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La Course by Le Tour de France – women’s racing on the Champs Elysées this year!

It’s a big day for women’s cycling, with the Cyclocross Worlds, and a huge announcement from the ASO – this summer, during the final stage of the 2014 Tour de France on 27th July, there’ll be a women’s race on the Champs Elysées, in front of the huge crowds and international tv – “La Course by Le Tour de France”.

This is the first time that women have been able to race Le Tour alongside the men since 1989, and it’s a big deal.  It’s also proof that social media campaigns really do work, as this is in response to the Le Tour Entier petition that was set up during the 2013 Tour by Kathryn Bertine, Chrissie Wellington, Emma Pooley and Marianne Vos, calling for a women’s Tour de France.  The ASO were not happy at the time, but with Brian Cookson taking over at the UCI and pledging support for women’s cycling – not to mention the huge audiences tuning into the London Olympic road race – it seems like this was something that had to happen.

As to whether it’s going to be a one-off or a step into a full women’s race, well, we’ll have to wait and see – but one thing I know is that the Le Tour Entier team aren’t going to rest on their laurels!  I can imagine that the first race will be spectacular, and unlike the Tour of California “women’s invitational time trial”, which really is a side-show, this is a proper race, given 1.1 accreditation by the UCI.  And it’s a perfect course for the women, who are more than used to cobbled sprinting.  Hopefully we’ll be able to see the sprint heroines like Vos, Kirsten Wild, Giorgia Bronzini, Chloe Hosking and Lizzie Armitstead fight every inch of the way!

For more on La Course, have a look at the Le Tour Entier announcement, and their follow-up piece including quotes from Specialized-lululemon team boss Kristy Scrymgeour.  And there’s a report from British Newspaper the Guardian, and doubtless a lot more to come – keep up with it all by following the Le Tour Entier twitter.

UPDATE! Interview with Kathryn Bertine on VeloNation, with quotes from Emma Johansson.  I especially liked this, about what fans can do:

Bertine outlines what she believes are the most important things in year one. “Securing media and sponsorship will be the key factors, and of course, the fans of cycling can play an enormous role by supporting this year’s La Course race.

“Click on the links, watch the news programs, talk about the incredible change taking place…this is something we can all do to drive change. If we create the demand, opportunity and business potential for women’s pro cycling the thrive, then ASO will continue to see the value.”

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