Director quiet on women in Tour

VAISON-LA-ROMAINE, France -- Swatting the air dismissively with the back of his hand, the Tour de France director said Tuesday he has nothing to say to a group of women cyclists hoping to ride in their version of the sport's greatest race.

Before the start of Tuesday's 16th stage, Christian Prudhomme brushed off a question seeking his response about an online letter and petition for a women's event next year.

The signatories don't seek to have women race against men, but to have a professional women's field racing in parallel over the same distances, on the same days, and with an organization such that the two races don't conflict.

"We are saying nothing for the moment," Prudhomme told The Associated Press in the southeastern town of Vaison-la-Romaine. The former journalist then walked away.

Through a Tour spokesman, the AP had sought a comment from Prudhomme four days ago about a petition by a group of cyclists including Marianne Vos of the Netherlands, an Olympic gold medalist and road race world champion, and Olympian Emma Pooley of Britain. No response was given until Tuesday.

The petition says many women's sports "face battles of inequity," but "road cycling remains one of the worst offenders."

Signatories agree that, "Women should be on the starting line of the 101st Tour de France in 2014."

In the online letter to Prudhomme, the cyclists said that after 100 editions of the Tour, it's "about time" that women were allowed to race.

A "Tour Feminin" women's race in France was staged in the past, but not since 2009, and it "lacked parity, media coverage, and sponsorship," the letter read.

Pooley won the 2009 race, and Vos placed third.