Summer Cycling in the Pyrenees
20th February 2024
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Navigating Challenges and Anticipation in Women’s Cycling: The CIC-Tour Féminin International des Pyrénées

by Rachel McCombie - Allons-y-Pyrenees

The CIC-Tour Féminin International des Pyrénées showcases the breathtaking beauty and challenging terrain of the Pyrenees. However, the 2023 edition of the race brought with it a series of issues that sparked both controversy and reflection within the cycling community.

The CIC-Tour Féminin International des Pyrénées (now in its third year) showcases the breathtaking beauty and challenging terrain of the Pyrenees. However, the 2023 edition of the race brought with it a series of issues that sparked both controversy and reflection within the cycling community.

The race was abandoned due to a number of serious safety issues, prompting the question, why was this race not given the same level of organisation as, for example, the Route d’Occitanie - a men’s race in the same area. Let us consider for a moment then, why women’s cycling is still not taken as seriously as men’s.

The discrepancy in the level of seriousness and attention given to men's cycling compared to women's cycling can be attributed to several factors including historical precedence, media coverage, sponsorship and funding and cultural perceptions, but is this still an excuse for poor logistical planning and the dangerous situation that riders of the TFIP found themselves in last year?

The 2023 edition of the CIC-Tour Féminin International des Pyrénées encountered its share of hurdles, prompting introspection within the cycling community. Notably, cyclists voiced concerns over safety and logistical issues.Cyclists expressed apprehension about participating in certain stages and safety concerns, coupled with logistical limitations, prompted a collective stance from the riders, highlighting the importance of athlete welfare in competitive cycling.

To summarise, the 2nd edition of the CIC-Tour Féminin International des Pyrénées turned into a fiasco. Serious safety problems were noted, putting the riders in real danger, and the International Cycling Union (UCI) decided to stop the race before the final stage. The race organisers faced criticism and were prompted to reflect on how to address these concerns moving forward.

A lack of road closures saw cars on the course and on the wrong side of the road, pedestrians on the road, cyclists going into blind bends with traffic heading straight towards them… A high level of insecurity reigned during the first two stages, provoking legitimate anger among the cyclists. After the neutralisation of part of stage 2, the 3rd and final stage on the following day was simply cancelled by the International Cycling Union (UCI), which took a logical decision in view of the events, but only after several of the racers and teams had already withdrawn.

Historical Precedence: Men's cycling has a longer history and tradition compared to women's cycling. The sport has been dominated by men for much of its existence, resulting in established races, teams, and fan bases that have historically received more attention and investment.

Media Coverage: Men's cycling events often receive more extensive media coverage than women's events. Major races like the Tour de France and the Giro d'Italia garner significant attention from broadcasters, sponsors, and fans worldwide, while women's races receive less airtime and visibility.

Sponsorship and Funding: Men's cycling teams and events tend to attract larger sponsorships and financial investments compared to their women's counterparts. This disparity in funding can impact the overall professionalism, competitiveness, and exposure of women's cycling.

Cultural Perceptions: Cycling, like many other sports, has been traditionally associated with masculinity, leading to societal perceptions that men's cycling is more prestigious and deserving of attention. These cultural attitudes can influence the level of support and recognition given to women's cycling.

Structural Inequities: Women's cycling has historically faced structural barriers and inequalities in terms of race opportunities, prize money, and resources compared to men's cycling. While efforts have been made to address these disparities in recent years, they continue to impact the perception and development of women's cycling.

Audience Demand: There is a perception among broadcasters and sponsors that there is less demand for women's cycling among viewers and fans compared to men's cycling. As a result, broadcasters allocate fewer resources and prioritise men's events, perpetuating a cycle of unequal representation and visibility.

Looking Ahead to the 2024 Race:

With the lessons hopefully learned from 2023, anticipation mounts for the 2024 edition of the CIC-Tour Féminin International des Pyrénées. Organisers are prioritising safety and logistical planning, ensuring a smoother experience for both participants and spectators. With improved infrastructure and enhanced safety measures in place, the Association Française des Coureures Cyclistes (AFCC) are confident that this year’s event will provide a memorable and seamless experience for riders and spectators alike but the issue remains that women’s cycling is still not being given the same status as men’s.

Addressing these underlying factors requires a concerted effort across the cycling community, including race organisers, sponsors, media outlets, and fans, to promote gender equality and support the growth of women's cycling on par with men's cycling. Efforts to increase exposure, investment, and opportunities for women's cycling can help bridge the gap and ensure that both men's and women's races receive equal recognition and respect in the sport.

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