The world-renowned Tour de France cycling event has traditionally been for men only. However, women are now stepping up to change that.
In addition to not being able to participate in the race, there is no equivalent for women participants. To take a stand against this sexism, 13 women rode every stage of the Tour de France before the men, Mashable reports.
While the Tour de France is known as one of the most difficult sporting events in the world, women wanted to show that they are capable of taking on the challenge.
As Mashable notes, women do have La Course, which is a daylong women-only cycling race managed by the same organizers of the Tour de France, Amaury Sport Organisation. However, the event is hardly an equivalent to the Tour de France, which lasts 23 days.
The group of brave female cyclists who took on the Tour de France are known collectively as Donnons Des Elles Au Vélos or “Give Them To The Bikes.”
At dinner last night, women who rode the Tour de France route didn't quite realize how big their story has become, in part perhaps because the French media, like TDF organizer ASO,largely ignore the women. They broke through well beyond cycling at no doubt an unprecedented level. pic.twitter.com/iTLTsIkxi6— Pete Geyer (@cyclingfans) July 29, 2018
Although the group won nothing for completing the strenuous feat, they made a very powerful statement about gender equality and the need for more progress in sports, particularly. Making their trek even more grueling, the women had to cycle next to cars and other vehicles since they weren’t in an official event.
"We want to show the rest of the world that women are perfectly capable of doing and finishing the Tour de France," said cyclist Anna Barrero, who finished the three-week course on Saturday. "We want to have exactly the same opportunities as men."
Barrero noted, however, that there is actually much support within the cycling world for the ASO to develop a women’s Tour de France equivalent.
“The only ones who say it’s not possible are the organizers of the Tour de France," she asserted.
She added that when the organization is asked why it can’t be done, the ASO simply “doesn’t give a particular reason.”
This team has cycled the Tour de France course unofficially in other years, but they are growing in size and expanding awareness of their efforts. Just four years ago the group completed the race with only three riders.
"Yeah we are gonna keep doing it until we have a positive response and we have equality," said Barrero. "There’s no reason for not having a women’s race."
Along with fighting for opportunities for current female cyclists, Barrero offered words of encouragement to younger women and girls who are thinking about taking up professional cycling.
"I would tell them don’t be afraid, get on your bike, ride as much as you want, we are all capable of doing whatever we want," she said.
The beauty of this is that these women are not waiting around for anyone to decide their fate. They are taking charge of their own destiny and forcing the ASO to recognize them. This level of perseverance and tenacity can only be displayed by those who are sick and tired of being categorized as inferior.
Banner/Thumbnail Photo Credit: Flickr, Richard Masoner / Cyclelicious