Women’s Tour de France revival is reminder that ‘the fight for equality is far from over’

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Former pro cyclist and filmmaker Kathryn Bertine is careful when choosing how to describe the 2022 Tour de France Femmes, which concluded on Sunday with Dutch cyclist Annemiek van Vleuten cruising to victory.

“Too many headlines are reading, ‘the first,'” says Bertine.

Other stories went with ‘inaugural’ which is more accurate — definition: “the first in a series of planned events” — but still misleading. “I think the general public just equates ‘inaugural’ with ‘first,'” she says.

For Bertine, this distinction isn’t just about semantics. It’s about making sure history isn’t erased.

Progress in women’s cycling isn’t a straight line

If you want to talk about the “first” women’s Tour de France, you’d have to go back to 1955. That year, 41 athletes competed in a five-stage, one-off race that was contested separately from the men’s competition.

Nearly 30 years later in 1984, Tour de France organizers hosted a women’s race in conjunction with the men’s event, marking the first official Women’s Tour de France. Female cyclists competed on the same — albeit shortened — courses as the male riders.

“It didn’t occur to me that it wouldn’t keep going,” says American Marianne Martin, who won the 1984 Women’s Tour de France. “It definitely felt like the beginning. And this was how it was going to be from now on.”

It wasn’t.

The Women’s Tour de France was held five more times until race organizers dropped female athletes from the program after 1988. While other attempts were made to revive the event in coming decades, the official “Tour de France” name was off limits.

“We had to fight for women to even have access to the name, ‘Tour de France.’ Because that’s what ASO took away in 1989,” Bertine explains.

1984 Tour de France winners Laurent Fignon of France and Marianne Martin of the United States celebrate on the podium. (AFP via Getty Images)

In 2013, Bertine — along with Emma Pooley, Marianne Vos, and Chrissie Wellington — launched ‘Le Tour Entier’ (French for ‘the Whole Tour’).

They submitted a petition — signed by over 98,000 people — to Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme demanding that women be allowed to race the Tour de France. “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,” the petition read.

Bertine, whose film ‘Half the Road’ examines gender inequity in professional cycling, says she heard from some athletes who were supportive of the petition, but concerned about retaliation if they spoke out publicly.

“Many were afraid to rock the boat because they were nervous that their own contracts with their teams could be (in jeopardy),” she says. “A number of women reached out to us and said, ‘I’m behind you 100% but I have to remain quiet because I’m worried about my job.”

Tour de France organizer ASO — after initially not publicly engaging with the petition — eventually created “La Course by Le Tour de France,” a one- or two-day women’s race that was held annually between 2014 and 2021.

It is this history that gave Bertine pause when she heard the words “first” or “inaugural” used to describe the 2022 Tour de France Femmes.

“I want Marianne Martin to have her recognition. I want to make that we don’t forget about the women of the 1955 Tour de France. And the women of ‘La Course.’ Because that’s a huge part in understanding how long it took for this race to actually come to fruition.”

In return of Women’s Tour de France, reminders that the work isn’t done

While this year’s eight-stage Women’s Tour de France was more than a “token gesture,” the full mission of “Le Tour Entier” has not yet been met.

“I think being grateful is one of the worst things we could be,” says Lizzie Deignan, a pro cyclist for Trek-Segafredo. “That’s the trap that a lot of women fall into… you have to sometimes be brave and be bold and be outspoken. It’s not always comfortable.”

One of the most glaring disparities between the Women’s and (Men’s) Tour de France is the number of race stages: eight from women, 21 for men. It’s especially stark when you consider the fact that when Martin won back in 1984 — notably, the same summer that female cyclists and marathoners debuted at the Olympics — women raced 18 stages at the Tour de France (compared to 23 on the men’s side).

The peloton passes through Avize vineyards during the 2022 Tour de France Femmes.
EPERNAY, FRANCE – JULY 26: The peloton passes through Avize vineyards during the 2022 Tour de France Femmes. (Photo by Dario Belingheri/Getty Images)

Many female cyclists also want to see a time trial added. This year’s (Men’s) Tour de France included two.

