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PREVIEW-Cycling-As the Tour reaches Paris, women pedal in the spotlight

As the Tour de France peloton heads towards its finish in Paris on Sunday, the 144 riders will do battle on the Champs-Elysées on a momentous day for the sport.

For the first time in 33 years and after a long campaign, the organizers of the Tour de France ASO have granted the best female professionals an official multi-stage race to show their skills, endurance and courage. Sunday’s opener of 81.7km through the streets of the French capital will not be a warm-up act for the men’s race which will reach Paris later in the afternoon.

This is the first of eight stages covering a total of 1,033km over mountains, flat ground and gravel, ending with the brutal climb of La Super Planche des Belles Filles on July 31. The assembled cast is loaded with quality, including an armada of Dutch riders led by Olympic time trial champion Annemiek van Vleuten and former Olympic road champion and multiple world champion Marianne Vos.

Poland’s Kasia Niewiadoma and Italy’s Elisa Longo Borghini also have their eyes set on the coveted yellow jersey, but whatever happens on the roads ahead, victory is already assured for women’s cycling after living so long in the shadow of men. FIVE STEPS

A women’s race in France was held in 1955 with five stages in Normandy but was considered a novelty and was unique. In 1984 the Women’s Tour de France was held over short portions of 18 of the 23 men’s stages and was won by American Marianne Martin but publicity was minimal, media attention almost non-existent and ASO withdrew the plug-in 1989.

With the ASO refusing to allow naming rights, a women’s stage race called La Grande Boucle Féminine ran on and off until 2009 before, in 2014, Vos, English cyclist Emma Pooley and triathlete Chrissie Wellington successfully petitioned ASO to grant a women’s race, albeit over. just one step. As the pressure mounted and the quality of the women’s peloton increased, Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme announced in 2021 that a multi-stage women’s race would return.

With cycling training app Zwift on board as title sponsor, a record women’s prize pool of €250,000 and 170 countries broadcasting the race, the Women’s Tour is ready to take off. Italian Longo-Borghini, this year’s Paris-Roubaix winner who rides for Trek-Segafredo, said those on the start line on Sunday were indebted to women like Vos who fought so hard for their own Tour de France.

“What I always emphasize is that it won’t be the first Tour de France,” she told Eurosport. “A lot of women have already raced the Tour de France. “They did something that ended up being a big goal for us. This should not be forgotten. Now the little girls can see us, and it’s amazing.”

Danish FDJ-SUEZ-Futuroscope rider Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig, an overall contender, said she had “pinched” herself in preparation for Sunday’s start. “Is this really happening? Are we racing the Tour de France? It’s huge, a dream and something we’ve been working hard on for a long time,” she said.

(This story has not been edited by the Devdiscourse team and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)