Long before the men of the Tour de France ever geared up for the 2018 race, 13 women had already ridden and completed every single stage. This incredible achievement wasn't met with fanfare; there were no cameras or press conferences, and the winner certainly didn't walk away with the Tour's $582,000 dollar prize. But that wasn't why there were racing.
They completed the grueling feat to bring attention to a blaring inequality in the sport: the fact that women are banned from racing in the Tour, and perhaps even more offensive, there isn't even an equivalent race for women cyclists.
For more than 60 years, there have been start and stops at attempts to create a Tour de France for women. Each time they have missed the mark or failed. In 1955, the first Tour de France Féminin took place but disappeared the following year due to lack of backing. It returned in 1984 but again, without solid backing from the organizer it faded into the distance.
Now, women must make do with La Course by Le Tour de France, a one day 89 kilometer race that's thrown into the middle of the men's Tour. Compare that to the 21-day, 3,500 kilometer race for the men. Predictably, the prize also pales in comparison — while the men take home more than a half a million dollars, the winner of La Course wins less than 10% of that amount.
Organizers blame lack of interest in women's cycling, but that isn't the case. According to Outside Magazine, the "OVO Women's Tour, a five-day, 650-kilometer women's stage race in the United Kingdom garnered nearly 1.5 million TV viewers and 500,000 spectators came out to watch." This shows that there is not only interest, but also money can be made.
Yet, Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO), the Tour's organizer, has responded to calls for a female equivalent by saying "for the moment it's not possible." For the moment? Haven't they had half a decade to get it done? How long must female cyclists wait for equality in their sport?
David Lappartient, president of the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) — the world governing body for competitive cycling — has stated that he would like to see a a women's Tour de France during his presidency. We have put men on the moon, cloned sheep, and brought entire species back from the brink of extinction, but ASO is unable to create an equal race for women? Where there's a will there is a way. Together with ASO the UCI are capable of bringing equality to their sport. Let's make sure they do so.
This year, when the Tour begins on July 6th, make sure you notice the competitors who aren't there. The women who've been ignored and denied the right to become champions. Ask yourself, is this right?
Please help bring equality to the Tour de France. Sign the petition and demand that Amaury Sport Organization create a women's tour.