This article appeared in the July 27, 2022 edition of the Monitor Daily.

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Tour de France Femmes: Why equality in cycling is gaining momentum

Competitors race on stage 3 of the Tour de France Femmes, July 26, 2022.

At one point, while my family and I were living overseas, there were no team sports for girls at the school my daughters were attending. Only boys were given the opportunity to learn teamwork, perseverance, and confidence through athletics. When I volunteered to start a girls basketball team, I was told no – unless I started a boys team, too.

Perhaps that’s why the return of a Tour de France for women caught my eye. The premier cycling event is holding the first official women’s race in 33 years. The weeklong, 642-mile race began Sunday with 144 cyclists competing in 24 teams. The race has about $250,000 in total prize money, including $51,000 for the overall winner.

Yes, it’s shorter and less lucrative than the men’s race. But it’s still progress. Female cyclists have been campaigning for equality on two wheels for decades, sporadically holding official and unofficial races. For example, since 2015, a group of French women known as Donnons des Elles au Vélo (Give the Girls a Bike) has ridden every stage of the Tour – the day before the men’s race. 

Explanations for the inequality in cycling have sounded very similar to arguments made about U.S. women’s pro soccer and basketball – too few sponsors, not a big enough audience, etc. But as in soccer, a shift is underway. American Lily Williams started riding professionally in 2020. Two years later, she tells Sports Illustrated, “I’m making a full salary from the sport. And ... I can finish my race and go into our own personal team camper and take a shower. The whole sport has just grown leaps and bounds.”

Kate Veronneau at Zwift (the Tour de France Femmes sponsor) tells The Washington Post, “Women’s sports is trending hard because the companies that have invested in sports are seeing fabulous returns.” Equally important, she adds: “For little girls growing up and seeing themselves in a variety of sports ... that’s powerful.”

As a granddad, I agree. 

This article appeared in the July 27, 2022 edition of the Monitor Daily.

Read 07/27 edition
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