The Women’s Tour de France returns after a 33-year hiatus

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After a 33-year hiatus, women are back in the world Most watched sporting event: Tour de France.

On Sunday, 24 teams of six cyclists lined up on the Champs Elysees in Paris to start the eight days. Women’s Tour de France with Zwift. The 640-mile stage race features two mountain stages and ends in the Vosges Mountains. In the 119 years of the men’s Tour, women have competed in the official Tour de France only five times. The women’s tour lasted from 1984 to 1989 – then canceled due to lack of financial support. Recently a women’s one-day race called La Course has appeared, but some of the contestants He said It was more of an insult than an opportunity.

This year, the women’s race was started by sponsor Zwift, a cycling app, and it will be one of the highest prizes – around €250,000 in total – in the history of women’s cycling.

said Kate Verono, director of women’s strategy at Zwift and former cyclist. “For young girls who are growing up and seeing themselves in a variety of sports… this is powerful.”

When American cyclist Marianne Martin won her first cyclist in France in 1984 at the age of 26, things looked a lot different for female cyclists. It is worth noting that she did not receive a salary or a radio. She said that during one stage of the race in Grenoble, France, I got ahead of the group by more than 30 miles.

“I didn’t know where they were, so I walked forward, thinking, ‘They’re going to catch me,'” Martin, now 64, recalls. “But they never did. She says the 10 minutes she gained on the peloton during this pivotal race, gave her confidence.” To win the entire Tour – which was then an 18-stage race covering just over 600 miles.

When Martin was competing, widespread interest in women’s sports was limited. But this world looks different now.

“Women’s sports are trending strongly because companies that have invested in sports are seeing fantastic returns,” Verono said. In fact, as The Washington Post reportedSports are getting more attention from fans and marketers – leading to the belief that women are one of the best investments in the sports industry.

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“The female athletes take their responsibility to be role models very seriously because they have to fight for every care dollar they have,” Veroneau added. “They know that whatever they do will affect the opportunities that come after them.”

The majority of 2022 female cyclists who ride the Tour are under 35; Most of them have never had the chance to watch other women ride this race.

we Supported Human Health Team Bike and Olympic bronze medalist Lily Williams, 28, was inspired to start cycling after watching the men’s Tour de France on TV every summer with her family.

“I definitely think if there had been a Tour de France, I would have started cycling much earlier,” Williams said, adding that she only started cycling two years ago. “And I think my career would look a lot different.”

Williams said her mother, speed skating Olympian Sarah Docter, was a professional cyclist in the 1980s and never had the chance to ride a Tour. “It hit her really early on,” Williams said. “A lot of that is probably due to the complete lack of support that women’s sports had at the time.”

Salary is an essential part of the support. This is the first year that Williams has ridden as a professional cyclist without having to work either. “It was great to have this time to rest and recover. It completely changes the sport when you have 10 or 20 teams of riders that make a living.”

But not all women cyclists in the Tour de France get a salary. Only 14 of the 24 teams competing on the Tour are licensed under the UCI Women’s Tag Team Tour, which required Teams must provide a minimum salary of €27,500 per year per rider.

“It is a very new concept for professional cyclists to earn the required minimum salary,” Verono said. “The best of the best are making good money these days, but for most professional women, choosing a profession is still difficult. They often have to work secondary jobs along with their 25-30 hour training a week.”

Zwift funds a total prize pool for the women’s race of €250,000, of which 50,000 is for the winner. The value of the men’s prize portfolio is 2.3 million euros, of which 500 thousand will be awarded to the winner. Compared to 1984, this is a 10-fold improvement in the percentage of women winning men’s awards. Martin remembers winning for less than $1,000 compared to the $100,000 that the 1984 champion, Laurent Fignon, took home.

Race organizers say the goal is to grow women’s cycling to the point where full parity is possible, but start with what is more sustainable first. Right now, that means eight stages instead of the 21 that guys ride. Williams explained that women’s cycling teams are smaller than men’s, making 21 stages exceptionally more difficult for women’s teams to stick to financially, employmentally and physically.

Williams also says that eight stages with shorter races allow the women’s races to be more dynamic, less predictable and therefore more exciting to watch.

“Every day on the men’s tour, there is a four to six hour race [in which] “A bunch of intro goes off to get media coverage, then it rolls around, and the overall rating contenders hold their position,” she said. “In the women’s race, where the races are three to four hours, people are fresher to attack throughout the race; separatists may have a chance to survive. You have a diverse group of women who can win the race.”

Regardless of the numbers, the riders say the Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift is a game-changer for women’s cycling and will serve as an inspiration to young women and girls around the world watching the action.

“We need the media to show more women in the sport so girls can think of more options,” said Martin, the former cyclist. “I mean, if they only see women in fashion, they will only think about fashion. If they see women in sports, which is exciting, they will see that as an option.”

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