Why 13 Women Biked The Entire Tour De France Route A Day Ahead Of The Men

"Where is the women’s Tour de France?"

There is currently no women's equivalent to the Tour de France, but 13 amateur female cyclists are riding to change that. This year, the group rode the entire race route (all 21 stages, 2,082 miles and three weeks of cycling) a day ahead of the men. 

"We are trying to prove that women, even amateurs, totally clean — no doping, no special assistance — are able for this kind of effort," cyclist Tetiana Kalachova told The Associated Press. Because the women rode a day ahead, they also had to contend with normal traffic and obey traffic signs and red lights.

A women's version of the Tour, called the Tour de France Feminin, rode alongside the men's race from 1984 to 1989. For the past several years, women have ridden in La Course by Le Tour de France, a much shorter race won this year by Annemiek van Vleuten.

"There's a race of one day, but that's not an equivalent. It's unfair," another cyclist, named Anna Barrero, told Mashable, adding, "We want to have exactly the same opportunities as men."

"We want a women's stage race with the same media coverage and the same attention as men have," Kalachova told AP. "Not necessarily the same roads and not necessarily the same quantity of dates, but with the same appreciation."

The group is called "Donnons des elles au velo," which The Associated Press reports is a French play on words meaning "give women or wings to cycling." It started in 2015 with just three women and has grown (both in size and in media coverage) in the years since. 

The women attracted a number of supporters during this year's race, and the group posted its position each day so others could join in. Kalachova told AP that they had "double or triple peloton" at every stage. "It's not only because we're so cool," she said. "It's because people are asking the same question — where is the women's Tour de France? They want to see it and they're here to support it."

Ruby Isaac, a 10-year-old cyclist who appeared on Little Big Shots earlier this year, even rode with the women for the first stage of the race in Noirmoutier-en-L'ile. "She is doing so much cycling and she is so into it, that we hope there will be a women's Tour some day and she will ride it," Kalachova said.

The cyclists join an important history of women fighting for equality in sports. In 1967, Kathrine Switzer became the first woman to officially compete in the Boston Marathon, although a race official attempted to remove her. More recently, a group of female athletes held the highest-altitude soccer match in history on Mt. Kilimanjaro. 

There's still a long way to go, as Forbes' list of 100 highest-paid athletes didn't include a single woman this year. As groups such as "Donnons des elles au velo" — and other amazing women — earn more recognition, hopefully, things will change.

Cover image: Martin Charles Hatch / Shutterstock.com

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