July 26, 2013: UCI Presidential Candidate Brian Cookson today confirmed that he is currently facilitating a meeting with ASO, the Tour de France owners, and leading female riders to explore the possibility of setting up a similar women’s race. In addition he announced that the delivery partner for the 2014 Tour of Britain will also organise a 5-day international stage race for women.
Writing in his blog Brian Cookson said today:
“There’s been a lot of attention recently on the need to develop women’s cycling at all levels of the sport and it is a key part of my election manifesto for the Presidency of the UCI. People are passionate about the issue and are rightly frustrated that not enough is being done.
“At British Cycling we’ve got hold of the issue and are coming to the end of tendering for the organiser who will be responsible for our biggest international event, the Tour of Britain, for the next five years. It was really important to me that we used that process to secure a transformation in elite women’s racing so I’m pleased to be able to confirm that there will now be a five-day international stage race for women in Britain in 2014. The event will be separate from the men’s race, but it will be promoted to a high standard and will, I’m sure, be the first step in having a full equivalent Tour of Britain as it develops.
“Having an international field competing in a stage race in my home country provides a template for the kind of changes I will develop on the international stage if I’m successful in my bid to become UCI President in September. We need to work closely with organisers, sponsors, teams and broadcasters to create new events on the professional calendar. A women’s equivalent of the Tour de France is one potential solution and the focus of attention of a really successful petition which now has over 77,000 signatures.
“Undoubtedly having a female equivalent of the biggest bike race in the world is an objective we should need to explore. This is why I am currently setting up a meeting involving Marianne Vos, Emma Pooley and other key representatives behind the petition with the right people, including Tour de France owners ASO and UCI Management Committee member Tracey Gaudry. It is vital that we work as a group and tap into the wealth of know how of people like Tracey who as a pro rider rode three editions of the Tour Feminine. We know that some previous attempts to simply replicate men’s events and men’s teams have been problematic and failed, so it is vital that we learn from the past.
“We must also work on rewarding the efforts of elite women riders by guaranteeing a minimum wage and ensuring modern employment standards are introduced for the top level teams. Coupling this with the wider development proposals I outlined in my election manifesto will begin to change the essential economics of women’s cycling.
“Cycling has a long way to go to ensure women’s cycling is given an equal stage to the men’s events. We won’t get there tomorrow, nor next week, but what riders like Marianne and Emma have achieved shows us the potential there is given the right focus, investment and, crucially, leadership by the UCI.” —- By Robert Fawdon