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Debate continues about whether ASO and others are doing enough for women’s cycling; according to David Lappartient, Brian Cookson’s challenger in Septembers UCI Presidential elections, the two-day La Course event is not enough and both ASO and the UCI need to do much more.
“I think that yes, they can do more,” the Frenchman told CyclingTips in a recent interview. “I don’t know what is the best situation to organise this. But yes, I think ASO can maybe continue to do more for women’s cycling. It is good what they are doing this year, but I think that they must continue.
“They must expand, and consider that is also part of the future of their company to be involved in women’s cycling.”
Indeed Lappartient stresses that having a top-level women’s stage race with international TV coverage is vital for the development of this wing of the sport. If he elected, he proposes that the UCI itself should tap into its budget.
“My proposition is that this can be under the umbrella of the UCI. We can spend some money on this. We can be the owner of the race, even if we will not organise it ourselves, because that is not the job of the UCI.
“We can work with ASO, with RCS, with Flanders [Classics], will all the other organisers just to be sure that we will be able to have this.”
CyclingTips spoke to Lapparentient recently, sitting down for over an hour with one other journalist on the penultimate day of the Tour de France. Many topics were covered during the long conversation, including the following segment on the state of women’s cycling, where he believes it needs to go and what changes he would make if he were elected in September.
CyclingTips: We are speaking here in Marseilles. The second part of La Course will take place today. What would you like to change in in women’s cycling?
David Lappartient: First of all I consider that the level of women’s cycling, the way it is organised, is much better than four years ago. We have also to recognise when it is good.
However, I think that the economic model around women’s cycling is not very high, and is sometimes very poor. Some ladies in the WorldTour have no official salary for this. I want to give them a better situation. This is something very important, to improve the economy around this [wing of the sport].
We have some strong new races in the World Tour, but we need to have them on live TV. And I also consider that some organisers – and maybe specifically ASO – must be a little bit [more] involved in women’s cycling. Of course, the business will not be the same as men’s cycling, that’s for sure…
DL: Yes, not initially. But you have to [do that].
It is nice for them, they have this race in the mountains, you have this race today, and that is wonderful. But…I would say that’s [just] a good start. Why not have a Paris-Roubaix for the ladies? And I think we need to have – and this is one of the proposals here [in his manifesto] – we need to have a strong stage race for the women.
One of the biggest is the Giro for the ladies, but we don’t have worldwide TV coverage. It is difficult to find [coverage] in the media. I don’t think that we can increase the numbers of sponsors for teams, the attractiveness of cycling if you don’t have a high-level stage race for the ladies that will be on live TV in many countries.
So this is really something that we have to work on. My proposition is that this can be under the umbrella of the UCI. We can spend some money on this, we can be the owner of the race, even if we will not organise it ourselves because that is not the job of the UCI.
We can work with ASO, with RCS, with Flanders [Classics], will all the other organisers just to be sure that we will be able to have this.
I think this is something very important to promote women’s cycling. But I think also that on some other WorldTour races, we can have also a race for the ladies in the same time. The public is there, so the attractiveness will be there.
CT: Have your views on that changed? I think I read the other day that under your watch at the French federation, lots of the women’s races fell off the calendar…
CT:…So your record maybe is not so good on women’s cycling…
It is true that we lost some races, specifically last year and the year before. I have always been fighting to promote some races. And I can really tell you that I was able some time to find some agreement with a lot of cities to defend, for example, La Grande Boucle Féminine. I would not say every year, but maybe every two years, I was trying to find some stages, some big start for them and really helping them.
Unfortunately for them, their business model was a bit difficult. That was also the case with some other races, [such as] the Tour of Brittany, unfortunately. But we were able to have now also one team in the WorldTour, FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope. I think it is nice. I met all the public authorities to ask for the support for this team.
But in France, our culture is so much about … cycling is the Tour de France. In the UK before, cycling was more about the Olympics. Now it is both.
If you have some riders, sometimes, you prefer to be at the Olympic Games or to ride the Tour de France, they sometimes prefer to ride the Tour de France.
And so this race is so strong that it is also quite difficult to have a race for the ladies. But as an organiser…I am an organiser of the Grand Prix Ploumelec, where we had the European championship last year. I organise personally two international races for the ladies. That is something important. I put some money on this, I promote it… It is a way to promote them, to show an example.
I was the president of the [French] federation. I was able to say, ‘Okay, look, I was able to have one international race for the men, but two international races for the ladies.’
But the situation of women’s cycling is quite difficult. And the other thing is that for a lot of French people, women’s cycling was Jeannie Longo. Now we are turning the page, we have Pauline Ferrand-Prevot, and I think we are on the good way. But that is true, we lost some races.
CT: You said it is not right that some of the women don’t get salaries. What would you change to make that possible?
DL: I think…it is not like this that you can say, ‘Okay, you will be paid’ because the money will not arrive like this. But just to have new sponsors, a new company involved in promoting cycling, you must be sure that the TV coverage, the interest, will be become higher and higher. And this is the job of the UCI.
If you do this, if you have a big race on live TV, then I am sure some more sponsors, some more [potential] teams will be interested in bringing a new team at the top level. And then if you have more sponsors, then you can have a salary for the ladies. But then we have to start from the top level.
| Related: Inside the business of women’s cycling
CT: Team Sunweb has a women’s team, FDJ has a women’s team. Do you see any way to encourage the WorldTour teams? I mean, do you think it would be the ideal situation if every WorldTour team also has a women’s team?
DL: I think it is good to have some women’s teams at the same time as the WorldTour teams for the men. But I don’t think to force them to have a team is a solution. I don’t think so. I think it is good to ask them if they can do this. If they can do this, they are welcome.
But we can also have some sponsors to invest only in women’s cycling. And if you doing this just because you are forced to, I don’t think it is the best way to promote women’s cycling.
I prefer when people are really coming in women’s cycling when they want to do this, and when they consider that it is something very important for them. And it is the case now with FDJ. You probably remember when Marc Madiot was fighting with Jeannie Longo some years ago, saying that women’s cycling is not important. Now they have a team. That is nice.
CT: Do you believe La Course should be more than two days in duration?
DL: [Pauses]. I think that yes, they can do more. I don’t know what is the best situation to organise this. But yes, I think ASO can maybe continue to do more for women’s cycling. It is good what they are doing this year, but I think that they must continue.
CT: So they must build, expand?
DL: Yes, yes, they must expand, and consider that is also part of the future of their company to be involved in women’s cycling.
David Lappartient will go up against current UCI President Brian Cookson in the presidential elections at this year’s world championships in Bergen, Norway. Voting will take place on September 21, with the winner then beginning a four-year term in office.