THERE’S not too many areas of sport in which Britain is the leading light in equality.

But in road cycling, in which there remains a significant disparity between the men and the women’s sides of the sport globally, Britain is showing the way when it comes to giving the women greater prominence.

The men’s Tour de Yorkshire, which begins on Thursday, has increased in length from three days to four while significantly, the women’s race has increased from one to two days.

This is, clearly, still some way from things being equal but nevertheless, this doubling of the length of the women’s race is important progress. And with the strength of the field on the women’s side impressive, including Scotland’s Katie Archibald, Olympic gold medallist Dani Rowe and world champion Chantal Blaak from the Netherlands, the 2018 Tour de Yorkshire is likely to raise the profile of women’s cycling in this country once again.

Last year’s Tour de Yorkshire in particular was a breath of fresh air, with a reported two million fans lining the roadside to watch both the men’s and women’s races, was broadcast live in 180 countries and generated more than £60 million for the local economy.

This is on top of the Tour of Britain announcing last month that the prize money for this year’s Women’s Tour of Britain is to be doubled, making it equal to the prize purse for the men.

All positive steps forward.

But while it should be welcomed with open arms that the women’s Tour de Yorkshire is being expanded, we should not get ahead of ourselves.

There are similar arguments when advocating both for equal prize money and for parity when it comes to length of races.

When the women are asked to race a shorter distance or are forced to accept lesser prize money, it projects an undeniable message that the women riders are worth less, are inferior and are less capable than their male counterparts.

Yet this could not be further from the truth.

As Neah Evans, one of Scotland’s top female riders who has recently returned from the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games with two medals and will race in next week’s Tour de Yorkshire told me earlier in the week how heartened she is about the progress that women’s cycling is making, nevertheless there is no time to relax.

“What’s happening is really encouraging but it’s one of those situations where there’s so much more that can still be done and there are still huge disparities.

“But even the fact that people are taking on board the issue and asking what can be done is hugely positive.”

The feeling that women cannot currently endure whatever is thrown at the men is, says Evans, entirely a product of their history and nothing to do with what they are ultimately physically capable of.

“In the Tour Series, which will happen in May, the women now have an equal number of rounds to the men but you will get people who will say that’ll be too much,” she said.

“It’s so frustrating though because we only train for what we’re given. We train for shorter races because that’s what we race and so physiologically, we’re not as well adapted to longer distances because we don’t do them.

“We haven’t been given the opportunity to do longer distances so that’s why we can’t do it at the moment, and that’s why I think it’s great that we’re up to two days in Yorkshire.

“If we had a Grand Tour, we would have Grand Tour riders because women would train for it but as things stand, we don’t need to be able to ride Grand Tours so if we did it right now, it’s not going to go well. But if it’s gradually introduced and gradually progresses, we would adapt to it because we’d be training for it.”

It’s hard to find even a shred of fault with Evans’ statements. Women are equally as capable as men in every other endurance sport so surely few would suggest that they couldn’t ultimately cope with the demands as well as male road racers.

The doubling of the distance of next week’s Tour de Yorkshire should be celebrated. But until female riders are competing over the same number of days as the men, the fight for parity should and will continue.