“I think it would make the race a lot more dynamic and I think it would help create a more well-rounded winner,” Kristen Faulkner told VeloNews.

But equality isn’t as simple as just adding 13 race stages.

“There are complex issues around why the Tour de France Femmes is not three weeks yet,” Deignan says. “It’s never about our physical ability to complete three weeks… Thirty-seven percent of the women’s peloton aren’t being paid a living wage, so to expect them to compete over three weeks — whilst maintaining a job — is just not realistic.”

Which leads to the issue of prize money: For winning, van Vleuten took home €50,000 euros (approx. $52,487 USD) of the total women’s prize pot of €250,000 euros (approx. $262,437 USD). In comparison, men’s winner Denmark’s Jonas Vingegaard received more than $500,000 for his victory last month, while the men’s purse topped $2 million.

When you control for number of days raced, women made 29 cents on the dollar in prize money compared to their male counterparts.

This issue is not unique to the Tour de France. Cycling is further behind than most sports when it comes to equitable pay, though corporate sponsorships — including the one from presenting sponsor Zwift, plus a recent pledge from Strava — have started to bridge the gap.

“It’s about having more professional females on the start line,” Deignan said of Strava’s pledge. “And that’s what we’re missing: the next generation. Those barriers to participation at the professional level are still huge.”

Annemiek Van Vleuten celebrates her win after the eighth and final stage of the 2022 Tour de France Femmes. (Photo by JEFF PACHOUD/AFP via Getty Images)

There’s also the issue of race coverage. “They’re only giving (the women) two, two-and-a-half hours of coverage, starting in the middle of the race,” Bertine said of the Women’s Tour de France broadcast. “That’s not ok… especially if the men are getting a full six hours of coverage.”

It is a familiar issue in women’s sports, where there is a long history of investing less money and time in coverage and marketing — and then blaming the players and product for not generating a larger audience.

Deignan, who is currently pregnant with her second child, had a bit of an epiphany while watching the British National Championships at home from her couch.

“(The broadcast) was done with onboard motorbike cameras. That was it. There was no helicopter footage… it was a very basic package and it wasn’t great to watch. And it was like, wow, this is what women’s cycling is like to watch a lot of the time because we just don’t have the same level of production, and production makes a huge difference. Sport is entertainment.”

Deignan, who was born five months after the last Women’s Tour de France was held in 1988, says she’s been inspired by Billie Jean King‘s message of not settling for bread crumbs.

‘It’s taken my full lifetime for us to secure this race again… ” she says. “We have to keep fighting because, as soon as we rest and accept these small steps, that’s when progress pauses again.

“The fight for equality is far from over.”

Follow Alex Azzi on Twitter @AlexAzziNBC

2022 Rivalry Series: USA extends lead to 3-0 over Canada in women’s hockey showcase

Hilary Knight #21 of Team United States reacts after scoring a shorthanded goal in the second period during the Women's Ice Hockey Gold Medal match.
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Hilary Knight had two goals and one assist to lead the U.S. women’s hockey team to a 4-2 win over Canada on Sunday, extending Team USA’s series lead to 3-0 in the seven-game 2022-23 Rivalry Series.

Savannah Harmon and Abby Roque also scored for the U.S., which has notched three consecutive wins against Canada for the first time since 2019. Goalie Nicole Hensley made 22 saves in front of a record-setting crown at Climate Pledge Arena in Seattle, where fan attendance totaled 14,551.

Marie-Philip Poulin and Sarah Nurse scored for Canada, which captured gold \at both the IIHF Women’s World Championship in September and the Beijing Olympics in February.

