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Rethinking the women’s elite road racing calendar

David Walters, manager of the Bianchi Dama elite road racing team, suggests a new way forward for women's elite road racing in the UK

To kickstart a discussion about a new way forward, David Walters, manager of the Bianchi Dama elite road racing team, presents his ideas for a revised calendar for women’s elite road racing in the UK

We have an opportunity to review elite women’s road racing in the UK

If not now, when?

In our current circumstances, it is my opinion that we have an opportunity to review elite women’s road racing in the UK and to throw ideas around, in the open, as to how we want the calendar to look. There is the potential to really get some dialogue going, from all sides, and to come out of this with a plan that has buy-in; it’s not going to be business as usual post-coronavirus.

Limitations of the 2020 calendar

The 2020 National Road Series calendar for women had it’s difficulties and limitations:

  • Racing was compressed into a short period of time, barely two months long, with four rounds (more than half the series) scheduled for just 13 days in July;
  • There was the retrograde inclusion of a circuit race into the series (the Otley Grand Prix is a great race, it just doesn’t fit in that series); and
  • The geographic spread was a huge disadvantage to any rider living south of Sheffield.

All this matters because women’s cycling in the UK is largely an amateur sport, reliant on relatively meagre budgets and well-wishers to make things work.

2019 HSBC UK Women’s National Road Series – Alexandra Tour of the Reservoir. Charlotte Colclough and Georgie Panchaud of Bianchi Dama. Photo: Alex Whitehead/SWpix.com

A flagship race series cannot hinder the riders by forcing them to travel over repeated weekends for a short period, then leave huge chunks of the season empty. That doesn’t satisfy the rider nor sponsor needs. Far better to build a true, season-long competition, build a narrative to the racing, build excitement into well spread out events. Help sponsors build content over a sensible period; help riders by not exhausting them with two months of racing, encourage regions to take ownership of their event as part of a bigger picture, create a true national cycling series, with a feeder division, building a sustainable, understandable race scene.

What could it look like?

I propose the following as an idea of how things could look. There is a lot of merit in what the Lotto Cycling Cup series offers in Belgium (albeit that is comprised of UCI-sanctioned .1 or .2 races). What I set out is an evolution of what has been happening for the last couple of years in the UK, so it isn’t a massive leap of faith that the women’s calendar could look something like this, with plenty in it for all stakeholders.

TierClassDescription
Elite road race series 1Nat A6 races, 1 per month, Apr-Sep, geographically spread, e.g. NW – Lancaster GP, NE – Tour of Res, Mids – Lincoln GP, Yorkshire – Ryedale GP, SW- Circuit of the Mendips, South – South Coast Classic
Elite road race series 2Nat B6 races, 1 per month, Apr-Sep, geographically spread, as above, and non-clashing

2nd tier of women’s racing. Top 20 riders in ‘elite series 1’ ineligible, as of entry close date. Builds a development pathway for both aspirational riders, teams, clubs and event organisers.
UCI road races1.22 races, upgrading two existing races e.g. Women’s CiCLE Classic, Curlew Cup

Gives UK teams higher-level racing against UCI competition, and serves as development and challenge for UK teams and riders.

How might it work?

Local organisers and relevant British Cycling region to co-promote and market the Elite Road Race Series 1 events, working with local stakeholders as ‘halo’ events. Build activity festivals around these high-profile, well-promoted events, engage other sports within the event, build an event community and maximise/share resources. Lack of HSBC sponsorship constraints may open up new, local revenue streams.

It will be incumbent on British Cycling regions to facilitate and work closely with local organisers, with British Cycling regional events officers and road racing workgroups tasked.

2019 British Cycling HSBC UK Women’s National Road Series – The Curlew Cup, Stamfordham, Northumberland – Tasha Reddy, Bianchi Dama. Photo: Craig Zadoroznyj/SWpix.com

Towns, councils will be looking to engage with people post lockdown and encourage economic activity around healthy lifestyles. I cite Salisbury Tour Series post Novichok as an example of event building with funding streams from within that city. The Council sold the event to it’s public as ‘open for business’, and it worked. Every region will have the same need and desire.

Featured photo: David Hares

1 comment on “Rethinking the women’s elite road racing calendar

  1. Gary Dawson

    Now that sounds clear, achievable, credible and sustainable….it is so good to hear balanced proposals and ideas which might get a much needed discussion going for the better of quality women’s cycling from grass roots and up…well done Bianchi man, I’m sure you’ll be in discussions going forward.

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