• More to offer... The winner of La Course gave only a glimpse into her talent, and a remarkable season to date, last Sunday in Paris. (AFP)Source: AFP
It was a rare, though perfect, opportunity to showcase women's cycling for what it is - and they didn't take advantage of it, writes Anthony Tan.
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28 Jul 2015 - 6:31 PM  UPDATED 28 Jul 2015 - 6:50 PM

So, we can go on about how organiser ASO is doing its part to promote women's cycling with the second edition of La Course by Le Tour de France, or we can get real and say they should've done more. A lot more.

As far as I'm concerned, last Saturday's stage to L'Alpe d'Huez, at 110.5 kilometres with the inclusion of two iconic climbs and the men's race on a precipice, was the perfect opportunity to showcase the depth of the women's pro peloton.

"These athletes are capable of so much more than we what saw on a dreary Sunday afternoon in Paris... If you watched the London Olympic Games road race or that year's road worlds in Valkenburg or last year in Ponferrada, you would already know that."

Outside of the road world championships and Olympic Games, this was likely the only other time a women's professional road cycling event would be broadcast live around the globe. So why run what is essentially a criterium on the final day of the Tour, when it is accepted that for all bar the final laps the men's event is a procession, and with the overall winner a dead certainty, enthusiasm had already begun to wane?

The stage was already set: the infrastructure was there, the fans were there, and perhaps most importantly, the TV viewing audience was there, en masse, on their couches, in their tens of millions.

How many of you knew that the 2015 winner of La Course broke her pelvis at last year's road worlds in Ponferrada in the team time trial - a career-ending injury for Andy Schleck and Joseba Beloki, don't forget - yet five months later, quite miraculously, came back to win the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad?

How many of you knew two months after Het Nieuwsblad, the 25-year-old triumphed atop the Mur de Huy at La Flèche Wallonne Féminine?

How many knew that, on the day BMC Racing won the team time trial from Vannes to Plumelec at the Tour, this victor of Flèche Wallonne claimed the biggest stage race of all, the Giro d'Italia Femminile; and Marianne Vos aside, is only the other Dutchwoman to have won what is now the only remaining Grand Tour on the women's calendar?

No doubt you would have heard of Vos - hell, everyone's heard of Vos! - her team-mate at Rabo Liv and a three-time winner of the Giro Femminile (previously known as the Giro Donne), who won in 2011, '12 and '14 but has been beset with injury this season.

But until last Sunday, had you heard of Anna van der Breggen?

Cobbles and crashes: van der Breggen victorious in La Course
Anna van der Breggen rode away from the bunch with six kilometres to go and won the second edition of La Course by the Tour de France on the Champs-Élysées by one small second over a charging peloton.

It was perhaps only the spate of crashes on the rain-slicked cobblestones of the Champs-Élysées that kept people interested - or maybe the crowds and TV viewers were just being polite, cheering and/or watching but more out of obligation than want.

Had the race been held on the Saturday to L'Alpe d'Huez, van der Breggen may well have won there too - but how much better would it have been?

Having followed women's professional cycling closely - and willingly - since I took my first sports journalism gig at Cyclingnews in 2001 during the heyday of Anna Wilson and Oenone Wood, I can honestly say despite the ongoing debacle with the business of cycling - both men and women - and the cavernous dichotomy when it comes to salaries, these athletes are capable of so much more than we what saw on a dreary Sunday afternoon in Paris.

If you watched the London Olympic Games road race or that year's road worlds in Valkenburg or last year in Ponferrada, you would already know that.

ASO would have known that.

Sorry, but I want to see more than tokenistic efforts by cashed-up race organisers to support women's cycling. In this uncertain, problematic milieu they've been expected to survive in for decades now, it's the least they can do.