Knight has enjoyed a standout 2022-23 Rivalry Series to date, registering six points (three goals, three assists) in the first three games including the game-winning goal in a shootout victory in Game 1 of the series on Tuesday and the game-winning assist in Game 2 on Thursday. Prior to the puck drop in Seattle on Sunday, Knight was presented with a golden stick to commemorate her record-breaking 87th career point in world championship play. Knight became the all-time points leader at the IIHF Women’s World Championship in September, when the eight-time world champion recorded one goal and one assist in Team USA’s 12-1 quarterfinal win over Hungary.

Sunday’s matchup between the U.S. and Canada marked the third game of the 2022-23 Rivalry Series and was the third matchup between the two teams in five days. The U.S. came in with a 2-0 series lead following a 2-1 victory on Thursday in Kamloops, B.C., and a 4-3 shootout victory — the first shootout in Rivalry Series history — in Kelowna, B.C., on Tuesday. It also was the first game for the U.S. national team on home soil since Dec. 17, 2021, when the team hosted Canada in St. Louis (Canada won 3-2 in overtime).

The 2022-23 Rivalry Series continues next month with two games in the U.S., set to be played in Las Vegas on Dec. 17 and Los Angeles on Dec. 19.

2022-23 Rivalry Series schedule, results

Tuesday, Nov. 15 USA 4, CAN 3 (SO) Kelowna, British Columbia NHL Network
Thursday, Nov. 17 USA 2, CAN 1 Kamloops, British Columbia NHL Network
Sunday, Nov. 20 USA 4, CAN 2 Seattle, Washington NHL Network
Thursday, Dec. 15 10 p.m. ET Henderson, Nevada NHL Network
Monday, Dec. 19 10 p.m. ET Los Angeles, California NHL Network

What is the Rivalry Series?

The Rivalry Series was introduced by USA Hockey and Hockey Canada during the 2018-19 season and designed as an annual showcase of the highest level of women’s hockey at various locations in the United States and Canada. The first series comprised three games between the two national teams, with Canada winning 2-1. Team USA took 2019-20 title, winning the expanded five-game series 4-1 and wrapping with an overtime win in the finale in front of a then-record-breaking total of 13,320 fans in Anaheim, California.

Following a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic and preparation for the 2022 Olympic Winter Games, the Rivalry Series resumed this season with seven games over three months: three in November, two in December and two in February.

The U.S. and Canada have battled in the gold-medal game of six of seven Winter Olympics and 20 of 21 IIHF Women’s World Championship, with the two exceptions being the 2019 World Championship and 2006 Olympics. The Canadian women are the reigning Olympic and world champions.

2022-23 Rivalry Series rewind: USA takes Games 1-2

Game 1 recap: USA 4, CAN 3, SO (Nov. 15): The series kicked off Tuesday with Team USA grabbing a 2-0 lead off goals from Hannah Brandt and Hilary Knight. But Canada battled back with three unanswered goals and held a 3-2 lead with 13 minutes to go in the third. With just 1:29 remaining in regulation, Alex Carpenter tied it for the Americans, sending the game to overtime. The U.S. ultimately won in a shootout, with Knight and Carpenter scoring while U.S. goalie Nicole Hensley made two key saves.

Game 2 recap: USA 2, CAN 1 (Nov. 17): Canada was first to get on the board Thursday when Marie-Philip Poulin capitalized off a penalty shot opportunity in the second period, but USA’s Kendall Coyne Schofield knotted the score just 1:12 later. Alex Carpenter scored the go-ahead tally with 6:36 remaining in the third to give the U.S. a 2-1 win and a 2-0 series lead. U.S. goalie Maddie Rooney recorded 19 saves in net.

Who’s playing in the 2022-23 Rivalry Series?

