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UCI president Brian Cookson has said that he hopes that the new La Course race run by Tour de France organisers will evolve beyond the current one day setup, although he said that for now he was not aware if this is being planned.
“I don’t know [if this is on the cards],” he told CyclingTips at Tuesday’s press conference about the event. “You’d have to ask ASO. I’d like to see a multi-day event at some point, organised in a way that was appropriate and which allowed women’s racing to develop in the way we’d like to support it at the UCI.”
World champion Marianne Vos spoke to CyclingTips at the launch and said that she was focussing fully on this year’s race rather than fixating at this point in time on whether or not it ends up as a three week event. However she said that she hoped it would lead to a general expansion of the women’s side of the sport.
This is something that Cookson echoed. “I hope that La Course will show the potential that women’s cycling has for other events in other locations with other promoters, other organisers,” he said, making clear that the expansion wasn’t just about what the Tour de France organisers could do.
“Of course I think it is going to be a hugely successful event and ASO have done a great job in organising it.”
The race will take place on the final day of the Tour de France, with some of the world’s top female riders set to scrap it out on the streets of Paris. Their event will take place hours before the male riders arrive and, according to Tour organiser Christian Prudhomme, is an important race in its own right.
He said that the riders will enjoy the support of the large crowds which gather for the Tour; in turn, those crowds will have the opportunity to watch two top-class events taking place in front of them.
Cookson recognises the value in drawing from the audience and media coverage of the Tour de France, but also states that women’s cycling also has the potential to stand alone too during the season.
“If you look at the women’s Tour that was put on in Britain this year, without any involvement with a men’s event, it was a huge success. So there are occasions when women’s events can be run alongside men’s, but equally there are times when it is better and more appropriate for women’s events to be run independently,” he said. “And I am quite happy to see that. I think that may well be part of the way forward.”
One repeated suggestion of how to grow the women’s side of the sport is to try to get the existing men’s teams to have their own female squads. This approach has worked for the likes of Orica-GreenEdge and Lotto-Belisol, both of which have women’s teams; Cookson would like to see more of this, but believes teams can’t be forced to take this approach.
It is, he said, up to them to make that decision.
“I think we have always encouraged teams to have women’s teams. I don’t think compulsion is a good idea. But I would like to see women’s teams. I would like to see teams like Sky have a women’s team. Of course I would.
“But equally there are sponsors out there who might not be interested in men’s teams but who would be interested in putting on a women’s team. So I don’t think the answer is just to compel every WorldTour team to have a women’s team as well.”
In the audio interview above he speaks about these matters and also gives some quick thoughts on this year’s Tour de France plus the yellow jersey Vincenzo Nibali.