The Tour de France is a three-week, 2,000-mile test of speed, strength and endurance like few other sporting events. The world’s best female road cyclist wants to join the men.
Dutch Olympic champion Marianne Vos was part of a group that started an online petition to allow female professional cycling teams to compete in the Tour de France next year.
Also in the group is Great Britain’s Emma Pooley, the 2008 Olympic time trial silver medalist, ESPNW columnist/cyclist/filmmaker Kathryn Bertine and British world ironman triathlon champion Chrissie Wellington.
“For 100 years, the Tour de France has been the pinnacle endurance sports event of the world, watched by and inspiring millions of people. And for 100 years, it has been an exclusively male race (there was a separate Tour Feminin in the 1980s, but it lacked parity, media coverage, and sponsorship). After a century, it is about time women are allowed to race the Tour de France, too,” they wrote in a letter to Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme.
The petition argues women’s road cycling faces some of the worst gender inequality among sports in terms of number of competitions, TV coverage and prize money.
“Having a women’s pro field at the Tour de France will also create an equal opportunity to debunk the myths of physical ‘limitations’ placed upon female athletes,” they wrote. “In the late 1960s people assumed that women couldn’t run the marathon. Thirty years on we can look back and see how erroneous this was. Hopefully 30 years from now, we will see 2014 as the year that opened people’s eyes to true equality in the sport of cycling.”