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TOUR DE FRANCE

Seven things to know about the soon to be extinct Tour de France podium girls

The Tour de France could look a little bit different this year as the competition prepares to ditch its famous and controversial podium girls. But whatever you think of them, there is an interesting story behind them.

Seven things to know about the soon to be extinct Tour de France podium girls
Photo: LeTour_hotesses/Instagram

As a result of the increasing pressure in the sports world to stop using scantily-clad women as a promotion tool, the Tour de France is getting ready to bid adieu to its famous podium girls or “hôtesses du Tour” as they are called in French. 

Complaints that having winners greeted at the end of each day by models, who present them with the yellow jersey and flowers and shower them with kisses are outdated, are finally starting to resonate. 

Race organisers came under even greater pressure when sports such as darts and Formula 1 announced they would top using scantily clad women at events. 

That means that this year's Tour de France race, which which begins in Noirmoutier-en-l’Île on July 7, will look different to every other Tour de France since 1930 when the tradition of podium girls reportedly began in earnest. 

But before they are gone forever, here are some things to know about the story of the Tour de France podium girls. 

 

Happy New Year, 2018! ? Bonne Année, 2018! ? #TDFPodiumGirls #TDFHôtesses

A post shared by Hôtesses du Tour de France (@letour_hotesses) on Dec 31, 2017 at 3:06pm PST

 
They are not allowed to speak to the riders
 
That's right, they're allowed to kiss the winner on the podium but they aren't allowed to speak to them…at all. 
 
Relationships between podium girls and competitors 
 
Despite this there are many cases of podium girls having relationships with cyclists. Some have even gone on to get married. 
 
In fact, during the 2003 Tour de France race podium girl Melanie Simonneau was given an ultimatum to choose either the competition or cyclist George Hincapie after she accepted a note from him while “on duty”. 
 
She chose Hincapie, eventually married him, and now the pair have two children. 
 
Two hostesses kiss French cyclist Richard Virenque. Photo: AFP
 
The job isn't quite as glamorous as it might look
 
In fact it's a far from a simple case of swanning onto the podium at the end of the day to bestow a quick kiss on the winner, with the working day of a podium girl often lasting more than 12 hours in all kinds of weather from downpours to sweltering heat. 
 
Starting between 6am and 7am, their duties include serving drinks and snacks to clients and VIPs in the morning, presenting prizes in the afternoon and hosting parties in the evening.
 
Speaking to the New York Times former podium girl Laura Antoine, a former showgirl from Paris said: “They asked me if I could share a bathroom with two other girls for a month and if I could drive a car up a mountain if I needed to.

“Then they asked me about my endurance level and if I could smile even if I’m tired. And I said I could work all day, with a smile.

“I quickly realised that hey, this isn’t as glamorous as I thought it was.”

 
 
The pay is fairly good
 
One of the reasons the job is so sought after is that even though the work is tough, the pay is fairly good. 
 
For three weeks of work, the podium girls can earn up to €2,000. They also receive free board in hotels and all their food is covered.
 
They aren't taken on just for their looks
 
…although obviously that's a big part of it what with modelling agencies (as well as individuals) submitting applications for the much-coveted roles.  
 
However their personality, endurance and language abilities are also taken into account. 
 
The final choice is made by the sponsors of the four coloured racing jerseys which are awarded to the cyclists leading in particular categories. 
 
And the final presentation ceremony in Paris — the most prestigious part of the tour — goes to the two women “who will photograph the best on that day” as “some women might have a pimple or might look tired in the eyes,” according to a spokesperson for one of the sponsors. 
 
Tour de France 2017's winner Great Britain's Christopher Froome  flanked by two podium girls as he celebrates. Photo: AFP
 
It used to be much more low key
 
Podium girls were originally selected from the population of the town where each day's finishing stage was held.
 
At that point, the only criteria they had to meet was to be under 30 and about the same height as each other. 
 
They have to put up with more than their fair share of bad behaviour
 
It probably won't come as a surprise that women have had to put up with a lot of misbehaviour in the past. 
 
Indeed in April 2013 Slovak cyclist Peter Sagan recorded an apology after pinching the buttocks of Tour of Flanders podium girl Maya Leye during an awards ceremony.
 
And there have been many (many) other complaints of groping and sexist jokes. 
 
They are often ridiculed and even insulted.
 
Last year when asked what he would take with him for his free moments during the Tour, rider Jan Bakelants said: “A packet of condoms, for sure. You never know where those podium chicks have been hanging out.”
 
He was later forced to apologise. 
 

SPORT

Inaugural Women’s Tour de France to start at Eiffel Tower

The route for the inaugural women's Tour de France was unveiled on Thursday with eight stages, embarking from the Eiffel Tower on July 24th next year.

French cyclist Marion Rousse delivers a speech next to Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme during the presentation of the first edition of the Women's Tour de France cycling race.
French cyclist Marion Rousse delivers a speech next to Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme during the presentation of the first edition of the Women's Tour de France cycling race. Photo: Anne-Christine POUJOULAT / AFP.

The first complete edition of the women’s version of cycling’s iconic race starts on the day the 109th edition of the men’s Tour ends.

After a route that winds through northern France, the race culminates in the Planche des Belles Filles climb in the Vosges mountains.

Danish cyclist Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig said she was over the moon to be taking part.

“I want it to be July now so we can get stared,” she said actually jumping up and down.

“The Tour de France is a reference and when you say you are a cyclist people ask about that. Now I can say I race the Tour de France,” she said after the presentation.

MAP: Details of 2022 Tour de France (and Denmark) revealed

Race director Marion Rousse, a former French cycling champion and now a TV commentator, told AFP it would be a varied course that would maintain suspense over the eight days.

“It is coherent in a sporting sense, and we wanted to start from Paris,” she said of the 1,029km run.

“With only eight stages we couldn’t go down to the Alps or the Pyrenees, the transfers would be too long.

“The stages obviously are shorter for the women than for the men’s races. The men can go 225 kilometres. For the women the longest race on our roster is 175km and we even needed special dispensation for that,” she said. “But it’s a course I love.”

Christian Prudhomme, the president of the Tour de France organisers, was equally enthusiastic.

“The fact it sets off from Paris the day the men’s race ends gives the new race a boost because it sets the media up to follow it more easily.

“It also means that with the Tour de France starting on July 1st and the women’s race ending on the 31st, there will be cycling on television every day of July.”

The men’s race is broadcast in around 190 countries.

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