Women's cycling makes exciting impact

Cycling
Cycling

Sir Gary Verity believes today's women's Tour de Yorkshire is the "start of a revolution" in sport and the battle for equality.

The race sees a women's peloton including world champion Lizzie Armitstead tackle exactly the same 137km route from Otley to Doncaster that the men will take on in stage two of their race later in the afternoon.

On offer is a prize fund totalling £50,000 - with around £15,000 going to the winner. It will be the largest prize fund ever awarded in a women's cycling race, and amounts to more than a single rider would collect by winning all three stages of the men's race.

Following a week marred by allegations of sexism within British Cycling - leading to the resignation of technical director Shane Sutton so close to the Rio Olympics - it is hoped the Tour de Yorkshire can strike a positive note.

"There will be huge interest and coverage," Verity told Press Association Sport. "The women's race will be the start of a revolution in women's cycling and in women's sport.

"We're duty bound as organisers to do anything we can to make sure women's cycling catches up with men's cycling."

Since the Tour de Yorkshire prize fund was announced, Prudential RideLondon has gone a step further by announcing a 100,000 euro fund (£78,000) for its women's race in July, but Verity said the issues go further than money alone.

"Absolutely I welcome it and we want the next organisers to go bigger, but what RideLondon doesn't do is give the women a proper parcours to race," he said. "The Tour de Yorkshire is the first time the women will ride exactly the same parcours as the men, with the same media coverage, and that's a really important thing."

Verity has plans to grow the women's race at the Tour de Yorkshire further, but believes the key to doing so is expanding the overall event from three to four days.

The logistics of running a men's and women's race over the same route on the same day require the starts and finishes to be as close together as possible, but given the Tour's need to visit all four corners of the vast county, that would most easily be achieved with an additional day's racing.

"If we have four we can do what I call horseshoe stages, with the starts and finishes much closer together," he said. "We have to use the same motorbikes, the same TV crews, the same commissaires, the same apparatus for both races, and it's much easier if it's 20 minutes from start to finish rather than a couple of hours."

British Cycling has so far opposed the expansion of the race, but Verity believes momentum is growing.

"The UCI want it to be four days, the sponsors want four days, the teams, the public, the broadcasters...there is a long queue of people who want four days," he said.

The women's race is due to leave Otley at 8.15am, and will be broadcast live in full, before the men follow later in the afternoon.

Team Lotto-NL Jumbo's Dylan Groenewegen will wear the leader's blue jersey in the men's race following his victory in Settle on Friday, but there will be no Sir Bradley Wiggins in the field following his abandonment late in the stage.