Leading female cyclists have launched a campaign to have women included in the Tour de France.

Dutch Olympic road race gold medallist Marianne Vos and British Olympian Emma Pooley are among those leading the charge in an online petition urging Tour de France organisers to let women take part in next year's race.

“For 100 years, the Tour de France has been the pinnacle endurance sports event of the world, watched by and inspiring millions of people. And for 100 years, it has been an exclusively male race," they wrote in a letter to Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme.

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

A "Tour Feminin" women's race in France that was staged in the past, but not since 2009, "lacked parity, media coverage, and sponsorship'' the letter to Prudhomme says.

Equal opportunity

Pooley won the 2009 race, known as the Grande Boucle Feminine, and Vos placed third.

The riders backing the petition said letting women race in the men's Tour, "will also create an equal opportunity to debunk the myths of physical 'limitations' placed upon female athletes".

Vos conceded that getting women into the 2014 Tour might not be realistic.

"But we hope to get the ball rolling,'' she told Dutch daily De Telegraaf.

More than 2,200 people had put their names to the petition on Friday.


Source: Al Jazeera and agencies