The organisers of the London-Paris 09 Cycle Tour say the number of female riders taking part this year is up on previous years.
The event billed as the "professional event for amateurs" has attracted a total of 280 starters, 25 of which are women. The riders will cover 520km in three days, starting from London on 25 June and finishing in Paris on 27 June. Along the way they will benefit from rolling road closures and full logistical support, aiming to recreate some of the aspects of the real Tour de France.
The Tour's ride captain is Rachel Przybylski, who works at the NASDAQ OMX Europe stock exchange in London. She thinks the success of riders such as Nicole Cooke, Rebecca Romero and Victoria Pendleton at Olympic level has helped grow the numbers of female cyclists.
"Cycling used to be about old men in village halls but now the sport has successful, glamorous women winning Olympic medals and women are now realising that cycling is a sport for them too," she said. "The London-Paris Cycle Tour is a great opportunity for women to ride at the highest level. The event is a real motivation for mind and body. Last year I met some really inspirational people and I can't wait for this year's event."
Another female starter in the London-Paris is freelance PA Antonia de Barton-Watson. The 37 year-old first rode the event in 2007 and said; "Women are becoming more aware that cycling is a sport for them and more of us are just getting out on our bikes. You don't have to be a big strapping character to cycle. Women of all shapes and sizes can take part in cycling."
The London-Paris 09 Cycle Tour will raise money for four charities this year: the Geoff Thomas Foundation (a leukaemia charity set up by former England footballer Geoff Thomas), youth education charity Christel House, Schools for Children of Cambodia and South Africa's Morning Star, which works with children with HIV. The London-Paris women posed for a fundraising calendar to help support the event's partners and riders raised £51,462 in 2008.
The event didn't go completely smoothly in 2008, however. On the second stage between Calais and Amiens, one rider was killed when he hit a patch of diesel and fell into the path of one of the following motorcycles. He did not recover from the head injuries he sustained.
Cycling Plus editor Rob Spedding took part in last year's tour and said at the time: "Cycling on the road, especially in large groups, can never be completely free of risk but from what I experienced on the road the organisers did their utmost to ensure the safety of all of the riders taking part."
The London-Paris 09 Cycle Tour is organised by Sven Thiele and the HotChillee global events company. HotChillee will stage the Devil Takes The Hindmost elimination race at this year's BikeRadar Live on 30-31 May at Donington Park in the East Midlands.