In most fields where women are leaving their mark today, they indubitably owe their success to that one woman who fought the battle for everyone – or at least sounded the warhorn.
While Tour De France was on, over the same mountains on the same 3,351-kilometer (2,082-mile) route, 13 amateur female cyclists rode to make the world proud.
Except there won’t be a podium or prize money waiting for them on the Champ-Elysees when they finish on Saturday, one day before the yellow jersey arrives in Paris. What these 13 amateur female cyclists hope for, instead, is recognition, respect, and the return of the women’s Tour.
Meet the 13 women who rode every stage of the Tour de France ahead of the men, all 2,082 miles.
No podiums or prize money.
— AP Sports (@AP_Sports) July 29, 2018
“We want a women’s stage race with the same media coverage and the same attention as men have,” Tetiana Kalachova tells The Associated Press. “Not necessarily the same roads and not necessarily the same quantity of dates, but with the same appreciation.”
Kalachova and her teammates rise early every day to complete the three-week challenge. They do the same stage as the men, a day before the men.
They have conquered the jarring cobblestones of Roubaix, daunting ascents in the Alps, the foothills of the Massif Central, and have been pedalling this week through the Pyrenees.
None of the team, called “Donnons des elles au velo” in a play of words meaning give women or wings to cycling, are being paid for their efforts.
Unlike the men, they have to contend with normal traffic as they navigate the route. Dirty air from heavy trucks washed over the women as they departed Carcassonne for a 218-kilometre stage.
Ideally, the team would like the return of the Tour de France Feminin, which ran alongside the men’s event from 1984-89, or at least a women’s stage race that is given the same importance as the men’s.
Their efforts are inspiring younger riders, too. One 10-year-old girl from the U.K. joined for the first stage in Noirmoutier-en-L’ile. Kalachova says, “She is doing so much cycling and she is so into it, that we hope there will be a women’s Tour someday and she will ride it.” -AP