Tour de France organizer Amaury Sport Organisation is willing to discuss holding a women’s cycling race alongside the men’s event after a 24-year hiatus.
Jean-Etienne Amaury, chairman of the family-owned unit, said executives have debated the subject after a petition backed by Olympic road-race gold medalist Marianne Vos gathered more than 65,000 signatures in 11 days.
Britain’s Chris Froome won the centenary edition of the Tour de France two days ago. ASO, formerly known as Societe du Tour, held a parallel event for women from 1984 to 1989, although it didn’t prosper, according to “French Cycling: A Social and Cultural History,” by Hugh Dauncey.
“We need to work out the right economic model, get the media on board and discuss with public authorities about closing the roads,” Amaury said in a phone interview. “All these parameters need to be planned. It’s not likely to happen next year.”
The 1,080-kilometer (671-mile) women’s race won by the U.S.’s Mary-Ann Martin in 1984 used the same finishes as the men, although stages were shorter, according to Dauncey. There were five rest days compared to two for men.
Amaury said ASO hasn’t yet had any contact with the organizers of the petition. He said the previous version of the race in the 1980s failed to garner a “strong following or interest from television.”
Kathryn Bertine, a cyclist and filmmaker in Tucson, Arizona, started the petition July 12 after enlisting support from Vos of the Netherlands, cyclist Emma Pooley and triathlete Chrissie Wellington, both of the U.K.
She said marathon and triathlon races both manage to accommodate men and women on the same course.
“We’re not trying to race the men,” Bertine, 38, said in a phone interview. “Women are 10 to 12 minutes behind the men in the marathon but that doesn’t mean their times are any less valid.”
Pooley, a two-time runnerup at the eight-day women’s Giro d’Italia cycling race, said she would like to see women tackling the same stages as men.
A parallel event for women would tap the presence of spectators and media at the race to increase the profile of women’s cycling, Pooley, 30, said. Some 12 million spectators lined the route of the 2012 Tour.
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