Grande Boucle Féminine Internationale

  (Redirected from Grande Boucle)

Various professional women's cycle stage races across France have been held as an equivalent to the Tour de France for women, with the first of these races staged as a one off in 1955.[1] From 1984, a women's Tour de France was staged consistently, although the name of the event changed several times - such as Tour de France Féminin, Tour of the EEC Women, Tour Cycliste Féminin and Grande Boucle Féminine Internationale.[1]

Maillot jaune from the 1993 Tour de la C.E.E. féminin, worn by winner Heidi Van De Vijver

Over the years, the races struggled with various issues including financial difficulties, limited media coverage and trademark difficulties with Amaury Sport Organisation (the organisers of the Tour de France).[2][3] The last Grande Boucle Féminine Internationale took place in 2009.[1]

In 2014, following criticism and campaigning from the professional peloton, Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO) - the organiser of the Tour de France - launched a one-day race for the professional peloton (La Course by Le Tour de France). From 2022, La Course will be replaced by Tour de France Femmes, a 8 day stage race in the UCI Women's World Tour, to praise from the media, campaigners and the professional peloton.

History of the racesEdit

1955: the Leulliot raceEdit

In 1955, the first edition of a women's Tour de France was held as a one off event.[1] Organised by Jean Leulliot, with the event made up of five stages with 41 athletes starting. The race was won by Manx cyclist, Millie Robinson, however there was no race organised for 1956 onwards.[1][4]

1984–1989: the Société du Tour de France racesEdit

Women's Tour de France
Race details
Local name(s)Tour de France Féminin
TypeStage race
OrganiserSociété du Tour de France
First edition1984 (1984)
Final edition1989
First winner  Marianne Martin (USA)
Most wins  Jeannie Longo (FRA) (3 wins)
Final winner  Jeannie Longo (FRA)

In 1984, the Société du Tour de France, organizer of the men's Tour de France, decided that it would introduce a women's version of the Tour - Tour de France Féminin. From 1984 through to 1989 the race was run alongside the men's event, as a curtain raiser, with both races using the same finishing location (the women's race run over a shorter distance for each stage). In 1989 Jean-Marie Leblanc, director of the Tour de France, halted the race in its current format, citing the economic cost of organising the race with limited media coverage and sponsorship being generated. As a result of the races dissociation from the Tour de France, the name was changed to the Tour of the EEC Women.[1]

Year Distance


Stages First Second Third
1984 1059 18   Marianne Martin (USA)   Heleen Hage (NED)   Deborah Shumway (USA)
1985 834.4 12 + Prologue   Maria Canins (ITA)   Jeannie Longo (FRA)   Cécile Odin (FRA)
1986 991.7 15 + Prologue   Maria Canins (ITA) (2)   Jeannie Longo (FRA)   Inga Thompson (USA)
1987 971.4 15 + Prologue   Jeannie Longo (FRA)   Maria Canins (ITA)   Ute Enzenauer (FRG)
1988 838.5 12 + Prologue   Jeannie Longo (FRA) (2)   Maria Canins (ITA)   Elizabeth Hepple (AUS)
1989 786 11 + Prologue   Jeannie Longo (FRA) (3)   Maria Canins (ITA)   Inga Thompson (USA)

1990–1992: Tour of the EEC WomenEdit

Tour of the EEC Women
Race details
Local name(s)Tour de la C.E.E. féminin
TypeStage race
OrganiserSociété du Tour de France (1990–1991)
Amaury Sport Organization (1992–1993)
First edition1990 (1990)
Final edition1993 (1993)
First winner  Catherine Marsal (FRA)
Most winsNo repeat winners
Final winner  Heidi Van de Vijver (BEL)

Following the change in race format, calendar position and name of the race to the Tour de la C.E.E. féminin, the race ran for a further four editions albeit with no connection to the Tour de France, through to the 1993 season.[5][1]

Year Distance


Stages First Second Third
1990 866.5 9   Catherine Marsal (FRA)   Leontien van Moorsel (NED)   Astrid Schop (NED)
1991 1097.4 12 + Prologue   Astrid Schop (NED)   Jeannie Longo (FRA)   Roberta Bonanomi (ITA)
1992 ? 11 + Prologue   Leontien van Moorsel (NED)   Heidi Van de Vijver (BEL)   Roberta Bonanomi (ITA)
1993 ? 11 + Prologue   Heidi Van de Vijver (BEL)   Leontien van Moorsel (NED)   Aleksandra Koliaseva (RUS)

1992–2009: the Pierre Boué racesEdit

Tour Cycliste Féminin (1992–1997)
Grande Boucle Féminine Internationale (1998–2009)
Race details
TypeStage race
OrganiserPierre Boué (1992–2003)
First edition1992 (1992)
Final edition2009 (2009)
First winner  Leontien van Moorsel (NED)
Most wins  Fabiana Luperini (ITA)
  Joane Somarriba (ESP)
3 wins each
Final winner  Emma Pooley (GBR)

