Orla Chennaoui and Bradley Wiggins admit they have “reservations” over how a women’s Tour de France will be run – and whether it is the boost that women’s cycling needs.
Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme has confirmed that a women’s Tour de France will be introduced from 2022, with the details yet to be finalised.
It is set to be a standalone event and take place after the three-week men’s race.
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While Eurosport expert Chennaoui has welcomed the news, she said on The Bradley Wiggins Show that she has some doubts about how it will work.
"The difficulty of covering the Tour de France means it’ll be incredibly difficult for any journalist to stay on and cover La Course, after they’ve just done three weeks on the road in France. So I have a lot of reservations about it.
"It’ll be amazing if it’s done right and I say welcome to the 21st century because they would have been on the wrong side of history. I fear they may be already on the wrong side of history waiting so long.
"I also have reservations because Christian Prudhomme talked about the loss that women’s racing engenders. To me if you’re a businessperson then losing money is also an investment and we need to talk about investment and we need to talk about it in a positive way and not expect a failure before it’s even started.”
Chennaoui also believes more needs to be done to promote existing races, such as La Course, a one-day race which runs during the men’s Tour de France.
"My problem with it has always been that once a year when we have La Course we have so many column inches and so much social media space given over to this demand for a women’s Tour de France.
"And I think if we gave the same attention to the amazing calendar that we have already, and the races we have already, then we would automatically triple our coverage in one single day of women’s racing.
"I feel like I’ve covered La Course for a number of years and it’s not given the same weight that it should be given, it’s not given the same publicity it should have been given. I remember being at the Tour de France one year when La Course was coming the next day and we were out doing an event that evening speaking to cycling fans, people who were really happy that the Tour de France was coming to town, and they had no idea that La Course was happening the next day.
"And that made me angry because these are cycling fans who are having the best of female racers coming to their doorsteps and they don’t even know about it. So for me there’s been this huge demand for a women’s Tour de France as if it’s going to be this saviour for women’s racing that A – it doesn’t need a saviour, the women’s calendar and women’s racing right now is once in a generation amazing and B – it has to be done properly."
Former Tour de France winner Wiggins added: “If it comes directly after three weeks, as you say, just to keep the cavalcade on is going to be difficult. A bit like the Paralympics isn’t it. I still don’t understand logistically why it can’t be run at the same time as the men’s race.
"Is there a right answer? Lots depends on it. How’s it going to be run? Your instinct is to say yes they should because you want equality but there’s a lot more thought that goes into it to how it’s going to be done properly. You don’t want to have one and lose it after a couple of years, or it get downgraded, or forgotten about."
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