The women’s elite race calendar is set for a shake up in 2021 with the launch of the new, 10-day Battle of North. The race will equal the Giro Rosa in length and will see WorldTour events in Sweden and Norway merge into one entity, with the Danish Cycle Union also stepping in.
The Giro Rosa currently dominates the women’s summer calendar, but runs concurrently with the Tour de France, restricting coverage. With the new race slated for August, the Battle of North will have less competition for coverage and could well usurp its Italian counterpart as the pre-eminent race for women.
Giro organisers see their place on the calendar as a boon, with a short highlights package built into Italian TV coverage of the Tour. The race also receives daily coverage in the country’s sports paper, La Gazzetta dello Sport, but struggles for international attention.
Battle of North, however are already in talks with TV companies to carry coverage, and if they can find the terrain on which to host a balanced but selective and attractive race, they could find themselves leading the women’s cycling world.
“We are planning for the world elite on site, millions of TV viewers and of course thousands of spectators along the course,” said Ladies Tour of Norway race director Roy Moberg, which has been part of the Women’s WorldTour calendar since 2017.
With the addition of the Danish leg, the Battle of North is likely to feature three stages in Denmark and Sweden, with the closing four days in Norway, with one rest day somewhere in the middle.
The women’s peloton currently decamp to Scandinavia for a time trial and road race in the Swedish town of Vårgårda in the third week of August, with the Norwegian race held over four stages some days later. Organisers hope the new race will occupy the same slot on the calendar.
The 2021 launch of the race will, of course coincide with he Tour de France’s Danish Grand Départ, something which has not escaped organisers’ attention.
“Scandinavia will get “the Tour de France for women,” when Denmark, Sweden and Norway goes together and introduce the new WorldTour race…” proclaims the press release.
However, it is not guaranteed the race will be included in the top tier of women’s cycling, and the UCI will need to assess whether it would overload the calendar.
This year the series comprises 53 days, which would increase by four should the race be accepted, something which would not have too much of an effect. However, even with next year’s introduction of Women’s WorldTeams, the women’s peloton does not have huge depth, and squads may struggle if other races follow suit or are created in the intervening period.
Organisers of lower level races are also likely to be concerned as any increase in top level race days could reduce the number of leading riders and teams at their events, risking sponsor investment.