Team USA’s roster — led by coach John Wroblewski — for the November Rivalry Series games features 23 players, 16 of whom were part of the silver medal-winning team at the 2022 IIHF Women’s World Championship in August:

  • Hannah Brandt (Vadnais Heights, Minn.)
  • Alex Carpenter (North Reading, Mass.)
  • Kendall Coyne Schofield (Palos Heights, Ill.)
  • Jincy Dunne (O’Fallon, Mo.)
  • Aerin Frankel(Chappaqua, N.Y.)
  • Rory Guilday (Minnetonka, Minn.)
  • Savannah Harmon (Downers Grove, Ill.)
  • Nicole Hensley (Lakewood, Colo.)
  • Megan Keller (Farmington Hills, Mich.)
  • Amanda Kessel (Madison, Wis.)
  • Hilary Knight (Sun Valley, Idaho)
  • Kelly Pannek (Plymouth, Minn.)
  • Abby Roque (Sault Ste. Marie, Mich.)
  • Hayley Scamurra (Getzville, N.Y.)
  • Maddie Rooney (Andover, Minn.)
  • Lee Stecklein (Roseville, Minn.).

Team Canada’s 23-player roster, selected by coach Troy Ryan and director of hockey operations Gina Kingsbury, features 16 players who were on the gold medal-winning team at the 2022 IIHF Women’s World Championship and the 2022 Beijing Olympics (Canada beat , including:

  • Erin Ambrose
  • Kristen Campbell
  • Emily Clark
  • Ann-Renée Desbiens
  • Renata Fast
  • Brianne Jenner
  • Jocelyne Larocque
  • Emma Maltais
  • Emerance Maschmeyer
  • Sarah Nurse
  • Marie-Philip Poulin
  • Jamie Lee Rattray
  • Ella Shelton
  • Laura Stacey
  • Blayre Turnbull
  • Micah Zandee-Hart

Rivalry Series history

Following Sunday’s victory, the U.S. holds a 6-2-1-2 (W-OTW-OTL-L) record over Canada all time in the Rivalry Series. Canada won the 2018-19 Rivalry Series with a 2-0-0-1 record, while the U.S. won the 2019-20 Rivalry Series with a 3-1-1-0 record.

2019-20 Rivalry Series results

Dec. 14, 2019 USA 4, CAN 1 Hartford, Connecticut Alex Cavallini
Dec. 17, 2019 USA 2, CAN 1 Moncton, N.B. Alex Carpenter
Feb. 3, 2020 CAN 3, USA 2 (OT) Victoria, B.C. Hilary Knight
Feb. 5, 2020 USA 3, CAN 1 Vancouver, B.C. Katie Burt
Feb. 8, 2020 USA 4, CAN 3 (OT) Anaheim, California Megan Bozek

2018-19 Rivalry Series results

Feb. 12 USA 1, CAN 0 London, Ontario
Feb. 14 CAN 4, USA 3 Toronto, Ontario
Feb. 17 CAN 2, USA 0 Detroit Michigan

Atthaya Thitikul takes LPGA rookie-of-year honors in stride ahead of Tour Championship

Atthaya Thitikul of Thailand smiles after the birdie on the 6th green during the second round of the TOTO Japan Classic.
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To say that Atthaya Thitikul has enjoyed a breakout rookie LPGA season is a bit of an understatement, but keeping things low-key is exactly how 19-year-old “Jeeno” likes it.

As the 2022 season concludes this week at the CME Group Tour Championship, Thitikul has already captured two LPGA titles, held the No. 1 spot in the world rankings and collected the Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year honors. But the current world No. 2 displays a wise-beyond-her-years ethos when she says what she’s most proud of this season is her mindset.

“[I’m]19 years old — I think I’m still young to handle all the things that I have now,” Thitikul told On Her Turf ahead of this week’s season finale in Naples, Fla. “I didn’t say that I handled it well, but I’ve just said that I think I can handle it. I can do it. And yeah, it’s turned out to be pretty good this year.”

To keep herself in check, the Thailand native keeps her philosophy posted on her Instagram profile, which reads, “Be you, be happy and everything will be fine.” Thitikul, who on Oct. 31 joined 18-time LPGA winner Lydia Ko as the only players in tour history to reach No. 1 before their 20th birthday, said she took stock of poor performances on the golf course and found they all had one thing in common: She wasn’t being herself.

