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  • donncha

    I suspect if ASO had metrics that clearly indicated there was pent-up demand they’d happily expand their offering – for them it’s a plain business decision. Would be interesting to see the details, but I suspect the audience who say they’ll watch the women race are mostly made up of people who’ll watch the men race anyway if there’s no female race, so if that’s the case, from ASO’s perspective they have all these extra costs but are not reaching a significantly new audience.

    As for the UCI, they can’t force the race owners to do anything, particularly not ASO, so there’s no point working that angle.

    • DaveRides

      The UCI can’t force the race owners to do anything, but they can offer incentives. Perhaps they could upgrade Thüringen Rundfahrt to WWT status and downgrade La Course, or offer lower sanctioning fees when a WWT stage race is run alongside a UWT stage race.

      • Gus

        Two practical suggestions!

        • DaveRides

          This shouldn’t be just for WWT races, one-off discounts should be available to any event when the parallel women’s race gets an upgrade of some kind. It could be increasing the number of days, increasing the classification (e.g. from national calendar to Class 2, Class 2 to Class 1, Class 1 to WWT) or equalising the race distance.

          Here’s the issue though – that would mean the UCI doing without some income.

    • ebbe

      I agree, they won’t increase their audience significantly by putting a women’s event up with the men’s event. Cyclocross is linking men’s and women’s races very successfully, and public reactions are generally very positive… but I doubt the number of viewers in total has risen because of it. The men’s event will still be the “main event”, and nobody will switch off their TV between the time when the women finish and the men start, to miss the men’s event on purpose. At best you’ll have (part of) your audience tune in earlier and longer, but its size won’t be much bigger.

      But on the other hand: That doesn’t really mean anything. I’ll watch races for both men and women if they’re on. I’m not forced to choose one or the other. If I would have to choose (let’s take two existing proper tours as an example) I would rather watch the Giro Rosa (live/direct and in it’s totality), than the utterly boring Tour de France (for men).

      Yes, this example sort of falls apart because the Giro Rosa (also) isn’t broadcasted live, so I can’t watch it no matter how much I wanted to. But that’s also my whole point: You can’t really ascribe fans to one event and not the other if you don’t force them to choose. But if you force them to choose, you’re taking money out of your own pocket. That then leaves only two options: Don’t try to subscribe fans to either event (as cyclocross does) and just do both because it’s the right thing to do. Or put your head in the sand and just stick with what you’ve always done.

      Maybe it’s time for cycling fans to tune into La Course en masse and then switch their TVs off during the men’s event (especially when it’s a Champs Elysees style parade), to make a point? And additionally, maybe the energy that’s being put into lobbying with ASO is better spent on making sure the Giro Rosa and several other races get proper coverage?

      • DaveRides

        I agree with the last point.

        Women’s racing should break up with the Tour de France and work with the races that are more interested. Make the great stand-alone women’s races so awesome that ASO will be begging to have them back after a few years.

        Speaking of the Giro Rosa, part of the long-term strategy for making women’s racing awesome would be to make it so good that RCS buys it from the Epinke company and links it to the Giro d’Italia, freeing up space in July for a stage race version of La Course that can be attached to the Tour de France without a calendar clash. But since RCS* is either less interested in women’s racing than ASO** or equally uninterested but more honest about it, so I can’t see that happening.

        * RCS women’s races: Strade Bianche
        ** ASO women’s races: La Flèche Wallonne Feminine, (Liege-)Bastogne-Liege, Tour of California, Tour de Yorkshire, La Course, Madrid Challenge.

        • Jillita

          Agree with this so much. I’m so sick of the blowhard show that the TdF has become. The advocates gave it a valiant effort, but we’re better and smarter than this. Would rather see energy promoting and getting live coverage (cough, viewable in the U.S.) of the Giro Rosa, Women’s Tour (of Britain), Tour of California, Classics etc. Let’s have our own identify rather than be codependent on our a-hole boyfriend. We’re better than being thrown scraps by the dogs at ASO.

        • donncha

          Yep, I think working with promoters who are into women’s racing and helping to grow their offerings is probably a better approach. Sure, the numbers are there for the Tour, but you will always be overshadowed by the Men’s race and you also run the risk of ending up with the same problem as in the Men’s peloton where the Tour is everything and you’re completely dependent on it.

  • Robert Merkel

    In other contexts, governments are putting pressure on sporting bodies to take women’s sport more seriously – and, in many cases, putting up money to make it happen.

    What, if anything, is the French government doing in this area? I presume that at least some of the money that funds ASO comes through the government, which gives them leverage if they chose to use it.

    • Pete

      Maybe all govt money goes to the French Olympics campaign?