In 1992, a new race was created, the Tour Cycliste Féminin, organised in August by Pierre Boué, but again with no connection to either the Tour de France or the ASO.[6] The race lacked stable sponsorship and with the location of stages determined by locations willing to contribute, there were long transfers between stages. Until the 1998 edition, the race was known as the Tour Cycliste Féminin, but the Société du Tour de France (now part of the ASO), organisers of the men's Tour de France, claimed that infringed their trademark and in 1999 the name of the event was changed to Grande Boucle Féminine Internationale.[7] The race was not held in 2004 due to organisational difficulties. It returned, albeit smaller in size and scope, in 2005. The previous races were 10 to 15 stages; later ones had five and stayed in one region. The race also received a lower classification by the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI), and had a reduced field. In 2008, the race was six days and seven stages. However, in 2009 the race was only four days long with only 66 riders, after a planned race start and three stages in Britain fell through, leading winner Emma Pooley to joke that the race was "more of a Petite Boucle than Grande."[8][9] The race was discontinued after the 2009 edition.[1]

Year Distance


Stages First Second Third
Tour Cycliste Féminin
1992 805.5 9 + Prologue   Leontien van Moorsel (NED)   Jeannie Longo (FRA)   Heidi Van De Vijver (BEL)
1993 1183.1 12 + Prologue   Leontien van Moorsel (NED) (2)   Marion Clignet (FRA)   Heidi Van De Vijver (BEL)
1994 1300 14   Valentina Polkhanova (RUS)   Rasa Polikevičiūtė (LTU)   Cécile Odin (FRA)
1995 ? 13 + Prologue   Fabiana Luperini (ITA)   Jeannie Longo (FRA)   Luzia Zberg (SUI)
1996 1238 12 + Prologue   Fabiana Luperini (ITA) (2)   Rasa Polikevičiūtė (LTU)   Jeannie Longo (FRA)
1997 1156.3 12   Fabiana Luperini (ITA) (3)   Barbara Heeb (SUI)   Linda Jackson (CAN)
Grande Boucle Féminine Internationale
1998 1392 12   Edita Pučinskaitė (LTU)   Fabiana Luperini (ITA)   Alessandra Cappellotto (ITA)
1999 1581.4 14   Diana Žiliūtė (LTU)   Valentina Polkhanova (RUS)   Edita Pučinskaitė (LTU)
2000 1456.2 14   Joane Somarriba (ESP)   Edita Pučinskaitė (LTU)   Geraldine Loewenguth (FRA)
2001 1559.7 14   Joane Somarriba (ESP) (2)   Fabiana Luperini (ITA)   Judith Arndt (GER)
2002 1568.9 14   Zinaida Stahurskaia (BLR)   Susanne Ljungskog (SWE)   Joane Somarriba (ESP)
2003 1302.8 14   Joane Somarriba (ESP) (3)   Nicole Brändli (SUI)   Judith Arndt (GER)
2004 Race not held
2005 411.7 6   Priska Doppmann (SUI)   Edwige Pitel (FRA)   Christiane Soeder (AUT)
2006 467.4 5   Nicole Cooke (GBR)   Maryline Salvetat (FRA)   Tatsiana Sharakova (BLR)
2007 404.5 5   Nicole Cooke (GBR) (2)   Priska Doppmann (SUI)   Emma Pooley (GBR)
2008 556.9 7   Christiane Soeder (AUT)   Karin Thürig (SUI)   Nicole Cooke (GBR)
2009 306.5 4   Emma Pooley (GBR)   Christiane Soeder (AUT)   Marianne Vos (NED)

Other significant French stage racesEdit

French women's stage racing continued after the Grande Boucle ceased after the 2009 edition, with at least two further stage races - the Tour de l'Aude Cycliste Féminin and the Route de France Féminine. As with the Grande Boucle, neither of these races had a direct relationship with the Tour de France. Following further financial and organisational difficulties, the Tour de l'Aude Cycliste Féminin and the Route de France Féminine ended in 2010 and 2016 respectively.[10]

Since 2003, the Tour Cycliste Féminin International de l'Ardèche has been held as a multi day stage race in southeastern France in the Ardèche region.[11] For several years, this was the only international level multi day stage race in France.[11]

Subsequent ASO racesEdit

La Course by Le Tour de FranceEdit

Following criticism by the professional women's peloton and campaigners such as Kathryn Bertine regarding the lack of a women's Tour de France,[12][13] the organisers of the Tour de France (ASO) launched La Course by Le Tour de France in 2014.[14][15] This race would be held in conjunction with the Tour de France, with the first edition taking place as a one-day race on the Champs-Élysées in advance of the final stage of the men's race. In subsequent years, the race took place in a variety of locations such as Pau, Col de la Colombière and Col d'Izoard in conjunction with the men's race, as the ASO argued that this was the "best way to shine a light on female cycling".[14][16]

