“I think the first thing I want to say is that I didn’t see Grande Boucle as a Tour de France. It’s not.”

So says Emma Pooley. The record books might show Pooley as the last winner of the women’s edition of the Tour de France, but she sees it differently. “It’s a tour in France,” she says. “It wasn’t even all in France; some of it was in Spain. When I raced it, it was never one of the grand tours for women. It was four or five stages and, yes, it had the name Grande Boucle, which is the nickname of the Tour de France, but… I never, ever claimed to have won the Tour de France. I’ve won a few tours in France, and I would have loved to have raced the Tour de France but before people think I’m claiming to have won the Tour de France, I didn’t.”

The 2009 edition of the Grande Boucle Féminine Internationale, won by Pooley, brought to an end the 25-year history of what was conceived as the women’s edition of the Tour. Launched in 1984 by the Société du Tour de France, then the organisers of the men’s race, the inaugural women’s race consisted of a groundbreaking 18 stages over 1,080km - still short of the 23 stages and 4,000km the men raced but a

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