    • Last time I checked ASO was fully private. And if we learned anything from the original ProTour/WorldTour debacle it’s that the ASO can just pull all its races off of the UCI calendar and just do their own thing if they want.

      • Robert Merkel

        Yes, ASO is private. However, in many countries, sports teams and events, including ones run by for profit companies, get a substantial portion of their funding from government. Even in that home of free enterprise, the United States, the federal government has sponsored NASCAR via the armed services. In the Tour’s case I know that the stage start and finish towns put up cash, for instance.

        I’m curious as to whether the French national government contributes to the Tour either directly or through a state owned enterprise providing sponsorship. If so, they are in a position to “encourage” ASO to do more if they choose to.

    • DaveRides

      The problem in women’s road cycling is that there’s a vacancy open for the leadership of the sport.

      So long as there is a lack of interest from within the ranks, the lack of interest will be reciprocated by the likes of ASO, RCS and the UCI.

  • Craig

    Complete bullshit. “If we can get by with just a men’s race, and don’t have to go to the extra effort or expense of including women, then we’ll just do as little as possible (as a mere token), let it fail of its own accord, and watch it fade away.” It’s lazy, it’s sexist, and it’s backward-thinking. (Why don’t we just repeal women’s right to vote while we’re at it? We’d save on paper, do away with policies that relate to gender issues, and most of the women are probably going to vote the same as their husbands anyway.) Utterly disappointing!

    • donncha

      Slight over-reaction? ASO is a business – like all businesses they will run a race if they can make money out of it.
      As for relating it to voting – not sure where you’re going there. Having a Women’s Tour de France is not a human right, neither for that matter is having a Men’s TDF.

  • Rowena

    Most disappointing, it’s hard to find the words, we’ve come so far yet ASO is taking such a big step back. The race in Paris was fantastic, it was excellent, easy to view on television and on course if you are lucky enough to be there. The future is female.

  • De Mac

    Does our current CA CEO and his cohort have a part-time job with ASO???

    • DaveRides

      Maybe it’s actually Tracey Gaudry who has roles at both? ASO has poured money into La Course for four years now and can’t make it turn a profit, Gaudry turned Hawthorn FC to a heavy focus on getting an AFLW licence and was fired when the club failed to win one.

  • George Darroch

    Pathetic. ASO and UCI should be ashamed of themselves.

    • DaveRides

      The UCI should downgrade La Course and give WWT status to Thüringen Rundfahrt. Give the top level women’s race classification to the organisers that support women’s cycling, not to the events which participate reluctantly.

  • ac

    It’s disappointing but people must understand that it’s very difficult to organize.
    So the women teams and everybody who’s involved must work together with ASO and the UCI, not to make them realise that they need to do better (hopefully they know it) but to ask what they want exactly (several one day events, one week of racing, … ) and find the best solutions to do it.
    I would think one week event is the best to begin, and preferably the first week of the race.
    They could have done the first week of 2018 around Brittany, racing about 100 kms of the men stage ( not necessary the last kms in some cases).
    But the second and third week in the Pyrénées and Alps would have been too hard.
    That means they must design the first week of the race for both the men and the women : not too flat but not too mountainous, not much travel between the stages, … .
    Feasible but not easy, ASO doesn’t own the roads, the caravane is huge and would have to start earlier (or the women would have to race before the caravane), host cities must be interested and able to provide more accomodation and space, more policemen (gendarmes) are needed, … .

    • DaveRides

      A stage race version of La Course could also be done by overlapping the conclusion of the race with the start of the Tour itself (or the first French stage, in years with a foreign Grand Depart) as ASO/AEG do with the Tour of California Women’s Race. This opportunity would allow the race to piggyback on the Tour but also develop in its own right to a degree, and also keep logistical costs down by minimising the amount of overlap. Some years it could run in the same region, some years could have a transfer to the final stage like the Tour does to Paris.

      A derogation from the normal race distance regulations could be applied for so that the La Course final stage and the Tour opening stage are run over the same distance, providing the opportunity for an epic final day of desperate racing from the women that would produce a worthy winner despite probably being a flattish course.

  • Larry @CycleItalia

    I often claim the French (as in ASO) are the only adults in the room when it comes to pro cycling, but they’re not doing much to show it with this. The Italians manage to run a women’s Giro around the time of LeTour each year, so why can’t the French reciprocate with a women’s stage race during the Giro? If any organization has the funding, skill and organization it’s ASO. Spend some of the income derived from the silly “sandbox races” for men and spend the dough on a Tour Feminin instead!

    • DaveRides

      Speaking of the Italians, do you have any insight on why there seems to be no pressure on RCS regarding women’s races?

