After lots of publicity for the petition by a group of influential women racers, including today's cross World Champion Marianne Vos, during last years TdF there had been talk of the organizers having meetings and planning something. The result announced today is one-day race, presumably a Champs Elysée criterium although the exact details are to be announced later this spring. Due to take place a few hours before the arrival of the men and televised internationally by French TV and Eurosport the race is likely to be the biggest exposure for the women of the season. The race as been given a 1.1 rating by the UCI who of course welcome this development as they themselves are trying to implement some positive changes after the election of Brian Cookson.
As a first step this an incredibly positive development. It should give some great visibility and it's true race, not an invitational faux-event like the one the Amgen Tour of California have been putting on. The original petition from the "Le Tour Entier" lobby-group called for a full women's version of the TdF though and the ASO weren't much pleased with the negative publicity they got from the group's vocal demands during the race last summer. So in some ways this might simply be seen as an appeasement compromise to silence the critics. Whether it is that or if it is a genuine starting point for something bigger in the years to come remains to be seen of course. Much will probably depend on how it is received by racers and fans of course and it has to be remembered that the ASO aren't really obliged to do anything so there isn't too much need for an overly critical view of this.
The one small problem is the fact that the race clashes with the last day of the Tour de Limousine which may create a bit of talent drain for that race which is unfortunate of course. Otherwise the race slots in nicely between some of the biggest stage races and needless to say it will be included in our FSA DS calendar.