She will be known to a good portion of Dutch and Flemish cycling followers as the girlfriend of the world champion, but Marion Ross (30) is an absolute star in France. Already at the age of twenty she became a French road champion, but after four years she suddenly decided to give up cycling. It can no longer be combined with her other activities, especially for French television. First at Eurosport, and since 2017 at France Télévisions, where she, along with commentator Alexandre Pasteur and fellow analyst Laurent Galbert, has modernized the French public during the biggest races.
And now there’s an entrance on the international stage, as the new director of the Tour de Frans Femmes. Although it wasn’t planned like this: “I’ve been aware of the arrival of the Women’s Tour for two years, but I never thought I would play such a prominent role in it. I can’t remember the exact moment, but during pregnancy I had a phone conversation with Christian Prudhomme on a completely different topic. At the end of that conversation, he suddenly turned to the women’s tour. “Marion, think about it, but you are really the only candidate for us to become the director of this course.” Then hang up! “
And when did it all go down a little?
“A few weeks later, Christian came with Pierre-Yves Thulete (Prudhomme’s right hand at ASO, editor) to tell me everything. Then I decided to do it. It’s a great honor to be the director of such a big event, but it was the most important thing for me to have on guarantees about the future of the Tour for the women. I made sure this was not an experiment and that it would really be a long-term project. At ASO there is no distinction between women and men, it remains the Tour de France. Women’s cycling has finally got the attention it deserves.”
Was there no doubt?
“No really no. Cycling is my life, and I know how much the women’s peloton needed the Tour de France. I started myself at the age of six, and throughout my career I saw all the troubles go by. As a girl I also had that dream of wearing the yellow jersey. If I could Now helping to take the next step is just a great honor. Then you don’t have to think long.”
However, it is something completely different from your work in front of the TV.
“Not quite. At the moment, Christian still helps me a lot on all official occasions, for example contacting the local authorities. But of course I already know to contact the press and the world around the race, albeit from a different point of view. In addition, I was the race director. In the Tour de Provence since 2019, so I already had some experience, albeit on a completely different scale.Add to that the fact that ASO and France Télévisions have been working together since time immemorial, it is actually a completely logical move.Both employers are happy to work What I do for others. And I always think from an athlete’s point of view, political connections know that too.”
The women’s first round of the Tour de France began on the day the men arrived on the Champs-Elysees, with a similar stage in Paris. Will this be a frequent phenomenon?
“In terms of starting date, it will be tied to the Tour with the men every time, except for the Olympic years, when we move into August. The starting place will definitely change. Paris is purely symbolic this year, with its start in front of the Eiffel Tower and the iconic arrival of many fans to the Champs Elysees. The only problem Is that we were very limited in the course after the first stage. We would like to go to the Pyrenees and the Alps, which is simply not possible with the start in Paris.”
Did you have any impact on this year’s cycle?
“Small, and to be honest not next year either. As a former rider you always look at the stages, but I think the team around Thierry Giovino has set a good course, even with the difficulties we had, like the forced start in Paris. That said, fans in the 190 countries where the Ladies Tour will be shown will see as many different sides of the package as possible. ASO is also supporting this with a series of documentaries on the site, but the goal is really to give the women’s peloton a face and give all kinds of riders a chance to succeed. I think this He did well with this course.”
Is there a chance of more than 8 stages in the future?
“Maybe in the long term, but the Tour de France Femmes is currently budgeted for eight stages. Our sponsors have also committed to this. If more stages can be done later, why not? But we have to be realistic that women’s teams do not currently have The number of riders the guys already have. If you’re going to run a three-week tour, that’s going to be a very important factor in the season and it’s going to be a huge investment for us and the teams. Nobody cares about that.”
And Grand Départ abroad, is that still an option?
“We’ve already talked about it, yeah. We’re not closing the door to anyone, and if starting outside can help the event move forward, why not?”
One possible consequence of the Tour’s arrival with the women is that Giro Rosa may fall a bit loose, also because there are only two weeks between the two races. Is there a solution there?
“That doesn’t seem to be an issue this year, because most of the big names ride both the Giro and the Tour. But the period is short, and it’s not ideal. Of course we don’t want to get in the way of other races with the Tour, on a calendar where we have to help each other out. So there’s a lot going on. From contacts with other organizers, we will not deviate from our appointments. The integration with the men’s tour, in terms of logistics and spectators, is very important to us. Think of an advertising caravan for example. This is in the interest of women’s cycling.”
France is not (yet) a superpower in women’s cycling. What is the significance of this event for the country?
“We’re actually not as wide as in the Netherlands (laughs). But there’s been a tipping point in France for a while now. We have Audrey Cordon-Ragot as our fan, and there’s also a new generation coming up with riders like Juliette Labous and Evita Muzic. The most important thing. is that the French followers of the tour will start cycling themselves. This is still not in our DNA, and with the Dutch it is. The hope is that an event like this will make girls more likely to choose cycling. But I’ve also noticed the change taking place at Laurent Jalabert , who initially didn’t pursue women’s cycling at all and now comments on women just as much fun as he does on men. When I was still driving myself, my parents and friends often couldn’t find the results on the internet. Now I can Follow the tour in 190 countries. Great strides have been made in a short period of time.”
Annemiek van Vleuten recently said that she is particularly proud that this is not a file
charity event. According to her, the women’s peloton is really worth it. This relates to your words.
“I totally agree with her, yes. I can now say from the inside that ASO is doing it on its own, because it is interesting from a sporting and economic point of view. There are more and more women’s races, and the main sponsors have committed themselves (official name is Le Tour de France Femmes). avec Zwift, editor) and all the races can now be watched on TV. The Tour de France back then was only a logical conclusion.”
Are you happy with Marianne Voss in the yellow shirt?
“certificate! She is the best female peloton ambassador. But as I said earlier: For us as an organization it is especially important to show the world how high the women’s peloton is now and that we have as many amazing stages as possible with different winners. Then I am very satisfied.”