The creation of the UCI’s ProSeries could undermine the quality of some of the sport’s biggest races and leave team struggling to fins early season competition next year. Omloop Het Nieuwsblad is among a number of events not included in the series, with new regulations on start lists leaving the race possibly struggling for top riders.
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Though the ProSeries category of races has been also been introduced for men’s races, the innovation could well have wider implications for the women’s sport, changing the complexion of coming seasons.
The women’s ProSeries will come second in the hierarchy of events, adding a fourth tier of racing and, in 2020 comprise 10 races across 27 days.
While the men’s Omloop Het Nieuwsblad race has been WorldTour level for some time, the women’s race has historically been categorised at 1.1, what has been until now the second tier of women’s racing.
Won this year by one of Boels-Dolmans’ former world champions Chantal Blaak, the race has always attracted all the top teams, eager to get their European race schedules underway.
However, a clash comes as the UCI is simultaneously creating Women’s WorldTeams, a top tier of women’s squads, with only five of those permitted to compete in any .1 race.
All eight of the outfits applying for WorldTeam status raced Omloop last year and if, as is likely, all are promoted to the new level, three are certain to miss out next season. And with the number of WorldTeams increasing to a maximum of 15 by 2022 the implications could be profound for the historic race.
Flanders Classics organise five UCI women’s races each spring, and while two of those currently form part of the Women’s WorldTour, Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, Brabantse Pijl and Dwars Door Vlaanderen will stay at 1.1 level.
“We are developing a long term strategy for all of our women’s races that will hopefully also be commercially viable in the future,” Wim van Herreweghe of Flanders Classics told CW. “Being a part of the ProSeries, or even WorldTour will of course be one of our aims.”
Another gnarly spring one-day race, Le Samyn des Dames typically provides opportunities for some of the less established names from top squads. However, as a 1.2 event in 2020 only three WorldTeams will be permitted, with that reducing to zero in the following seasons as more top level teams come on line.
It’s not all bad though. After being dropped from the 2020 Women’s WorldTour, Prudential RideLondon Classique will be the only British race among five one-day ProSeries events, all of which must have a minimum of four and a maximum of 10 WorldTeams.
Long rumoured to be be vying for the WorldTour inclusion, Germany’s Lotto Thüringen Ladies Tour will be joined by Festival Elsy Jacobs and Vuelta a Burgos Feminas among the five stage races.
One anomaly on the newly published calendar is the Dubai Women’s Tour. The four day race is set to be the highest profile women’s race in the Middle East, though as a 2.2 rated event it cannot invite any WorldTeams, so is likely to have an unremarkable start list.
ProSeries events will be either live streamed or produce a 20 minute TV highlight package, and with Women’s WorldTour races required to produce a minimum 45 minutes of live TV coverage, there will be plenty of quality women’s racing to watch in 2020.
This year both Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Brabantse Pijl were streamed live, though it is not known whether this will continue now both events are in the third tier.