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Meet the women riding the Tour de France at home for cycling equality

The InternationElles will also Everest The Blwch in Wales in a fight for gender parity in cycling

Joe Robinson
1 Sep 2020

As the cycling world continues to live and breathe the Tour de France peloton as it takes its 107th annual lap of France, a group of women continue to point out the disparity in cycling by matching the Tour's herculean efforts from home.

Each year, the InternationElles women's amateur cycling group travel to France to ride the official Tour route ahead of the men in protest at the lack of a women's race and the further gender inequality within the sport.

However, with the Covid-19 pandemic and quarantining rules preventing travel, the InternationElles are attempting something notably harder for 2020.

Tuesday will mark the third consecutive day of the women's four-day, non-stop team relay to tick off 3,470km. This will see riders from the UK, Netherlands, USA and Australia complete the distance of this year's Tour in just four days all from the relative discomfort of their home trainers, which you can learn more about here.

And then, just to notch things up a little, the five UK-based riders will travel to South Wales on Friday 4th September to 'Everest' The Bwlch, a 5% climb in the Rhondda Valley that the InternationElles will have to repeat a total of 26 times to tick off the necessary 8,848m of elevation.

As Lou Gibson, a global events manager and InternationElle from Marlow explains, the adversity faced due to Covid-19 has increased the impetus to keep the campaign going. 

'We were absolutely gutted when we realised that, despite our best efforts, we were not going to be able to ride the route ahead of the men in France this year,' said Gibson.

'But we are a determined bunch and have worked tirelessly with our partners to find a way both to make our challenge even harder, to keep the campaign alive and make our voices heard.'

It is also worth noting that the women taking part in the challenge are not professionals. They come from all walks of life, working normal jobs from digital marketing to being a psychologist, working towards parity in the sport of cycling through 10 key points:

  1. Reduce the pay gap in pro cycling – many female team riders still need to hold down jobs to pay their way and the Women’s Tour is the only race that offers financial parity. Minimum wage and paid maternity leave to be introduced as the first measure
  2. Address the lack of sponsorship – there are many fewer women’s team, the teams are smaller, so there are far fewer opportunities
  3. Increase the number of women-only races – both at a professional and amateur level. Every men’s pro race should have a women’s equivalent, starting with the Tour de France
  4. Introduce more longer women’s races – there appears to be a misconception about what women riders are capable of
  5. Increase media coverage – more televised races, plus coverage within cycling media
  6. Greater federation support (both domestic & international) – more women in positions of power
  7. Greater accessibility of the sport at the grassroots level – greater visibility of how to get started
  8. Eradication of sexism within the sport - being told by teams to look pretty and body shaming
  9. Make more women-specific race and training data available
  10. Redress the gender balance in bike design, e.g. bikes being sold with male saddles as standard

Meanwhile, over the weekend, the closest thing ASO organises to a women's Tour, the single-day 96km La Course, took place on Saturday in Nice.

The race, which was previously criticised by women's World Champion Annmiek van Vleuten for not being difficult enough, was won by British rider Lizzie Deignan of Trek-Segafredo.