Several of the world’s top female cyclists have started a petition to compete in the Tour de France.
The open letter, co-authored by Olympic gold medalist Marianne Vos, Ironman triathlete Chrissie Wellington, and champion cyclists Emma Pooley and Kathryn Bertine, addresses Christian Prudhomme, the director of the world’s premier cycling event:
For 100 years, the Tour de France has been the pinnacle endurance sports event of the world, watched by and inspiring millions of people. And for 100 years, it has been an exclusively male race (there was a separate Tour Féminin in the 1980s, but it lacked parity, media coverage, and sponsorship). After a century, it is about time women are allowed to race the Tour de France, too.
The Tour Féminin, renamed the Grande Boucle Féminine in the 1990s, was discontinued after 2009; Emma Pooley was its final champion, and Vos came in third.
Women looking to compete in the Tour face an additional hurdle. As British website Sportsister points out, cycling’s world governing body, UCI, has rules limiting the distance women can race in a single stage. This distance, 140 km, effectively rules out side-by-side competition in the Tour de France—the longest stage in this year’s race is 242.5 km.
If the petition is successful, the Tour wouldn’t be the only professional race where women and men compete together, albeit not against each other. The letter’s authors cite the Tour of Flanders and the Flèche Wallonne, both UCI World Tour events, as examples. USA Cycling also recently made history by hosting the first ever women’s road racing championships alongside the men’s in Chattanooga, Tenn., this May.
As of press time, nearly 4,000 people have signed the petition.