Le Tour de France is the centre-piece of the cycling calendar. It is by far the most widely known and followed of the three Grand Tours, especially beyond ranks of devout cycling fans.
Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO) is responsible for organizing Le Tour, giving it immense power in the world of professional cycling. ASO isn’t just behind Le Tour though. It also organizes many more of the world’s biggest races, including Vuelta a España, Paris-Roubaix, the Tour of California, Flèche-Wallone and Liège-Bastogne-Liège and many others.
Race teams need to attend as part of any serious race calendar. Organizing these events gives ASO control over access to their events. While WorldTour rules dictate a certain group of the teams must be given entries, the remaining wild card spots are, for now, handed out at ASO’s discretion.
More importantly, right now ASO is doing its best to exclude the women’s peloton wherever possible, when it is no longer convenient to ASO’s interests.
Today, ASO confirmed to Direct Velo that it would pull Flèche-Wallone and Liège-Bastogne-Liège out of the Women’s WorldTour in 2020. Why? Because the UCI demanded that ASO televise at least 45 minutes of the women’s race to be played alongside, or separately, from the full men’s race coverage, which often stretches on for four or five hours.
This was asking too much, according to ASO. It’s not just Flèche-Wallone and LBL, though. Tour of California has no live televised coverage of the women’s race, which is only three days compared to the seven-day men’s event. La Course, ASO’s concession to women’s racing at Le Tour, is a single day of racing, a far-cry from the 21-day men’s Grand Tour.
In withdrawing Flèche-Wallone and LBL, ASO has crossed the line from dragging its heels on women’s cycling to actively working to hold the sport back.
What negatively effects women’s cycling impacts the sport as a whole. With many pro teams creating parallel women’s programs, the latest snub of the women’s peloton impacts more than just female cyclists. So, in our opinion, it’s time for the peloton to act as a whole and boycott the ASO until it provides equal coverage of women’s and men’s racing.
Of course, leaving the Tour de France is a massive financial penalty for any team. Many sponsors base their investment in the WorldTour primarily on exposure from participating in Le Tour. But that’s the point. ASO is using its position to hold cycling back, and push its own sexist views on the sport as a whole.
In response to ASO’s decision, several top cyclists voiced their displeasure on Twitter. Jolanda Neff, a star cross country mountain biker that has been racing on the road this year, and decorated Italian racer Elisa Longo Borghini both received massive support for their Tweets calling out ASO’s regressive decision:
It looks like you don‘t have daughters, wifes or sisters. I guess you once had a mother, maybe remember her next time? https://t.co/OFdpEbXq42
— Jolanda Neff (@jolandaneff) May 17, 2019
There is no longer, if there ever was, the argument that women’s racing is not as entertaining as men’s events, or that viewers don’t want to watch. Cyclocross and cross country mountain biking both provide proof that women’s racing is thrilling, competitive, and popular among viewers at home. There has never been more depth in women’s road racing, either. Fans just need the opportunity to watch the races.
It’s time for teams, athletes, and fans to push back and demand better opportunities for women’s racing and coverage at those events.
Boycotting the Tour de France may be more than any team can manage, and more than fans are willing to do. But there are other steps you can take. Raise your voice online, on Facebook or Twitter, in support of Women’s cycling and to call out ASO’s decisions. Or, if the “fossil grandpas” at ASO don’t listen to that, get old school and write them an letter.
You can also show that you want more coverage of women’s cycling by tuning in to what coverage does exist. Watch live streams and race recaps, or follow race trackers on Twitter. Show ASO that there is already demand for more coverage of women’s cycling, not less.
UCI Women’s WorldTour on Twitter
ASO on Twitter
UCI on Twitter