For the first time since the ‘80s, there will be a women’s Tour de France long-distance cycling race taking place this summer. It kicks off this Sunday, July 24, from Paris, and 24 elite teams will race each other through the fields and mountains of France. They’ll cover 1,035.5 kilometers over the course of eight days to cross the finish line on July 31.
This time around, however, the Tour de France Femmes looks a bit different. For one, it’s presented by the virtual racing platform Zwift, and is officially called the Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift. There’s also a significantly larger amount of available prize money than there was in the ‘80s. According to VeloNews, it is the richest women’s race in history, with an available purse of €250,000 (about $255,000).
By contrast, when Marianne Martin won the Tour de France Femmes in 1984, she received just $1,000, which she shared with her whole team. That same year, the winner of the men’s Tour de France received $200,000. Unfortunately, the gender pay gap hasn’t closed in the decades since. The prize money for the 2022 Tour de France Femmes may be historic, but it pales in comparison to the men’s Tour de France 2022 purse: €2.3 million.
According to Martin, prize money isn’t just an added bonus for winning a race—it can make or break a cyclist’s career because qualifying for elite races means first having to travel around the world to smaller races to compete, plus the cost of training and equipment. “I never raced for the money,” Martin says, “but I had to stop racing for the lack of it.”
There is still a long road ahead when it comes to addressing gender inequality in sports (and just in general). And to help raise awareness of this fact, the digital platform Strava, a mobile app that connects runners and cyclists with online communites and challenges, has partnered with the Tour de France and Zwift, and pledged $1 million to equity in professional sports. The first portion of that commitment is going to The Cyclists Alliance, an independent union representing over 220 riders that advocates for equal pay and better working conditions.
For your part, one of the best ways to support these incredible athletes is to tune in to the competition. In the U.S., you can watch the cycling action streaming on Peacock. Bon chance, cyclists!
If you want to train for your own bicycle race, whether it’s a Tour de France or a Tour de Living Room, here’s a strengthening and stretching yoga flow specifically designed for cyclists.