., but it still lacked a reference stage race with real media coverage. Now that I have accepted this mission, I intend to invest myself so that it becomes a ritual among the public – and for a long time because this is not about launching a race for two or three editions.”

Also, we can say that women’s cycling developed later than men’s cycling, and that Rousse is one of the many people who are trying to catch up and to make sports for women as approachable as it is for men. She in fact remembers having cycling idols but these idols were not women, which proves that women cycling and sports were not as spread as men’s, even not spread at all.

“At that time, I had idols, but rather masculine ones, sprinters like Robbie McEwen or later Tom Boonen”.

In history, the first women’s Tour de France was held in 1984, but unfortunately it ended too soon in 1989. So it has been more thirty years that women riders can’t compete at the Tour de France and have been pushed in the background in this particular sport.

However, Rousse said: “We can feel that women’s cycling has finally found his place” and see that as a great progress after the disappearing of the Women’s Tour in 1989. Women have still been able to compete another race starting in 1992, named the Tour cycliste Féminin and then the Grande Boucle Féminine Internationale, which unfortunately ended in 2009.

In practice, it has been twelve years that women are waiting for a race all around France and that they are fighting to have the same races than men.

They are just trying to realise one of their dreams in this sport, but also to make possible for little girls and future great riders to compete in these types of famous races.

However, we must keep in mind that this Women’s Tour de France edition in 2022 must not be an exception but must become the rule for every year. This is the hope Rousse is supporting. The aim is to change how sports is perceived in people’s mind, to prove women that they can have the opportunity to perform just as the men do, and maybe that they can make history.

“Now that I have accepted this mission, I intend to invest myself so that it becomes a ritual among the public – and for a long time because this is not about launching a race for two or three editions. We will be looking back on this in 100 years”.

What do you think?