By Owen Rogers
Next year will see the next step in the evolution of professional women’s cycling with the introduction of a WorldTour. The decision was made at the UCI Women’s Teams seminar held in Siena after the inaugural edition of Strade Bianche last weekend.
Many issues were discussed at the meeting, attended by representatives of most of the top professional women’s teams. Other than the creation of the WorldTour, delegates discussed the creation of tiers of competition and laid out plans for ongoing professionalisation over the coming five years.
The WorldTour competition will begin in 2016 taking the place of the World Cup, which starts with the Ronde van Drenthe this weekend. Rather than the current format of 10 one-day races, the WorldTour will include a mix of events, including stage races and some new events, totalling 30 race days.
No calendar has been set, though it is likely the current World Cup races will remain. Both La Course events, the Tour de France and la Vuelta could be among the one day races on the programme, as well as Strade Bianche, deemed such a success last weekend. Candidates for the stage races are the Friend’s Life Women’s Tour, Amgen Tour of California and possibly the Giro Rosa.
The suggestion of two divisions of professional teams is still out for consultation and nothing will happen before 2017. More news is expected later this year, possibly after the UCI Management Committee meeting in June. However, the proposal discussed at Sunday’s meeting is for a top level of 10 teams, all of which will be required to race all the WorldTour events.
“The division of teams is like the men’s, but the idea behind it is completely different, ”Andrea Marcellini, Women’s Cycling Coordinator at the UCI told Cycling Weekly. “The main idea is that it’s not going to be the WorldTour teams and the rest, our focus here is development. We don’t want to make policies for the top five teams, we want to make policies that are beneficial for all teams.”
12 of the top 15 women's pro cycling teams will race in the second Women's Tour in June
“We’re going to have two programmes where teams can fit and we can bring them towards more professionalism and better financial means in the framework of the those two different programmes. Tier one teams will have higher criteria to register and it’s going to be mandatory for them to race also the WorldTour events.”
Selection of the teams for the first division is another undecided factor, but is likely to be decided on WorldTour points accrued next year.
No minimum wage - yet
Whilst it is on the horizon, no date has been set for the introduction of a minimum wage, something many have called for. “Before we establish minimum salaries,” Marcellini said, “We need to establish a healthy environment for the riders, that is the essential base for the professionalisation of teams.”
The meeting was the first of its kind and has established definite lines of communication between teams and governing body.
“I can imagine the UCI were very nervous,” Wiggle-Honda team manager, Rochelle Gilmore told Cycling Weekly. “However, their willingness to 'have a go' has earned them a lot of respect from the people in women’s cycling. We all seem to be on the same page and working towards the same goals together.
“Overall, the presentation of a new structure for women’s cycling has been accepted with open arms. It has given everyone motivation, excitement and belief in the progression and evolution of women’s cycling.”
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