Motivated to prove a point about the lack of a women's Tour de France, a 10-women group called InternationElles will ride the full 21 stages and 3,460km of this year's race. The group of amateur females contains riders who have competed in Ironman competitions, set Guinness records and records in the Ride Across America event, as well as finding success in other events. However, the fact that they are not professionals doesn't deter them from taking on the same gruelling course as the Tour de France riders.
“We firmly believe that every person should be respected as an equal, regardless of gender, colour, cultural background or social economic status,” they said, explaining their aim of riding each stage one day before the professional men do.
“To us the medium of cycling is just one way to raise this agenda and to focus on the gender inequalities in cycling in particular. We believe there should be a stage race for females in France equivalent to the men’s race. There was once a stage race for women in France, so why not now? Or why not work with the professional female teams and invest in creating something new?”
Although there was a women’s Tour de France run alongside the men’s event in the 1980s, there has been nothing substantial for a long time. Following lobbying by female professionals and others, Tour organiser ASO introduced a one-day race called La Course in 2014. This extended to a two-day event in 2017 and it was hoped that ASO would continue to develop the contest. However, the organisation has shown little interest in running a women’s Tour, and La Course reverted to being a one-day race in 2018. This year’s edition will be an undulating 120km circuit race held in Pau on July 19th.
InternationElles includes one rider from Northern Ireland, Julie-Anne Hazlett. They will join up with the similar Donnons des Elles au Vélo J-1 project in riding the Tour route. The latter group comprises a French team of 13 riders and eight crew.