• Tom Dumoulin on the final podium of the 100th Giro d'Italia (Getty)
Major industry stakeholder and Giro d'Italia organiser RCS Sport won’t scrap podium girls from its races, with cycling director Mauro Vegni describing the current turn as a “trend” that will pass.
By
Sophie Smith

Source:
Cycling Central
2 Mar 2018 - 1:25 PM  UPDATED 2 Mar 2018 - 1:39 PM

Vegni likened the function of podium girls to event management, defending their presence at races including the Giro d’Italia and even the Abu Dhabi Tour last week.

"RCS Sport believe that in this specific moment it is more of a temporary trend to remove podium girls from sport events," Vegni told Cycling Central in Abu Dhabi.

"As long as those girls are treated with respect and carry on their job in a professional manner, there is no reason for changing the hospitality process.

"RCS Sport recruit them through agencies specialised in hospitality and events, such as trade fairs, exhibitions and other sporting events.”

Formula One and darts have recently ditched their equivalents in the wake of an intense, global focus on gender equality and women's rights.

However, pro cycling is at odds over the issue that WorldTour riders perceive as controversial.

The majority of cyclists interviewed by Cycling Central were either indifferent or actually for the girls staying as a fixture.

“It’s part of cycling, it’s good to have,” Giro stage winner Elia Viviani (Quick-Step Floors) said.

“I think Formula One made a mistake to take off the girls. It’s part of the sport, part of the celebration of the sport.

“It’s a nice presence on the start when you have the leader jersey, and on the podium when you go to celebrate your win, or lead on GC.”

Sky classics specialist Luke Rowe agreed the girls should remain, countering an argument that the role objectifies women.

“They’ve always been there; it’s quite an historic thing when you go on the podium, you get a kiss off a podium girl. I think the whole sexist thing around the world has gone a bit crazy, everything is growing out of proportion. I don’t think it’s necessarily exploiting them because it’s their choice to do it and it gives someone a job.

“On the flipside, if you had podium guys is that right?”

Tour Down Under hostesses were this year employed behind the scenes, apparently managing the running order of podium staging as opposed to being a glamourous part of the trophy, or trophy presentation.

Flanders Classics has also dispelled of the role this season, instead employing former podium girl Maja Leve, the woman Peter Sagan famously groped, to act as emcee.

“The handing over of the flowers and kissing by the podium girls will disappear,” a statement read.

Vegni said the general duties of hostesses at RCS Sport races varied mainly from “welcome and info duties” at VIP hospitality areas to parading the classification jerseys, side-by-side with riders at the start line.

“Some of them are chosen also for the podium duties – awarding the riders on the podium, stage winner and race jersey leaders,” he said.

The crux of the issue in cycling seems to boil down to the general function and presentation of podium girls.

The necessity of some duties, for example trophy kisses and holding umbrellas to shade classification leaders at Giro stage starts, has been brought into question.

“I don’t think it’s necessary,” British time-trial specialist and Giro stage winner Alex Dowsett (Katusha-Alpecin) said. “It’s not coming from a feminism, sexism point of view, I just don’t actually know what value it adds to an event.

“People are there to see who has won the race, not a random, good-looking person standing next to them."

“To be honest, I wore the yellow jersey at the under-23 Tour de l’Avenir and Bernard Hinault presented me the jersey and zipped that up. I think having someone like that is a lot more significant because of what they have achieved.”

Kaitlin de Kort, a former model, met husband Koen de Kort (Trek-Segafredo) through work as an F1 grid and cycling podium girl.

She defended the position but admitted to instances of feeling objectified largely through outfits she was made to wear.

“I agree there are certain times where companies have dressed girls inappropriately and sexualised them but I don’t think banning them is the solution,” she said.

“Hostesses should be dressed appropriately, with style and respect. I have seen too many girls being objectified by companies dressing them in next to nothing. This, I have a problem with.

“There were times that I did question outfits I was made to wear,” she continued.

“We were made to wear very skin-tight, short outfits, which yes, did make me feel objectified. As I got older, I had a voice and would not work for companies that did this. Your agency needs to monitor this and not send girls to these types of jobs.”

The ASO has been contacted for comment but is yet to officially confirm its stance on the issue, or whether podium girls will again feature at the Tour de France this year.

An overnight report in the UK's The Times has suggested not. 

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