      ASO run more Women’s WorldTour races than any other organiser (La Flèche Wallonne Feminine, (Liege-)Bastogne-Liege, Tour of California, Tour de Yorkshire, La Course, Madrid Challenge) and are somehow the bad guys, while RCS have nothing to do with the Giro Rosa and run ten men’s pro cycling races with just one of them (Strade Bianche) having a parallel women’s race.

      Are the Italians simply more honest about not giving a f**k than the French?

      • Larry @CycleItalia

        Dunno. RCS seems not to care much while there seem to be plenty of Italian sponsored women’s pro teams. Your last line might be the real answer, but CHAUVINIST is after all a French word.

        • DaveRides

          How many of those Italian teams are actually paying pro salaries? Probably only Ale Cipollini, going on the rankings which have them as the only Italian team in the top 15, alongside one French team (FDJ).

          Maybe RCS should spend some of the income derived from the silly sandbox races for men, of which they have two (Dubai Tour, Tour of Abu Dhabi) and which ASO now has none?

          The French do have a long and admirable history of providing loan words to other languages. So do the Italians, one that often comes to mind when seeing the standard of organisation at Italian cycling races is FIASCO.

          • Larry @CycleItalia

            You are correct, ASO and the French are wonderful while RCS and the Italians are awful. Same as it ever was. Sorry for the confusion, I should know better than to criticize ASO unless I’m with Velon and want them to share some of their profits with me.

  • thechesh

    So for the second year in a row La Course follows pretty much the same route as the Etape du Tour but over a shorter distance. Seems crazy that we can close the roads so that a bunch of amateurs (me included!) can ride exactly the same route as the pro mens yet we can’t even do it for the pro women – sad.

    • DaveRides

      Perhaps a good protest over the La Course format would be for the women’s teams to boycott the pro version and enter their riders in L’Etape du Tour instead?

  • donncha

    Related issues worth considering:

    1. Tour de l’Aude Féminin – French stage race for women, ran from 1984 until it ended from lack of sponsorship in 2011.
    2. Grande Boucle Féminine Internationale – French stage race for women, ran from 1984 until it ended in 2010.
    3. La Route de France – French stage race for women, ran from 2006 until 2016. Might still be going (?), but wasn’t held in 2017.

    Not sure what the answer is, but the history of women’s stage racing in France isn’t promising.

  • Superpilot

    Some very interesting solutions in the comments. I like that UCI push the La Course out of WT status, although I expect ASO then to act all pretentious and pretend they have something valuable that they want to save (when reality is showing us otherwise), so would hold the Tour over the head of UCI, again, to get their way..
    Without putting the boot in to all those that are really trying to help womens cycling, in comparison to mens, if the availability of media coverage of womens cycling is so poor, and the organisation of races (accommodation is skimped on for the women, apparently a much harder life than for the men) many times so inadequate as to neglect media coverage, that if the teams got together and setup a shared ownership structure that provided the media coverage sellable to the networks for all the major races that the organiser doesn’t organise coverage for (ala ASO or RCS), then they own the main commodity they have available to sell. Like Velon I guess. But further than a value add, to providing the overall coverage.
    Even ASO does a shtty job of coverage for most of the races it holds.
    I’ve read the articles on coverage, 100’s of thousands on helicopters. CT even live streaming from races. But the technology is coming. WRC rally uses drones with cameras. Get go pro or DJI involved as a media partner, stream the coverage from a drone to a repeater in a van on the ground. The tech is there for drones to track the peleton too, repeater in a car in the convoy. Pack it up and drive to the next viewpoint. Guerrilla media. Crowd source coverage from spectator mobile phones or something. Think outside the box.

    Because bloody ASO can only look as far as its own benefit. Rightly so, as donncha points out, they are a business. But it’s still crappy…

    • velocite

      I thought last year’s La Course was terrific – including the second stage, which was a time trial with a twist. The Champs Elysee versions by contrast I found less interesting. But it seems I’m in a minority. But..on the broader topic, it seems to be recognized that there are problems with the commercial structure of pro cycling, with the revenue controlled by a few race organizers and the UCI and especially the teams and riders being relatively powerless. Women’s cycling, on the other hand, appears to be a relatively clean slate, with no entrenched players. This could be an opportunity to have a go at doing it better, along the lines that you suggest. If a women’s tour was set up as a project with a range of stakeholders, designed from the outset to take full advantage of drones and on board cameras, and maybe even radio interviews with riders en route – a la Robbie McEwen interviewing riders from a motorbike during the Cadel ride, I reckon that would have a chance. Women’s sport can be popular, as proven by tennis, for example, and women’s races are always entertaining.


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November 22, 2017
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