Tour de France organisers ASO said they were looking to launch a major women's race which “would be to women's cycling what the Tour de France is to men's cycling” after Friday’s La Course by Le Tour, the women’s race which runs alongside the men’s Tour de France, was again overshadowed by fierce debate over the development of the event itself.
Lizzie Deignan argued the race had “stagnated” in the last few years, while Dame Sarah Storey wrote in The Telegraph yesterday that it felt like ASO was making a “token gesture” this year by including a women’s race on the back of the men’s TT.
The multiple world and Olympic champion, who rides for CCC-Liv, caught and passed solo escapee Amanda Spratt [Mitchelton-Scott] on the 17 per cent ramp up to the finish line in Pau.
Spratt had been out on her own for the best part of 25km, the Australian’s lead at one point up to 35 seconds as the peloton took a while to organise itself.
A few riders - including Vos and Lucinda Brand [Sunweb] - tried to get across to the Australian, but none of the moves got very far.
With Sunweb and CCC leading the chase, though, the gap came down to around 10 seconds with a kilometre remaining and Spratt was eventually swallowed up by the bunch on the penultimate corner.
Vos, who is in excellent form having just won four stages at the recent Giro Rosa, powered past her, before sprinting away from the rest of the pack to win by three seconds from Leah Kirchmann [Sunweb] and Cecile Uttrup Ludwig [Bigla].
“I came out of the Giro Rosa with good motivation, and La Course was a good inspiration to give it an extra go,” Vos said afterwards. “The break of Amanda Spratt was pretty dangerous, so my teammates had to do a lot of work to bring it back. When I saw it came down on the climb, I knew I had a chance. I went and just had the legs to continue.”
It was a thrilling finish to the 121km race, which comprised five laps of the course being used by the men in their stage 13 time trial later on Friday.
But there was, as ever, an undercurrent of negativity about the development of the race as a whole. ASO have experimented with various different formats over the years, with the race now back to being a one-day offering as it was when Vos won the first edition on the Champs Elysees in 2014.
“We're obviously not moving forward,” said Deignan, who suffered two mechanicals and finished over 11 minutes down . “It's still one day. It's got its place in the calendar and we take advantage of the platform it gives us, the media that are here, take the positives from it. That's all we can do really.”
A unnamed ‘senior ASO official’ later told Reuters that they were setting up a special group to develop women’s cycling and wanted to create a separate women’s race which “would be to women's cycling what the Tour de France is to men's cycling”.
“We cannot have a women's Tour de France at the same moment as the men's Tour, because it would be logistically impossible,” said the official. “The Tour has grown so much and is so big that having two races at the same time would not be feasible."
“Some 29,000 police officers are deployed for the men's race already, it would be too complicated.”