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Tour de France owners Amaury Sport Organisation announced Saturday that a women’s race will take place at this year’s Tour de France.
La Course by Le Tour de France will take place on July 27 on the Champs-Elysées in Paris, coinciding with the final stage of the 2014 Tour de France. A few hours before the men’s peloton arrives in Paris, the world’s elite women cyclists will race the circuit in the historic heart of the city before fighting out a final sprint at the finish line on the Champs-Elysées. The race will be broadcast live on France Télévisions and Eurosport International. Further details of the race and its format will be unveiled at an official launch in the spring.
The announcement of the event is a victory for Le Tour Entier, an organization of women racers who launched a campaign for a women’s Tour de France last September, gaining nearly 100,000 online signatures. Le Tour Entier translated means “The Whole Tour.” Their manifesto for women’s cycling can be read here.
Dutch star Marianne Vos, who took her seventh world cyclocross championship an hour after the announcement, is one of the founders of Le Tour Entier, along with pro cyclists Emma Pooley and Kathyrn Bertine, and retired Ironman triathlon champion Chrissie Wellington.
”I am delighted that ASO has decided to organize a women’s race this year, to accompany the Tour de France,” Vos said. “I am very excited to be taking part, especially with the majestic finish on the Champs-Elysées. The launch of this race is a revolutionary development in our sport. The Tour is the pinnacle of professional cycling, and I have no doubt that La Course by Le Tour identifies a new era for women’s cycling and will significantly contribute to the growth of road racing.”
ASO, which also organizes women’s races such as the Ladies Tour of Qatar and the Flèche Wallonne Femmes, said in a statement, “the desire to add this event is a logical step forward in a discipline that is increasing in maturity and recognition.”
“Making a contribution to the development of all forms of cycling is a vocation for the Tour de France,” said Yann Le Moenner, managing director of ASO. “This is even more so when it is about supporting a discipline that is clearly on the up and has been making its mark in professional sport for many years now. As the event par excellence that attracts enormous crowds and TV viewers, the Tour has decided to welcome a women’s race during one of its outstanding stages.”
Following his successful election as UCI President in September, Brian Cookson created a women’s cycling commission, led by one of Cookson’s vice presidents, Tracey Gaudry, the first woman to be appointed to such a high post within the UCI. Cookson applauded ASO’s decision.
“I am delighted to see this exciting development for women’s cycling,” he said. “The UCI is committed to support the development of women’s cycling, and following my election to the UCI presidency in 2013, we established a Women’s Commission to focus our efforts here. The quality of professional women’s road racing has long deserved a wider audience, and we are very happy that this initiative by ASO will bring the sport to many fans, new and old. Women’s racing on the iconic parcours of the Champs-Elysées is a tremendous step forward, and we are pleased to welcome this addition to the UCI calendar.”