Sat, Sep 26, 2015 - Page 19 News List

Cycling body announces new women’s tour

AP, RICHMOND, Virginia

Spain cyclists ride up Libby Hill during a practice session at the UCI Road World Championships in Richmond, Virginia, on Thursday. This week’s world championships conclude with the women’s elite road circuit today and the equivalent men’s event tomorrow.

Photo: EPA

Cycling’s governing body announced a new tour for women’s racing on Thursday, promising more events and greater visibility for what has largely been a neglected part of the sport.

The women’s WorldTour replaces the confusing, antiquated World Cup system that has been in place since 1998. The series is to run from March through September and feature 17 events in the US, Asia and Europe, increasing the number of competition days by 60 percent.

Much like the men’s WorldTour, the top 20 pro teams will be invited to participate, though event organizers will have the option of including lower-level teams in their fields.

“We’ve been investing quite a lot of time, effort and money into women’s road racing. That was part of my manifesto when I was elected,” UCI president Brian Cookson told reporters. “We need to develop the women’s side of the sport. We believe that’s the right thing to do.”

Women’s cycling has fought for equality for years, with fewer chances to race and purses a fraction of those for men. Teams often struggle to find enough sponsorship money to remain solvent, which means some of the world’s top riders have a hard time making ends meet.

Television and media coverage of their races, so important in a sponsor-driven sport, has been an after-thought at best — even though they are sometimes more compelling than men’s races.

“For a long time, I’ve argued that all they really need is opportunity,” USA Cycling vice president Jim Miller said. “And if given an opportunity to race in front of the number of eyeballs that men do, in most cases the average fan can’t tell the difference.”

There has been momentum building for women’s cycling the past few years.

In 2012, the UCI announced prize money for individual races at the world championships would be equal for men and women. Two years later, there was a one-day women’s race in conjunction with the final stage of the Tour de France for the first time, giving competitors a chance to race on the same Champs-Elysees circuit in an event broadcast in 23 countries worldwide.

There also have been new and expanded women’s races tied into the Tour of California, Tour of Utah and USA Pro Challenge, the three major stage races held in the US each year.

“I started racing in 2004, and I’ve noticed a profession in women’s cycling,” said 23-year-old Coryn Rivera, one of the top US riders.

“We have bigger races in Utah and California, and of course having the women’s counterpart to the Tour is huge,” Rivera added.

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