Who We Are Adventures at le Tour de France Femmes
Our Individual Giving Director, Liz Bernstein shares stories of her European adventure following le Tour de France Femmes. If you’d like to share your story, adventure, or knowledge with the MCBC community, please email us at email@example.com.
The Tour de France hardly needs an introduction. The men’s race is hailed as one of the world’s greatest cycling events, and aside from the World Wars, has been held every year since 1903. However, it wasn’t until 1955, 52 years after the first Tour de France, that the first women’s race would take place. Beginning in Rambouillet, not far from Paris, 41 women took part in the inaugural 5-day, 373-kilometer race. The second women’s event took place 29 years later in 1984 and included 18 stages and athletes from 6 national teams. Between 1984 and today, the event has seen many changes, and many cancellations, but the call for le Tour de France Femmes never wavered.
Lorri Lee Lown, of Velo Girls and Savvy Bike, is a women’s cycling advocate, coach, and competitor. When she posted a note on Facebook in Nov 2022 that she was looking for interested people to go cycle and follow the women’s tour, I had two initial thoughts; What an incredible experience, and wow that’s a lot of money!
It didn’t take long to decide that it was worth joining the group on this exciting trip of a lifetime! I had recently started working with MCBC after volunteering for two years and was now engrossed in the cycling world. As the new Director of Individual Giving, I was meeting with so many members and hearing of so many people’s cycling adventures around the world. Having recently gone on my first bike tour abroad, I was eager for another adventure. Riding in France following the women’s tour would be an opportunity of a lifetime!
Our group included six women ranging from 44 to 66 years old. We hired a small tour company called Jemison Cycling Tours. Marty Jemison raced in the Tour of France in 1997 and 1998. Soon after he retired from racing bikes, he started a bike touring company taking people on cycling trips around Europe. We were being hosted in France by a pro! The tour was based out of Southern France near the Pyrenees for six incredible days of riding.
We rode on the actual routes the Tour women were riding and we cheered them on at the finish line each day. Being in the center of the action was an experience none of us would forget. We saw the team buses, watched the athletes get awarded their yellow jerseys and sign autographs, and witnessed them inspire a new world of girls, women, and athletes.
As we were riding some of the same hills they did, we were in awe of the pace they could sustain with long distances day after day. It was so inspiring to see so many generations of fans out watching and cheering us and the pro racers on. On the last day, after all the final awards were given out, we saw a little boy with his dad. He showed us one of the racer’s numbers and her water bottle. He was so happy. What a great way to end my tour – seeing a little boy inspired by the women racers.
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