Paris, France – Five years after the professional cycling world began allowing women to compete in the three month long Tour de France, the cycling world was stunned when a 21-year-old law student from Long Island, New York became the first woman in the 105-year history of the race to wear the coveted yellow jersey. But the victory did not come without incident.
Flora Eloise Hobble, member of the Stay Free Mini-pad team won the 220 kilometer race in just over 12 weeks, literally destroying her male counterparts through a combination of arguments, temper tantrums and the silent treatment.
“I got off to a pretty shaky start,” said Hobble. “My team director managed to misplace my custom made, carbon fiber makeup case on the flight over, so I had to send him out in search of a replacement. Fortunately, this being France and all, we were able to get one flown in from Paris, just minutes before the start of the first stage.” Three days prior to the race, six other women from four teams were disqualified for using banned breast implants. Although the disqualified cyclists claimed to have participated in rigorous wind tunnel tests, it was determined that the implants did not comply with strict International Cycling Union guidelines for aerodynamics and gave them an unfair advantage over their competitors – especially the men.
The integration of women into what has been traditionally an all-male athletic competition did not come easy. Many complained that including female competitors into the lineup would serve as an unnecessary distraction to the male riders. “I haven’t seen my girlfriend for over two months,” complained Jan Ullrich, star rider from team Stanozolol. “And if you think its easy hiding your arousal in these skimpy, skin-tight cycling shorts, you’d better think again.”
A number of course modifications were made to accommodate the female athletes. In past races, the three-week, 2200 kilometer race was punctuated by alternating stages of flat time trials and brutal mountain climbs with two rest days in between. To accommodate the female athletes, the race has been shortened to 220 kilometers and extended to three months, so that the average ride is no longer than 1.8 kilometers a day. Rest days have been replaced with 15 shopping days.
This year’s route was nearly identical to the 2006 course, except for the elimination of all of the hilly stages through the Pyrenees and the Alps and both the individual and team time trials. “A lot of the women athletes complained last year that the tour was just too damn hard,” said Joseph-Marie-Arnaud Jaillet, Director of the Tour de France. “And quite frankly, I just couldn’t put up with any more whining, so I caved in and shortened the course.”
The first day began uneventfully with Hobble and her teammates taking an early lead. “To tell you the truth, I could have gone out a hell of a lot faster,” said George Hincapie, member of team Discovery. “But I just couldn’t pass up the opportunity to ride behind all of those beautiful lycra-clad butts.” And in fact, that was the intent of the members of team Goddesspads. “We knew that would get the guys,” said Cheryl Simonelli, domestique to Flora Eloise Hobble. “And if that didn’t work we were prepared to unzip our jerseys or remove them completely.” Just such a move was pulled in 2009, which resulted in the disqualification of two women athletes from team Estee Lauder for exposing excess cleavage.
After a delayed start from Esch-sur-Alzette, the second week of competition finally got under way. “We didn’t get out of town until almost noon,” said Aaron Seraphim, sprinter for team Cofidis. “Dona Spunsler of team Midol wouldn’t come out of her trailer. Someone said she was in there crying and refused to start the race.” After further investigation, officials discovered that one of the other competitors made a remark that her butt looked “a little big” in her yellow shorts. “She took it pretty hard,” said Seraphim. “In fact, I heard a rumor that she’s thinking about jumping ship at the end of this year’s season to join the Quick Step team. They wear really cute dark blue shorts that make their athletes look slimmer.”
A number of other changes have transpired since women have been allowed into the tour. Take for instance, the feed zones. “During the early days of the tour, we had to eat whatever they gave us as we flew through the feed zones; power bars, bananas, whatever,” said Bob Roll, television commentator for this year’s tour and husband of Harriett Binney, member of team Depo Provera. “But that’s all changed. Now, most of the women have elected to get off their bikes for an hour and congregate at small sidewalk cafes, where they’ll have tossed green salads with a low-fat vinaigrette dressing and a bottle of Evian water. Plenty of time is allowed for the female athletes to freshen up their makeup before getting back out onto the course.”
Even the equipment has changed. While all of the cyclists in the tour still use some form of state of the art carbon fiber or aluminum frame, many of the bikes used by the female competitors now come equipped with additional features such as cell phone slots, Starbucks coffee mug holders and large mirrors for those quick mascara touch-ups.
As the fourth week of the race ended, a number of riders were involved in a horrific crash with just 100 meters to go to the finish in Cambo-les-Bains. Elinor Neugebauer from team Vagisil was reaching down for her water bottle and broke two of her nails. When she abruptly stopped in the middle of the peloton to examine the damage, she caused 34 of her fellow competitors to crash. The carnage was the worst ever recorded in the history of the Tour. “While a number of athletes with broken collar bones, dislocated fingers and severe road rash brushed themselves off and continued the race,” said Roll, “Neugebauer’s injuries were deemed much more serious. She was transported off the course by a Flight for Life helicopter and taken to a local manicurist.” A specialist in acrylic nails was being flown in from the United States. “We won’t know until later tonight if they’ll be able to repair those two nails or if she’ll even be able to resume racing tomorrow.”
During the final day of the race, the peloton had to face some of its most grueling terrain: the designer stores on the Champs Elysee. “We did pretty well when we were out in the countryside,” said Noemi Nastasi from team DivaCup. “Cruising past all of those farmers and young French boys without any shirts was pretty easy. But when Chandra Goldsby saw that Prada boutique, I knew we were going start losing some serious time.” One by one, as the women passed Sephora, Armani and Gucci, the field began to thin out. By the time the remainder of the peloton cruised into the finish there were only two women cyclists left: Hobble and her domestique, Twana Kruszewski.
“It was a thrilling experience. One that I’ll never forget,” said Hobble. When asked what her plans were after winning the most prestigious bicycle race in the world, she said, “Well, first off, I’m going go home and get a pedicure. Maybe have a few of the girls by for a sleepover and a pillow fight. Then it’s back to school. I’ve got some Civil Procedure and Torts to catch up on.”