Marianne Vos praises new event
PARIS -- World and Olympic champion Marianne Vos says women cyclists got a "big boost" when Tour de France organizers agreed to host a one-day race for them in Paris this year -- but she's not stopping there.
The first "La Course by Le Tour de France" -- a women's race -- takes place on July 27, just hours before men riders end their three-week jaunt through Britain and France to the Champs-Elysees in Paris.
Vos and Britain's Emma Pooley were among four women riders who launched a petition last year seeking a women's version of the Tour. Tour director Christian Prudhomme first dismissed the idea, then grumbled about the petition's timing, and relented to pressure.
Vos called the race an important step, "and let's see what other opportunities we can get," the Dutchwoman told The Associated Press on Tuesday, at the same time race organizers announced details.
She calls herself a "marraine," French for godmother, of La Course, and will ride in the inaugural race.
La Course will cover 55 miles and include 13 laps on the Champs-Elysees, with a likely sprint finish. The winner will receive about $31,000, the same sum awarded to men for a Tour stage win.
"In addition to the 100 cyclists in the pack, policewomen from the Paris Police Prefecture will be responsible for watching over La Course, which will have a 100 percent female jury," Tour organizers said in a statement, adding that "those who make it onto the podium can look forward to kisses from podium boys!"
Until now, the 110-year-old Tour has been almost exclusively a male preserve, with women sometimes employed on team staff, or on the winners' podium handing out flowers and dispensing kisses on riders' cheeks.
Tour organizers said the race will be broadcast live in 104 countries.