“I didn’t have fun,” she says of those unsatisfactory rounds. “I was expecting a lot of results on the golf course, not really talking, not really enjoying it. So I think being myself, have fun, keep smiling, keep laughing and talking with other players or talking with my caddie, joking around — I think it’s the best that I can do.”

Golf has always been fun for Thitikul, who grew up in northeast Thailand and was introduced to the sport at age 6 through her father and grandfather, both of whom were not golfers themselves but recognized the opportunity that golf might provide. Thitikul teases that her grandfather was enamored with Tiger Woods, but after her first golf experience with a professional in Bangkok, she was hooked, too.

“They asked me when I finished practicing, do I like it? And I say, ‘Yeah, I do.’ Because [there were] a lot of friends and when I practice, it seemed fun and it seemed not like other sports that I have been watching on TV,” she recalls.

Thitikul’s ascent to the top of her sport was swift: In February 2017, just three days after her 14th birthday, she made her first LPGA tournament appearance at the Honda LPGA Thailand and finished 37th out of 66 players. Just five months later, Thitikul made headlines when she became the youngest person ever to win a professional golf tour event at age 14 years, 4 months and 19 days old, winning the Ladies European Thailand Championship on the Ladies European Tour (LET).

RELATED: 2022 CME Group Tour Championship — How to watch, who’s playing in LPGA’s season finale

For three more years, Thitikul resisted turning professional, racking up multiple international amateur victories and plenty of tour experience, notching her first LPGA top-10 finish in March 2018 at the HSBC Women’s World Championship (T-8) and earning low amateur honors that same year at two majors, the ANA Inspiration (T-30) and Women’s British Open (T-64). The following year, she won the Ladies European Thailand Championship for the second time in three years, earned low amateur honors at the British Open (finishing T-29) for the second straight year and was No. 1 on the women’s World Amateur Golf Ranking.

In her first year as a pro, during the pandemic-impacted 2020 season, Thitikul broke through for her first professional win in July at the Thai LPGA Championship. She finished the season with five Thai LPGA wins and topped the money list.

Thitikul moved to the LET in 2021, winning the Czech Ladies Open in June, and just a month later she moved into the top 100 on the world rankings for the first time at No. 89. She finished 2021 with two wins, three runner-ups and nine additional top-10 finishes, securing the LET Order of Merit and Rookie of the Year titles and becoming just the fourth player to win both awards in the same season.

After finishing third at LPGA Qualifying School to earn her card for 2022, Thitikul didn’t miss a beat in her meteoric rise this season. She posted two top-10s in her first four starts before striking a staff deal with Callaway, which she followed up by winning her first LPGA title in March at the JTBC Classic. She carded an 8-under 64 in the final round to force a playoff and Nanna Koerstz Madsen on the second extra hole. She earned her second LPGA title in September at the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship, tying the tournament record of 61 in the second round and beating Danielle Kang in a playoff.

As for the pressure of being a teen phenom, Thitikul admits she can’t ignore it but has figured out how to turn it around to her advantage: “It’s still so hard because I think as players want to be on top and we put the pressure on ourselves, and there’s a lot of eyes on us. … But at the same time, it’s kind of like you couldn’t win every week, you couldn’t have a good day every day. It’s golf. I like to think of pressure as a challenge. I put a lot of pressure on myself, but I think of it as challenging.”

Away from the golf course, Thitikul enjoys spending time with friends, watching Korean television dramas and indulging in Asian food (Chinese and Korean are favorites). Although she doesn’t have a pet, she says she’s a dog person, and prefers the mountains to the beach, as she loves to hike.

But don’t expect too much lounging, hiking or other non-golf activities on Thitikul’s itinerary after this season wraps on Sunday.

“This offseason, we have a lot of work to do,” she says.” There are a lot of things I still have to learn – not just for next year but for [beyond.] … But hopefully next year, it’s going to be nice and good for me as well. I really want to have a major win in my career. I don’t know if it’s going to happen next year, but hopefully.”