The first-ever U23 women’s road racing world champion is expected to be crowned in Australia in 12 months, but there will be no stand-alone races for the category until later.
UCI President David Lappartient said on Thursday that the sport’s governing body was able to open a new category and a new rainbow jersey for the 2022 World Road Championships in Wollongong. However, it would be part of the existing elite women’s road race, with the first female under-23 runner to cross the finish line to be crowned the first under-23 world champion.
Lappartient was speaking at a launch event for the 2022 Worlds on the rest day of the 2021 event in Leuven, Belgium. Ask by Cycling news if there were any plans for a U23 female category, he highlighted the measures taken by the UCI to develop female cycling, before saying that it is “probably something to consider now”.
When asked later about the possibility of integrating a U23 category into the existing elite women’s road race, he did confirm that it would happen in 12 months.
“It’s clearly something that is possible. This could be our first step, ”he said.
“It would give the opportunity to have two official podiums, two official world champions, and that’s clearly something we can do, at least for next year. Clearly, the goal next year is to create this U23 category in one race, with two world titles. It will be the first step before having a dedicated race, and we can be ready because at some point we have to go.
The World Road Championships program currently features road races and time trials for elite men, elite women, U23 men, junior men and women juniors, as well as a mixed team time trial born two years ago with the aim of forging a new Olympic event. Amid growing demand for a tie, the lack of a U23 women’s category at the Worlds has been called into question, with Sarah Gigante calling it “completely unfair” last week.
Lappartient was joined at the event by UCI sports director Peter Van den Abeele, who gave a stronger indication that separate races for U23 women will take place at some point in the future, although that the deadlines remain vague.
“This is definitely something we need to work on and we are absolutely going the way,” he said. “We have done it in other disciplines, for example cyclo-cross. We have to think… should we wait until we have enough participation, or should we just go out there and see if the numbers follow? This is what we saw with cyclo-cross, when we created the category, we had more girls who got into the discipline.
However, Van den Abeele and Lappartient both pointed to logistical headaches when it comes to effectively adding two events – and the road race and the U23 women’s time trial – to the Worlds schedule.
“You have to see, because there are also questions,” said Lappartient. “It’s wonderful to host Worlds but when you’re mayor of the host city and you say ‘I’m shutting down my city for eight or nine days, and now one more day’ … because that’s what that’s going to happen. That’s also something to consider. “
Van den Abeele added: “The Road Worlds program is already quite busy. It is not an easy task. I’m not saying that should prevent us from installing the category, but it’s something we need to look into. But there are always solutions to be found.
“The last point is that if we were to consider having this category, would it be a good opportunity to do it in Wollongong, Australia? For equality, yes, but for our national federations, in a cost-effective way, is it a good one It’s a question mark. It’s something we have to consult the federations on. But starting with a U23 women’s category at the World Road Championships is something that should happen very soon. “
The launch event saw a step towards equality, with the announcement that the elite men’s and women’s individual time trials in Australia will both be run over the same distance, on the same courses, for the first time. times of history. Both events will take place on the opening Sunday of the championships, with the two courses tackling largely flat courses of around 35km.
“This will be a transformative moment for our sport,” said Stuart Taggart, CEO of Wollongong 2022. “We want this event to shine a light on women and their incredible success, resilience and determination – not just in Australia but everywhere. in the world.”