Winnipeg cyclist Leah Kirchmann places third in La Course

Manitoba cycling fans have cause for celebration Sunday following Winnipegger Leah Kirchmann’s podium finish in the inaugural La Course alongside the Tour de France.

Winnipegger peddles to podium in inaugural women's event at Tour de France

Leah Kirchmann (left) stands on the podium next to first place finisher Marianne Vos of the Netherlands (centre) and Kristen Wild (right), also from the Netherlands, who finished second. (Liam Philley Photography)

Winnipegger Leah Kirchmann poses on the Avenue des Champs-Elysées in Paris, with the Arc de Triomphe in the background, following her race. (Liam Philley Photography)
Manitoba cycling fans have cause for celebration Sunday following Winnipegger Leah Kirchmann’s podium finish in the inaugural La Course put on by the Tour de France.

Leah Kirchmann, a national cycling champion, placed third, behind Marianne Vos of the Netherlands. Kirsten Wild, also from the Netherlands, placed second.

Many are saying it's a coup for women to finally get an event of their own at the Tour, which was won this year by Vincenzo Nibali, the first Italian in 16 years to claim the yellow jersey.

Kirchmann agreed. She said she's thrilled about her win, but it was about a lot more than that.

She said the competitive world of cycling is still dominated by men and she hopes the new event will encourage more women to take up professional cycling. 

"Unfortunately with this sport, it is quite male-dominated, and there's a lot of gender inequality," she said. "The biggest things you notice are differences in salaries, in prize money in races [and] racing opportunities."

Leah Kirchmann (left) crosses the finish line just behind second-place finisher Kristen Wild (centre) and winner Marianne Vos (right). (Liam Philley Photography)
​Kirchmann said it's already an achievement to have the Tour de France put on an event for women, something they have long lobbied for. 

"Just to have the most prestigious race in the world, the Tour de France, put on a women's race was a great opportunity to ... get women's cycling in the spotlight [and] increase visibility for our sport," said Kirchmann. "They showed it in like 157 countries — it was crazy."

The race was 13 laps of the Champs Elysees, about 90 kilometers and part of the actual Tour course in Paris, France.

There were 20 teams in the race, with about 120 cyclists. Kirchmann said the pressure was incredible. 

"It was game on from the start, because you know we're not used to this amount of attention on an event. So everyone wanted to be the best on the day. It was full on the entire race, it never let up!" she said.

She said it was great visibility for the sport. 

"I think this is absolutely a great opportunity to just show the world how exciting our racing is. They should show more of it, because people want to see it."