The women's version of the famous Tour de France will start in 2022, at the Champs Elysées, right after the men's race finish.
After several failed attempts to implement the competition, this time is for good! This will become one of the most significant women's sports events in the world, in a modality that has evolved a lot in recent years.
The route of the competition, scheduled to start on July 24, 2022, has not yet been revealed. However, during the presentation, the organization said that it would feature "the most iconic climbs" and that athletes will be facing "the most challenging route".
Enthusiasm within the cycling community
Anna van der Breggen, Olympic champion at Rio'2016, said that this is a massive moment for professional women's cycling. "The Tour de France is the most famous event, and to see women in this competition is an old dream," said the Dutchwoman, speaking to the press. "Women's cycling has evolved a lot in recent years, and it deserves a world event that is up to it. The Tour de France is an unparalleled global event, which will increase the visibility of our sport".
At this stage, the cycling community is optimistic, and many of its protagonists believe that the champions will inspire women worldwide to join this sport, giving rise to new vocations. At the same time, the competition will make the general public vibrate. It's another step towards equality and parity between men and women, a good example given by sports.
The foundation of the Tour
The Tour de France was created in 1903 under the impulse of specialized press organizations and bicycle manufacturers. It was organized by the newspaper L'Auto, directed by Henri Desgrange, to boost sales of the newspaper and weaken its competitor, Le Vélo.
Since its first edition, the event has been a huge popular success. Despite accusations of irregularities and doping for certain athletes throughout its history, or frequent changes to the rules, heavily criticized, the Tour de France rapidly became one of France's and the world's most popular sporting events. The cyclists' performances, nicknamed the "road giants", were magnified and glorified by newspapers and, years later, by radio stations and TV coverage, which helped to consolidate the reputation and interest that the event maintains to this day, nowadays amplified by the intense Internet coverage of every moment of the competition.
Portuguese cyclists on the Tour
Professional cycling and the Tour is very popular in Portugal. From Alves Barbosa to Rui Costa, from Joaquim Agostinho to Sérgio Paulinho, the Tour has seen several Portuguese cyclists competing and achieving prominence in their participation.
Although Alves Barbosa was the first Portuguese to participate in the Tour, back in 1956, the name that stands out most is Joaquim Agostinho. Agostinho holds both the record for presences by a Portuguese cyclist in the race (13) and victories in stages (5). His stage triumph in 1979 stands out: Agostinho won the mythical arrival at the top of the Alpe d'Huez, one of the milestones of his career, and to remember this feat there's even a statue of him on the 14th curve of that climb.
Acácio da Silva was another of the Portuguese cyclists who stood out on the Tour. The athlete is the only Portuguese to have worn the yellow jersey, the symbol of the race leader. In 1989, Silva was the leader during five stages and, in seven total appearances on the Tour, he won three stages.
In the general classification, Joaquim Agostinho is, so far, the best ranked Portuguese ever: 3rd place in 1978. José Azevedo follows with 5th place in 2004 and Alves Barbosa was 10th in 1956.
Let's hope that Portuguese women cyclists follow suit!