Tour de France Under Fire For Use Of Podium Girls

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Thousands have signed an online petition and a prominent women's rights activist are among those to have criticised the "sexist tradition" of podium girls during the ceremonies at the Tour de France.

Two different women are employed to hand bouquets of flowers to the winners of the race's various jerseys.

The presentation also sees the women discreetly kiss the riders on either side of their face.

"Women are not prizes, rewards or sexual objects. They are athletes and their place is on the podium as sportspeople and not as rewards," demonstrator Fatima Benomar said in a video posted on Wednesday on her Facebook page protesting in front of the office of Tour organisers, ASO.

An online petition calling to end the use of women on the podium has more than 28,000 signatures.

One commented: "A bunch of flowers, spraying of champagne, a winner's jersey... And a woman scantily dressed who kisses the three best cyclists to crown their glory. Is it really an essential part of the awards ceremony?"

"The wind has changed and we have to break with this sexist tradition in cycling," another said.

ASO refused to comment when asked by AFP, but the Tour's director Christopher Prudhomme said last year the practice would continue.

"For the men's races like the Tour de France we will keep hostesses," he told AFP.

At the 2018 Fleche-Wallone one-day classic, which has races for both sexes, organisers ASO introduced male and female hosts on the podium for the winners.

In May last year, the office of the mayor of Paris Anne Hidalgo said they wanted to see the end of women kissing the winner of the Tour on the Champs-Elysees as it was a "sexist stereotype".

Spain's Vuelta a Espana replaced podium girls with men and women from 2017 and Formula 1 announced a year later the end of the practice on the grid.

Frenchman Julian Alaphilippe leads this year's Tour de France 1min 30sec ahead of Ineos' Egan Bernal before Friday's 19th stage.

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