'What came first, the chicken or the egg?' Bear with me, for it seems this well-trodden phrase can apply to women's cycling too. For years critics have argued that a female Tour de France would have no audience and no sponsorship. Without one (the chicken), you certainly won't get the other (the egg). And vice versa.Now, what is there stopping any of these 70,000 petitioners from holding a women's Tour de France at any time they like? They can do exactly what Henri Desgrange did in 1903, obtain a newspaper sponsorship, attract 60 entrants, and hold a race. There is absolutely nothing preventing anyone from doing that.
But just look at what's happened in the last few weeks, and the first 'reason' critics give for not staging a women's race – a supposed lack of audience – is almost certainly not true.
A petition calling for a women's Tour de France launched earlier this month, now has 70,000 signatures and counting. Surely, if campaigners can prove there is an audience, the egg – sponsorship – will inevitably follow?
That's enough chicken and egg comparisons for now. My point is simple. The petition in question was launched by several key women in cycling – including Britain's former world champion and 2008 Olympic time trial silver medallist Emma Pooley and Olympic road race champion Marianne Vos – and has gained huge momentum in a short space of time.
With Chris Froome in the news for pedalling his way to glory in the Tour de France over the past few weeks, now seems the time to act for a women's race.
In fact, there are already many women's races which have more entrants than the original Tour de France did. They tend to be shorter, but then, any of those race directors can simply extend the race if they want.
Instead, what the women want to do is force the Tour de France to hold a women's race, pay it equal prize money to the men, and pretend that it is of the same interest to bicycling enthusiasts and worthy of the same respect. The Tour is doing the right thing by simply ignoring the parasites, but an even more effective response would be to call their bluff and announce that the Tour de France is neither a men's event nor a women's event, but a race that is equally open to all men and women who qualify.
If they want to be particularly cruel, they can allow one token women's team and demonstrate just how far from equal they are. The NBA could have saved a lot of money if, instead wasting millions on the WNBA, they turned one franchise into an all-star all-women's team to serve as the Washington Generals of the league. That would have been hilarious and probably sold more tickets in a season than the entire WNBA ever did.
The most defensible way to deal with equalitarians is to force them to deal with true equality, thereby rubbing the fact of nature's inequality in their faces. This won't stop them from babbling about disparate impact, nonexistent privilege and the esoteric fairy tales concocted in women's studies programs, but that's just a fighting withdrawal. The best way, of course, is to simply tell the parasites to go to Hell and start their own organization.
The fact is that there was a female Tour de France from 1984 to 2009. And it failed, like most leagues that involve women playing men's sports do.