how the fitters are adapting to the women’s group

In the paddock of the women’s teams of the Tour de France, one color dominates: pink. SD Worx, Le Col-Wahoo, EF Education, United Arab Emirates … Several teams have it on their shirts. Like the still popular clichés when it comes to designing equipment for female cyclists. “The first thing the riders ask us is not to have too feminine things though”, Dorian Tabeau, marketing manager of Lapierre, partner of FDJ-Suez-Futuroscope is surprised. He regrets that these prejudices die hard: “Things are still too gendered.”

Present for six years in the women’s group (also in the men’s group with the Groupama-FDJ), the French brand is one of those that have taken the turn of the unisex ranges. “With the naked eye you can’t see any difference between David Gaudu’s bike and Marta Cavalli’s. It’s a will”, assures Dorian Tabeau. He adds: “We haven’t built a bike with an apparently feminine geometry in four years. Speaking with the riders, we realized that it didn’t add anything, that it almost undermined its performance.”

On Lapierre bikes the frames are therefore unisex. Apart from the saddles, only the size varies for one simple and valid reason: the riders are generally much smaller than the riders. But that thinking has yet to take hold in the paddock of the Tour de France women’s teams, even if other equipment manufacturers like Cannondale share it. “The women’s cycling market is ten years behind, it’s emerging, it’s looking for itself and still doesn’t know its consumers very well. We have a lot to learn, but for us the road is unisex equipment.”explains Dorian Tabeau.

This conclusion, the tricolor equipment manufacturer draws from its six-year partnership with FDJ-Suez-Futuroscope and from permanent exchanges with staff and riders. “Today we know what girls want. Now we deal almost only with the technique, the aesthetics are resolved“, says the marketing manager. Lapierre also unveiled at the start of the Tour a special bike, imagined by the riders, with references to the eight stages of the Grande Boucle.

Between designing a bicycle for the taste of bikers and falling into sexist clichés, the line is very beautiful. “To avoid them, we first look for prejudices, especially colors. We also hire women, in an environment that is still too masculineassures Dorian Tabeau. It is an act of balance because we remain in a male universe and, on the other hand, we do not want to be seen as opportunists in the female market “.

As such, the women’s Tour de France must speed up the process. Behind this discourse, however, there are real differences between David Gaudu’s bike and that of Marta Cavalli. Dorian Tabeau lifts the veil on what cannot be seen with the naked eye: “The big difference is in the relationship between the bike’s behavior, its weight and the level of stiffness. You have to find a good compromise, because the riders are lighter.” Even if in the end the addition of components (derailleurs, chains, cans …) makes the weight substantially the same.

So much for the mount, but what about the outfits? Head of the Ekoi brand, which dresses the Arkea, Saint-Michel Auber 93 and Cofidis teams, Pietro Cicoria acknowledges that his teams try to “to bring a feminine touch to the world of cycling”without falling into the trap of the pink across the board. “First, we systematically equip our partners’ men’s and women’s teams. It’s natural.”recognizes.

For two years the Ekoi brand has set up a service dedicated to the female group, with its own collections. “We brought someone who does not come from the world of cycling, but from fashion, who works with our riders. The goal is that what the professionals like will be available to everyone tomorrow.”promises Pietro Cicoria.

With their flashy jerseys, also worn by men, the EF Education - Tibco - SVB team stands out in the women's group.  (MATTHEW MIRVILLE / MATTHEW MIRVILLE)

Obviously women’s knitwear has a different cut, to adapt to a woman’s morphology. “We are constantly improving this thanks to their feedback. “, appreciates Pietro Cicoria. An example ? Helmets. “We adapted the tightening in the back of the helmet, leaving room for long hair to pass, our engineers worked on it at the request of the riders.”. The same goes for bras, designed so that runners can run with the shirt open, without revealing too much.

“Cycling is very culturally associated with men, but this has to change and it does. You have to adapt when necessary, but otherwise make as few differences as possible. A cyclist, male or female, is a cyclist”concludes Pietro Cicoria. “Sometimes it’s not an easy challenge, but you have to do it. The bike has fallen behind, it has to recover ”. And join the sports group where we no longer ask gender questions.

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