British Cycling have announced sweeping changes to women’s racing to help improve the consistency of events on the calendar.
The national governing body has sought the views of hundreds of female riders to improve the structure of domestic racing in the wake of a surge in participation.
Changes will come into effect for the 2020 road season and will involve the introduction of the same categorisation used in men’s racing.
British Cycling’s cycle sport manager, Lisa Graham, said: “Recent years have seen strong increases in the amount of women taking up road racing, and while we are absolutely delighted with this progress, we recognised the need to ensure that the women’s racing environment continued to develop and improve, and that we didn’t rest on our laurels.
“We introduced the Women’s Road Racing Workgroup in autumn 2018 to make sure that the voices of these women were heard, and one of the most consistent feedback themes we received was the need to alter the way women’s races were categorised.
“In the past, smaller field sizes have meant that the ‘women-only’ category of road racing was the only way we could ensure that event organisers could put on sustainable events, but with the growing numbers of female racers, we can begin to implement the same categorisation system used on the men’s side of the sport.
“We are delighted that, after many months of work alongside riders, event organisers and others, we can bring about these changes for the 2020 season, and look forward to working with the Women’s Road Racing Workgroup to continue to bring about positive change.”
Races categorised as National A will be open to senior, elite, and junior first, second and third category riders with a minimum distance of 100km, or 70km per stage in a multi-day race.
National B events will be open to the same riders but with a minimum distance of 80km.
Senior and junior second, third and fourth category riders can enter Regional A races, which must have a minimum distance of 70km.
Regional B races will have a minimum distance of 60km and will be open to senior and junior third and fourth category riders, while Regional C/C+ events are open to all and have no minimum distance.
Ranking points for female riders will be the same as in the men’s model and both genders will be ranked in the same way.