The race was initially praised for the exposure gained by 'sharing the stage' with the Tour de France, however La Course was criticised for not being a "full Tour de France", being overshadowed by the men's race and not having a challenging enough parcours.[16][17][18][19] ASO were also criticised for not doing enough to promote the race.[19][20] ASO stated that logistical issues mean that a men's and women's Tour de France would not be able to be staged simultaneously,[15] and that any race must be financially sustainable.[19][21]

Tour de France FemmesEdit

In June 2021, ASO announced that they would launch a new women's stage race, Tour de France Femmes. The 8 day race would take place after the 2022 Tour de France in July 2022, with the first stage taking place on the Champs-Élysées. The men's tour director, Christian Prudhomme stated that lessons must be learned from the failure of previous events like the Grande Boucle Féminine Internationale,[22] and the goal of ASO is to have a financially sustainable event, one "that will still exist in 100 years".[23] The Tour de France Femmes does not succeed these historic races, with ASO stating that the 2022 race is the "1st edition" of Tour de France Femmes.

Further readingEdit

  • Scrymgeour, Kristy (2003). "La Grande Débâcle: What's wrong with the women's Tour de France?".


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Frattini, Kirsten (2020-12-16). "La Grande Boucle, La Course and the return of the women's Tour de France". Retrieved 2022-02-15.
  2. ^ Pretot, Julien (2021-10-14). "Cycling-Women's Tour de France organisers hoping the race will live long". Reuters. Retrieved 2022-02-15.
  3. ^ "Tour de France organisers reveal women's race will be revived in 2022". the Guardian. 2021-05-11. Retrieved 2022-02-15.
  4. ^ "Grande Boucle Féminine Internationale (F) 1955".
  5. ^ "The Breakaway, by Nicole Cooke (Part 1)". 2 September 2014.
  6. ^ "Grande Boucle féminine". Retrieved 2022-03-06.
  7. ^ Dauncey, Hugh (2012). French Cycling: A Social and Cultural History. Liverpool University Press. pp. 212–213. ISBN 9781846318351.
  8. ^ Hedwig Kröner (2008-08-08). "2009 Grande Boucle Féminine starts in Britain". Retrieved 2011-05-24.
  9. ^ Simon Richardson (2009-06-19). "Pooley wins first stage of Grande Boucle". Cycling Weekly. Retrieved 2011-05-24.
  10. ^ "Route de France féminine : ce sera pour 2012? (in French)". L'est Eclair. May 22, 2011. Archived from the original on October 9, 2011. Retrieved 2011-06-27.
  11. ^ a b Utilisateur, Super. "Historique des Tours Féminins à étapes en France". tcfia (in French). Retrieved 2022-04-12.
  12. ^ "Women's Tour manifesto published". BBC Sport. 12 September 2013. Retrieved 2022-02-15. More than 93,000 have signed a petition by the group, led by cyclist and writer Kathryn Bertine, World Ironman champion Chrissie Wellington, and cyclists Marianne Vos and Emma Pooley.
  13. ^ Macur, Juliet (2014-07-26). "Women as Athletes, Not Accessories, at Least for a Day". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2022-02-15.
  14. ^ a b "La Course by Le Tour de France: everything you need to know". BikeRadar. Retrieved 2022-02-15.
  15. ^ a b "La Course to showcase women's cycling". BBC Sport. 15 July 2014. Retrieved 2022-02-15.
  16. ^ a b "Polarized opinions remain on La Course". 2018-07-17. Retrieved 2022-02-15.
  17. ^ "Annemiek van Vleuten unhappy with 'step back' for women's La Course race". Cyclist. Retrieved 2022-02-15.
  18. ^ Richardson, Hollie (2019-06-24). "The lack of women's Tour de France proves sexism in sports". Stylist. Retrieved 2022-02-15.
  19. ^ a b c "Why is there no women's Tour de France?". BBC Sport. 16 July 2018. Retrieved 2022-02-15.
  20. ^ "LET THEM RACE | THE CASE FOR A WOMEN'S TOUR DE FRANCE". Liv Bicycles. Retrieved 15 February 2022. But, if you ask many of the elite racers at La Course, the women’s race feels like a parade compared to the grandeur of the Tour de France the men take for granted.
  21. ^ Ballinger, Alex (2019-02-05). "Women's Tour de France alongside men's race 'impossible', says director Christian Prudhomme". Retrieved 2022-02-15.
  22. ^ "Tour de France organisers reveal women's race will be revived in 2022". the Guardian. 2021-05-11. Retrieved 2022-02-15.
  23. ^ Pretot, Julien (2021-10-14). "Cycling-Women's Tour de France organisers hoping the race will live long". Reuters. Retrieved 2022-02-15.