( ENSPIRE Sports ) Entrance In The Most Prestigious Cycling Competition In The World Is A Long-Awaited Win For Female Cyclists
ENSPIRE Contributor: Cindy Rodriguez-Llivipuma
From July 24th to July 31st, the Amaury Sport Organization — the organizer of the men’s cycling competition, the Tour de France — held its first-ever edition of the Tour de France Femmes. The long-awaited return of the women’s Tour de France comes after years of pressure from numerous renowned female cyclists and the female cycling community.
The Tour de France had previously held its first women’s race in 1984 under a different name, the Tour de France Féminin, but it only lasted until 1989 due to a lack of sponsorship and media coverage. Thirty-three years later, the women’s race returned as the Tour de France Femmes: an 8-day race program measuring 1,029 kilometers (639 miles).
Given that the men’s Tour de France is the most watched annual sports event in the world with an estimated 3.5 billion total viewers, women’s participation in the race offers hope that the increased visibility and support of the female cyclists will help rectify the many inequalities that exist between male and female cyclists in the male-dominated sport.
Yet while the creation of the Tour de France Femmes is certainly a win for female cyclists, the stark inequalities between male and female participants are very much present within the race. Compared to the men’s total prize fund which was €2.2 million this year, the women’s prize fund was only €250,000. The main factor for this large prize gap is the lack of visibility that the female cyclists receive due to the shorter time frame and distance of the race, as well as the shorter media coverage that they receive. These three differences result in less publicity for company sponsors who count on the airtime that their logos receive.
Unlike professional male cyclists who can count on their cycling income to sustain themselves, professional female cyclists often have to work other jobs to be able to support themselves and their cycling profession since cycling is a costly sport.
While these inequalities persist, the overall visibility that the Tour de France Femmes will grant female cyclists is indispensable. Athletes and sponsors will have the opportunity to engage with fans, who are eager to connect due to the lack of coverage of female sports and are ultimately one of the biggest forces with the power to change that.