With the Tour de France, women’s cycling on the right trajectory

Fans of the little queen plagued by post-Tour blues can cheer up. The Tour de France 2022 ended well on Sunday July 24 with the parade in yellow by Dane Jonas Vingegaard, but another Grande Boucle took over the same day on the Champs-Élysées. After three decades of absence, the women’s Tour de France returns this week to follow the opposite route to the men’s and finish its race in the Vosges, at the top of the Planche des Belles Filles (read the marks)Sunday, July 31.

If the event is deprived of the Alpine and Pyrenean reliefs, i.e. the traditional justices of the peace for the men’s event, it is because the 2022 edition represents the first draft of what the female counterpart of the Tour sees itself becoming in the next seasons. “One day we will go to very high mountains”, promised race director and retired peloton Marion Rousse.

For this trial run, Amaury Sport Organization (ASO) is using a recipe born in 1955 and tested a little longer from 1984 to 1989 by the Société du Tour de France, the historic organizer of the race. Dropped by ASO from the 1990s until 2009, the competition remained against the tide before seeing its format reduced to a single stage, contested as a curtain raiser to the men’s race for seven years.

Minimum wage and maternity leave

But the Tour captures this year women’s cycling in a state of professionalization never seen before. “At the time, we didn’t even have the status of professional riders”, retains Marie-Françoise Potereau, who took the start of the six women’s Tour de France in the 1980s alongside Jeannie Longo (triple winner in the jersey of the French team) “while having to work on the side as a ski instructor or sports instructor”. The current vice-president of the French Cycling Federation (FFC), in charge of the plan to feminize the discipline, dates back to a handful of years the structuring of cycling for women, and in particular to 2016.

This is the season in which the International Cycling Union (UCI) launched the World Tour, the equivalent of a world first division. The number of teams will increase to the 14 recognized this year, in particular thanks to the support of nine of the sponsors attached to the men’s elite teams. As in France with the FDJ-Nouvelle Aquitaine-Futuroscope, the only one present in the World Tour, and the female version of the most successful tricolor team among men, or Cofidis, set up this season at the lower level.

Supplemented by an extended calendar for the main one-day races, like the first women’s Paris-Roubaix, these cash inflows have sufficiently inflated the ecosystem for a minimum wage to be introduced in 2020. And this one should be increased to €32,000 next season, the equivalent of what the rider of a second division men’s team receives. Added to this is the possibility of benefiting from maternity leave and access, since 2021 for French women, to health insurance and social security.

11,624 licensed in France

But beyond the World Tour, such progress is still pending. Without going so far as to speak of women’s cycling at two speeds, Jean-Christophe Barbotin acknowledges that “the UCI is not going fast enough to professionalize second division teams”, like that of the Stade Rochelais which he founded eight years ago. In the only French team not dependent on a male formation – “which explains why she was only recognized as a professional in 2019” –, the manager is also suffering the consequences of the still timid interest of French women in cycling, while the FFC only counted 11,624 licensees last year. “To build the team, I have no choice but to include foreign riders. »

Invited to the Tour, the fifth French team “economically had to be present there”, breathes Jean-Christophe Barbotin, who intends to reap the benefits of the world exhibition offered this week. For the first time, each stage of the race will be broadcast unencrypted on France Télévisions and broadcast in 190 countries. Enough to aim for three objectives, by allowing the event to become profitable in the short term, which had been lacking in its previous versions, but also to “to make young girls want to cycle and clubs to invest, considers Marie-Françoise Potereau. The performance of the new French generation, the first to have known only professional structures, could help them. »



Football is finally back on the pitch

In the Coupe de France, the happiness of the little ones is the misfortune of the big ones. We are not going to be happy about the misadventure of Lens, a historic French football club, but the qualification of its opponent Red Star, a third division club (National) which has always done credit to popular football, is good news. As well as the good fortune of Puy-en-Velay (fourth division) against Lorient (Ligue 2), a few days after the official announcement of the cancellation of all amateur championships, to which the Haute-Loire club falls.

“It feels good to talk about football and that football”

Something happened in the world of football this weekend, which owes not only to the sunny conditions which accompanied the round of 16 of the Coupe de France. The previous round had been marred by many controversies over the injustice of playing matches between professionals and semi-professionals and amateurs banned from training because of Covid legislation on team sports. None of that this time, as if the spring of football was announced with the prospect of a possible exit from the health and financial crisis, with the return of Canal + to broadcaster at least until the end of the season. . “It feels good to talk about football and nothing but football”, rejoices Vincent Duluc, head of the daily football section The team and recognized author of field essays.

A new president and a new coach for OM

Frequent in January during the first rounds of the Coupe de France opposing ogres and small thumbs, earthen pots against iron pots, this breath of fresh air has won over Ligue 1. The last two decades have roughly been dominated by two clubs, Lyon in the 2000s and Paris for the following decade. The suspense often boiled down to guessing when the king club was going to be crowned champion.

Nothing like this this year, since four clubs can claim the throne: Lille, Lyon, Paris and to a lesser extent Monaco, which gave up a little ground on the last day.

Between the first and the last, the gap is widening

With a little luck, we will know the champion on the last day of the championship, which has not happened for twenty years. “Our capacity for wonder had been blunted by the undivided domination of Paris SG, an unbeatable champion on the national level and at the same time far from the level on the European level, continues Vincent Duluc. We have the feeling of getting out of this double pain. Paris has proven that it has reached a milestone in the last Champions League (PSG were beaten in the final by Bayern Munich) and by going to crush Barcelona two weeks ago. The big French clubs have risen to its height ”.

The gang of four is not there by chance. Three of the contenders, Paris, Monaco and Lyon have played at least one Champions League semi-final in the past three years. And the fourth thief from Lille has qualified four times for Europe over the past ten seasons.

Sport renowned for making a large place at random, football is putting the lie to its legend: its top-ranking clubs are widening the gap faster and stronger, the points differential between the first and the last having never was also strong. “As my grandmother used to say, it rains harder and harder where it is already wet”, continues the poet Duluc. So to say that the economic and financial power of the big clubs leaves only crumbs to the peasants.

Paris will find Neymar

The victory of the championship will therefore be played between these four clubs for which everything can change in a few seconds. Witness this last day of Ligue 1 on Wednesday March 3 when all the clubs played on the same day at the same time. In the middle of the second half, the scepter of provisional championship leader changed tenant several times. Lille got their hands on it last, but we can tell that Paris will not be fooled by next weekend for the next day.

→ ANALYSIS. Football: Champions League, reform of the strongest

In the meantime, the Parisians will have faced Barcelona on Wednesday March 10 in the Champions League in an apparently comfortable second leg (they won 4-1 in the first leg in Catalonia). And they will likely have recovered the injured Neymar, after reuniting with Marco Verratti and Angel Di Maria this weekend. The match is far from over.