In March, it was largely reported that the Tour de France would be saying goodbye to their infamous Hôtesses du Tour, or “podium girls”, for this year’s race. Despite the tradition of having a smiling young woman present the winners with flowers at the end of each day’s stage, there was pressure to follow the lead of other major sporting events that were opting to eliminate a practice that many feel presents women in a limited role.

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Nevertheless, when Columbian rider Fernando Gaviria took the first stage on July 7th, he accepted his yellow jersey flanked by two beautiful women. Although the response from the cycling community has been mixed regarding the decision to keep the tradition in place, one of the reasons might have been that the podium girls actually do a lot more behind the scenes than the inadequate job titles suggests. So while these ladies are still present at the race, here are a few notes about who the podium girls are and the role they play at La Grande Boucle.

Most aren’t professional models

Some might think that the hostesses are used to life in front of the camera, but for many, the Tour is an annual one-off. As Carmen García Giménez, a Spanish event coordinator and translator who has been working as a podium girl for 4 years, explained to We Love Cycling, one of the biggest misconceptions about the hostesses is that being camera ready is their primary professional skill. Before working for the Tour, she hadn’t done any modelling or hostess work, but decided to apply after her cousin informed her about the opportunity. Following a thorough hiring process, including several interviews that assessed qualities such as language skills and professional experience, she got the job.

It’s a lot more than hair and makeup

Smiling for the camera alongside the day’s winner is just a very small part of a day in the life of a Tour hostess. “We are not only giving flowers and trophy, we’re part of a huge team,” Giménez said. The ladies are responsible for cleaning and preparing the departure village, serving food and drinks to the guests, and ensuring a cordial atmosphere throughout the event.

The hours are long

The hostesses rise with the riders, often getting up around 4 or 5 am. Giménez explained that due to the fact they take a different route to the finish line than the riders, every day is a logistically complicated operation to ensure correct timing and coordinate with the caravan. After an already full day of work, they need to arrive fresh at the finish line to greet the guests and competitors. “Once all is over we go back to the next hotel, which means we get there around 8:30 or 9 pm (if we are lucky and there are no traffic jams).” Long days, lack of sleep, and generally high temperatures make it a pretty intense job.

They have a network of their own

Despite the long hours, for many women, working the Tour has become an event they look forward to every summer. They are well compensated for their hard work and have formed a friendly network that makes for a great working environment. “We all get on very well and have fun,” Giménez told us, “we work hard but we are a good team and enjoy spending the time together.”

Romain Bardet parades during the team presentation ceremony in Dusseldorf, on June 29, 2017.

Still looking for a change

Case in point – those ladies you see smiling do a lot behind the scenes to make sure the Tour de France runs smoothly. That being said, while the gender gap remains as large as it is in professional cycling, we think it’s time that the coverage of women at events features more of them actually on bikes. Are there beautiful young men handing out flowers on the women’s circuit? It’s tough to say with the lack of TV coverage.

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