It is the season of sport and like many people I was very happy to see the charming Bradley Wiggins (with his excellent sideburns) make history by becoming the first British person to ever win any kind of sporting competition. And as the Olympics has allegedly inspired the great British public to get off their arses, do some exercise and stop consuming so much McDonalds and Coke (Oh, wait, actually..) the grand tour has got me even more excited about the joys of cycling.

Bicycles are wonderful machines and cycling is a wonderful thing to do. Bikes don’t require fuel or produce emissions, they can often get you around quicker, you don’t have to pay to park, cycling makes you fitter and healthier, gives you good strong thighs and can invoke a wonderful feeling of freedom.

But I do have one bicycle-related area of discontent… where are all the women in the Tour de France?!

According to the fount of all knowledge (aka Wikipedia) the ‘Tour Cycliste Féminin’ or simply ‘Tour Féminin’ started in 1984, as a women’s version of the Tour. However they struggled to get sponsorship for the event and it faced many organisational difficulties, sometimes leading to cancellation, before the whole thing was discontinued in 2009. The Tour de l’Aude Cycliste Feminin (a different race) ran until 2010 but the 2011 race was cancelled. Now there is no Tour de France equivalent for women.

This is such a shame, for many reasons. There is hardly any women’s sport shown on TV – I’m not a football/F1/rugby fan but could name male players in all these sports. I can’t think of a single female sports person who isn’t young, pretty and likely to be winning an olympic medal. Yes we have been flooded with images of female olympic hopefuls – sadly they are advertising razors and moisturisers, talking about shoes and handbags, and doing ‘sexy’ poses. Is it seen as ‘feminine’ to have strong muscles? To be able to throw heavy weights or run long distances? I remember watching a documentary about body image where the presenter said she didn’t like to do a lot of exercise because she hates being able to see defined muscles in her arms and legs. This is ridiculous. I’m not suggesting every woman should become a body builder but why is it unattractive for women to have physical strength? I recently completed a sprint triathlon – I didn’t do hardcore training and I didn’t complete it in a particularly fast time but I still swim and run and cycle and I love that I am able to do these things. I’ve got strong feet, strong legs and strong arms – I’d rather be this way than a delicate little waif who floats around and needs a ‘big strong man’ to open a jar of jam for her.

So I for one say bring back the ladies Tour de France! Or even better let’s mix it up and introduce some female teams into the tour :) Being strong and fit and healthy is something that can make everyone happier – I recommend long cycle rides in the French countryside, swimming in cold murky lakes and hot, hazy evening walks along country lanes. It’s time for women’s sport to break the stereotypes and become something for everyone.

On yer bikes ladies!

Agnes Pavlova xxx

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