Tour de France body plans bigger women's event

Decorated women's cyclist Marianne Vos believes that not enough was done to promote the previous iteration of the Women's Tour de France in in 1980s. Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Tour de France organisers are looking to launch a major women's race which "would be to women's cycling what the Tour de France is to men's cycling", they said on Friday.

A senior official at the Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO) revealed that a group dedicated to developing women's cycling was being set up, and that introducing a women's equivalent of the Tour de France was among their aims.

The ASO official added that the race would not be held at the same time as the men's Tour de France -- traditionally held in July -- because logistics would not allow it.

"Some 29,000 police officers are deployed for the men's race already, it would be too complicated," said the official, who declined to be named.

Since 2014 the ASO has organised La Course by Le Tour, an annual race held on the same day as a Tour de France stage.

Dutchwoman Marianne Vos, the most decorated female rider in the sport, won the 2019 edition of the one-day race on Friday, mounting a devastating attack in Pau on the final uphill drag of a 121-kilometre ride.

"We are setting up a cell to develop women's cycling," said the ASO official.

"We cannot have a women's Tour de France at the same moment as the men's Tour, because it would be logistically impossible. The Tour has grown so much and is so big that having two races at the same time would not be feasible."

There was a women's Tour de France at the same time as the men's race from 1984 to 1989, but a lack of media interest and logistical issues prompted the ASO to stop organising it.

Vos claims that opinions have changed and she believes that the ASO was not doing enough to promote the women's Tour de France.

"There are a lot of things that are changing. It's growing, the teams are getting bigger and at the moment it's more important to maybe change the calendar and add more women's races," Vos said on Friday.

The ASO faced criticism this year when it was reported that the organisation would not provide TV coverage for the women's Liege-Bastogne-Liege and Fleche Wallonne races.

The senior ASO official said, however, that the organisation would partner with Belgian TV channel RTBF to provide one hour of coverage of both events in 2020, above the 45-minute minimum requirement for an event to be granted World Tour status by the International Cycling Union.