Why have some of the biggest news stories so far been about riders’ boyfriends?
The Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift has been 33 years in the making. Multiple campaigns and advocacy went on behind the scenes to get the race off the ground and there was a huge build-up to the moment the race finally started in Paris on Sunday.
One hundred and forty four women from 24 teams took to the startline and we have been treated to some of the most thrilling racing the Women’s WorldTour has ever seen.
It started on stage 2, when Tadej Pogačar came to support his partner Urška Žigart and the ‘man attends bike race to support girlfriend’ headlines started to emerge. Pogačar could only hack one day (to be fair he’s had a busy three weeks), or he’s been hiding on the Team BikeExchange bus, because he hasn’t been ‘SPOTTED!’ since.
The ‘boyfriend does the bare minimum’ baton was then duly passed to Formula 1 driver, Valtteri Bottas, who has been at the race since stage 3 to support his girlfriend, Canyon-SRAM’s Tiffany Cromwell.
While it’s entirely commendable that Bottas has taken time out of his schedule to support Cromwell, and even get stuck in handing out bottles, partners supporting their partners is nothing new, and the attention Bottas is receiving is frustrating.
The Tour de France Femmes is about, well, the femmes. It’s in the name. There are 1,001 better stories to write about and over 140 more relevant people to talk to who are part of this race.
The frenzy that the Finnish F1 driver’s presence at the race caused has been, frankly, unnecessary. Click-driven articles have been written, the Eurosport/GCN coverage of Wednesday’s much-anticipated gravel stage showed an interview with Bottas just five minutes into the broadcast, Twitter is teeming with photos and videos of him, even race director Marion Rousse took the opportunity for a cheeky selfie.
Whether or not Bottas – or indeed his girlfriend, the cyclist – are actually relishing the attention, or find it as galling as the rest of us is unclear. Maybe the hope is that the recognition he’s getting for Simply Turning Up will bring the race more attention.
But perhaps if that is the aim Bottas might be better off redirecting the publicity to the riders in the race with whom he is not in a relationship.