Friday, May 8, 2015

Women and the Tour de France

Helen Russell, Melissa Brand prepare for the Tour de France, charity

The Tour de France is recognised as one of the toughest endurance events you can put your body through. This summer a group of cyclists including two women are taking it on as a charity endeavour, cycling the route 'One Day Ahead' of the main pack. 

Helen Russell and Melissa Brand are the only women in a British charity group planning on the full 3,300kms. And as well as raising funds for leukaemia they're flying the flag for one day having a women's Tour. There is still time to join them with places available through this site: Before The Tour.

It's always surprising to people in this day of women competing everywhere at the highest levels that cycling is still so closed out. When British road-cyclist Nicole Cooke retired, her leaving statement slammed the authorities for their lack of support.

Russell got involved with Geoff Thomas' efforts partly because sadly her mother passed from cancer, but also to show that women can race the full Tour. 
"I’ve attended the Tour three or four times with my dad, John, but to think I’ll now be attempting to cycle the route one day before the pros, riding the exact same roads they will, it will be such an incredible experience.

"Another big motivation for me was learning there were no female riders on board. I felt I had to step up to the mark. I am, and always have been, a big advocate of women’s rights in sport and I didn’t want the ride to go ahead without a female presence, " Russell said. 

Her team-mate Brand has done three Ironman comps so she's not exactly a novice at tough sports. She said: "Similarly to Helen, when I heard there was no female rider on the team, I became extremely motivated to sign up. Le Tour is an amazing opportunity to take on what most people say is the toughest endurance event in the world of sport.

"With the focus on raising money for the lifesaving work of Cure Leukaemia, it’s something I wanted to achieve and support.  It’s also really important for me to show that women can ride hard and are capable of cycling long distances."

You can follow Russell on Twitter (where she contacted me first) at:  @helengoth

More details about their plans are online at the Cure Leukaemia website UK. They are aiming to raise at least one million pounds so every little will help them. 

And from a women in sport viewpoint, it would be huge to see both women complete the course. I'd like to see the reaction from course organisers who have repeately failed to pull a full tour out of their hat. This year once again women will race for one day coming in before the end of the men's race. 

We know from the London Olympics and the women's football world cup that when the talent is there, the crowds will come. Let's see what this does for women's cycling.


Snowcatcher said...

Thanks, Niahm, for telling me about this post! No, I did not know, and I'm glad now I do! I checked on Helen's progress and was so excited to learn she's still going strong, even after a crash with injuries on the second day! Yippee for women!!!

Very sad that their fundraising is not as strong as they hoped, but they've raised SO MUCH MONEY! Much more than I have!

real girl sport said...

@Snowcatcher - they're doing so well. I think people are only starting to get it now as the Tour goes on, you know really understand how much effort they are putting in! I wouldn't put yourself down though - there is a whole team of them together in it.