Dani King calls for women's Tour de France cycle race

Hampshire Chronicle: Dani King Dani King

Hampshire's Olympic gold medallist Dani King has backed calls for a women's Tour de France - and can even imagine competing in the epic race.

King, from Hamble, believes a women's Tour de France should be a shorter distance than the men's race, but held on the same days and on the same course.

"We are in 2013 and after the London Olympics, we women proved that we can compete as top athletes and put on an amazing show," she said.

King, 22, an Olympic and world champion in the team pursuit as well as being a world record-holder in the event, is in her first season with Wiggle-Honda ProCycling team.

Her success has been on the track but she said she "does have ambitions" for road racing, stressing: "I just love competing and I love being on my bike."

Chris Froome's triumph as Britain's second consecutive winner of the men's race seems to have added to the interest in reviving a version for women which has not been held since 2009.

There are now more than 66,670 signatures on an online petition calling for a women's version of the Tour de France - up from just over 62,000 when Froome crossed the finishing line a day earlier.

Britain's former world champion and 2008 Olympic time trial silver medallist Emma Pooley, Olympic road race champion Marianne Vos, Kathryn Bertine and ironman triathlon champion Chrissie Wellington launched the petition earlier this month.

Women's road races are currently up to 145km (90 miles) long.

"For a women's race, that works," King said.

"In terms of distance, I think that a women's Tour should potentially be shorter and the length of the Tour should be shorter than the men's race.

"You would need a top field of world cup standard.

"In women's road racing there is a lot more work to be done to get the coverage but we have proved it is just as exciting."

She pointed to the Tour of Flanders where the existing infrastucture is used so that women can compete but over shorter distances.

In a letter to Tour director Christian Prudhomme, the petition calls for women to be on the starting line of the 101st Tour de France in 2014, stating: "Hopefully 30 years from now, we will see 2014 as the year that opened people's eyes to true equality in the sport of cycling."

British Cycling president Brian Cookson , who is challenging Ireland's Pat McQuaid for the presidency of the International Cycling Union (UCI), has described a permanent women's Tour as a "great" idea but feels it might need to be "over modified distances, modified number of days, and so on".

He suggested that while more high-profile and serious competitions could be good for the sport, there may be "some serious logistical problems and organisational problems" with adding a women's event to the Tour de France which has previously been tried.

The petition states: "After a century, it is about time women are allowed to race the Tour de France, too.

"While many women's sports face battles of inequity, road cycling remains one of the worst offenders: fewer race opportunities, no televised coverage, shorter distances, and therefore salary and prize money inequity.

"We seek not to race against the men, but to have our own professional field running in conjunction with the men's event, at the same time, over the same distances, on the same days, with modifications in start/finish times so neither gender's race interferes with the other."

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