A friend of mine sent me a message the other day wondering if there was a women’s Tour de France. As with most sporting events, I assumed that there was – just that it received little media coverage, a seemingly unfortunate fact of women’s racing.

After a little digging I found that, in fact, no women’s Tour de France exists; though there is one race in their season considered of equal importance to the Tour. The Giro Donne (aka Giro D’Italia Femminile) – A 921.9km, 10 stage race that traverses through Italy in much the same way the Tour covers France.

Having watched the women’s pro field at the 2010 Canada Cup I can’t imagine women’s cycling being any less exciting than the mens, but with very little coverage, and a lower quality of coverage than we’re accustomed to (ie. Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen’s animated commentary), I’m not sure the women’s cycling has the momentum to take some sporting limelight… Cycling has enough trouble finding mainstream coverage to start with.

That said, I don’t really understand why people aren’t interested… ;-)

Sexist inuendo aside, La Gazzeta Della Bici has a series of articles on just this topic authored by Pigeons, a regular contributor to Podium Café. If you’re at all interested in the inner workings of women’s cycling I would invite you to start here:

How to follow women’s cycling – by Pigeons

As you might imagine, women’s cycling is much the same as men (with the obvious exception of women riding the bikes instead of men), but two of the key differences are:

  1. Team Size
    Women’s teams are smaller than men’s (usually 6-8 racers). As such the women are forced to be more well rounded cyclists, rather than being able to focus specifically on certain disciplines (ie. sprinting, climbing, etc.)
  2. Race Limits
    For unknown reasons the UCI has limited the length and duration of women’s events to 130-140km/day and 6 stages (though events can be longer with special permission). Compare that to the Tour de France – 21 stages and 3,642km over, that’s quite a difference!

    Despite the antiquated feeling of this regulation, the nice by-product is that the women usually have more energy over the course of the race and you can (generally) expect way more attacks.

There are other differences as well, but I would imagine as a spectator these would generate the biggest changes in dynamic.

Even those in the pro mens circuit appear amped about the women’s scene, as is evidenced in the video below. Truth be told, outside of mountain bike racing, and the mixed group in the Prairie Roubaix I haven’t experienced too many women’s races, but that’s something I’m hoping to rectify – on both a local and international scale!

“Women and men are a little bit different… Men will do about 80% of what you say and.. Women will do 100% of what you say.”

For those interested in diving a little deeper I hope this has helped point you in the right direction, but for those who just want to name drop to prove their expansive knowledge of the sport, I’ve included a handy flowchart to satiate your needs ;-)