‘Sexist’ tradition killed off after outrage
One of the Tour de France's most famous customs will end this year when the post-race podium ritual of the winner being flanked by two young, attractive women comes to an end.
Instead, organisers said Thursday (AEST) that there will be just one hostess on one side of the celebrating cyclist with a male host on the other when the 2020 Tour starts in Nice on August 29.
"You used to see the champion surrounded by two hostesses, with five elected officials on one side and five representatives of the sponsors on the other," said race director, Christian Prudhomme.
"Now, it will be different with only one elected official and one representative of the sponsors of the yellow jersey, as well as a hostess and a host for the first time.
"Yes, it's new but we have already been doing it in other races for 20 years like in Liege-Bastogne-Liege."
The presence of attractive young women on sports podiums has been a bone of contention in recent years with many condemning it as sexist.
Tour organisers gave serious consideration to banning podium girls before the 2018 Tour, but ultimately allowed the tradition to continue.
In 2014, Vincenzo Nibali, who went on to win the event that year, was snubbed by a podium hostess during the presentations at the end of a stage and was famously forced to share a snog with a soft-cushioned animal mascot instead.
In 2018, Formula One put an end to "grid girls" who had been ever-presents at the start of grands prix in the world championship.
Last year, a petition containing nearly 38,000 signatures objected to the use of podium girls on the Tour de France with activists protesting "women are not objects nor rewards".
Despite the change at the Tour, Prudhomme did not say whether or not the tradition of each hostess giving the cyclists a kiss would continue.
However, the current health protocols required during the coronavirus pandemic will likely spell the end of such familiarity.
The Tour de France was pushed back to August/September from its traditional July slot due to the pandemic.
Health concerns remain paramount ahead of the Tour which ends in Paris on September 20.
Thousands of fans routinely line the route of three-week showpiece. On Wednesday, Prudhomme appealed to spectators to wear protective masks when they congregate at the road side or high up in the mountain stages.
"For the spectators, on the road, there is no question. Common sense indicates that you have to wear a mask, even if the formal obligation to do so depends on the prefects of the 32 departments crossed," he said.
Wearing a mask in public is not compulsory throughout all areas of the country. The problem is compounded out on the road and countryside.
During the various cycling events of the summer, many riders regularly expressed their concerns on the subject.
"People do not realise that when they come to shout at 40 centimetres to encourage us, there is a risk," said rider Julien Bernard of the Trek team.
The worst scenario for the organisers would be that a case of Covid-19 spreads in the peloton.
On Wednesday, a battery of health measures were announced.
The presentation of the teams, on August 27 in Nice, will be in the presence of a maximum of 1,750 people seated, a figure that may be revised downwards depending on the evolution of the health crisis.
A Covid 'cell' of 15 people will be on duty throughout the competition, in conjunction with the regional health agencies.
A mobile screening laboratory will be present throughout the Tour, "with results known within two hours maximum".
The cyclists will in particular be subjected to two tests before the start of the race as well as each rest day.
'Bubbles', bio-secure units, will be put in place for teams and management, to avoid contact with outsiders as much as possible.
There will also be a reduction in the numbers associated with the Tour - cyclists, teams, sponsors, organisers.
Usually there are around 5,000 people; this year, it will be in the region of 3,000.
TV commentators will remain in Paris.
Access to team bus parking lots is prohibited to the media and limited to members of the 'bubble' only.
For the public, there is likely to be a stop to selfies.
Originally published as 'Sexist' tradition killed off after outrage