While the peloton rolls this Thursday 1er July between Tours and Châteauroux, they sprawl between Vierzon and Le Creusot. The eleven participants in the operation “Give them some to the bike” are one day ahead of the yellow jersey. For the seventh year in a row, these amateur-level cyclists complete the same route as the professionals, on “D-1”, without struggling against the stopwatch. The hike is sporty and militant. It aims to develop and promote women’s cycling, in all its forms. Accompanied every day by representatives of each sex, on all or part of the stage, these Girl Scouts double their journey of 3,400 kilometers of local events. “We work all year round, our visit is a bit the culmination of this work”, explains Aline Clément, engaged in the adventure since 2018.
Their initial claim, the one that motivated their engagement, was more directly linked to high-level competition: to see a women’s Tour de France finally reborn. After a first edition in 1955, the event existed between 1984 and 1989. Several attempts to relaunch it, under other names, had fizzled out and one final avatar had disappeared in 2009. Since then, the runners were in despair. Four leading champions, including the Dutch multi-titled Marianne Vos, even launched a petition on the subject in 2013, denouncing cycling as “One of the worst representatives (of) lack of parity “. The initiative resulted in the creation, in 2014, of “La Course”, a one-day event set up by Amaury Sport Organization (ASO), the organizing company of the Tour.
ASO ended up going further by announcing, in June, the holding in 2022 of the female counterpart of the Grande Boucle, in eight stages. ” It’s awesome, comments Claire Floret, kingpin of “Donnons des elles au Vélo”. We have been fighting for this equality for six years, and our relationship with ASO has not always been obvious. If they make a commitment, it is because it is viable. It really is a positive message. “ Sports teacher in the Vosges, Aline Clément is also delighted in advance: “It’s going to be a great competition. It will be publicized, the participants will become role models for many little girls and women who did not plan to ride a bicycle. It can make them want to get on a bicycle, to go to work, to go to the bakery, to go out on Sunday, to play sports… ”
Christian Prudhomme, the director of the Tour, paid tribute to the consistency of these sports activists by presenting them for the first time to the public in Brest. “They did not do badly, these young women, he blurted out. They knocked on the door, we haven’t always listened to them. We ended up doing it. They are pugnacious. ” He added he wanted a run ” persistent “, by recalling that the previous versions had stopped for lack of economic balance.
This new Tour will be televised and the company Zwift, an online cycling platform, will be the title partner, joining historical cycling sponsors such as the FDJ or LCL. Details of the route will be revealed next October. The only certainty: a start given on Sunday July 24 and a finish of the first stage judged on the Champs-Élysées, just before the final sprint of the men on the same Parisian avenue. The prospect already delights the main interested parties, those who will be able to align themselves. “I look forward to next year”, Dutchwoman Demi Vollering reacted after her victory in the last edition of “La Course”, Saturday June 26 at Landerneau. “It’s great, I hope to be there, it can only improve women’s cycling”, followed the French Lucie Jounier.
The players in women’s professional cycling also expect a lot. “It is a great pleasure to finally have an event worthy of their talent, notes Stephen Delcourt, manager of FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope training. This will create vocations and economically boost our sport. Visibility will allow us to renegotiate our sponsorship contracts and lead to a change in budgets. “ That of his team reached 1.7 million euros, others approached 3 million, far from the 20 to 40 million deployed by the big teams of the Tour de France. But a movement is underway. Seven World Tour teams, the elite male, have a female section and Cofidis will join them in 2022. Friday July 2, the peloton of “Donnons des elles à Vélo” will be able to tackle the Col de La Colombière with the pride of ‘have contributed, on a scale, to these advances.