Teams have welcomed news organisers of the Tour de France Femmes are considering allowing seven women squads for the 2023 edition. The idea was confirmed to Cycling Weekly by race director Marion Rousse, who said they will be meeting stake holders to discuss the issue and others arising from this year’s race.
“It is true we asked ourselves whether it’s better to have seven instead of six riders, but we don’t know the answer yet,” Rousse told us, adding that meetings will take place in the aftermath of this year’s event.
The move is among a number of changes being considered by organisers, ASO for the race’s second edition next year.
In an earlier press call held entirely in French, Rousse, a former national road champion, was asked whether there would be extra days in the 2023 race and whether a time trial would be included.
“Maybe, maybe,” she replied when asked about a race against the clock. “This year there was no time trial because we were concerned with the public interest, a time trial attracts less crowd and this year we wanted a course that was attractive to the crowd, but that doesn’t prevent us from doing that in the coming years.”
On increasing the number of stages from eight she said; “You don’t make that decision alone, you should consult with the teams, and at the moment everybody is happy with eight days. Even though women’s cycling is evolving the economic model is still fragile and teams aren’t that big either.”
The 2022 race was won on Sunday by Annemiek van Vleuten leading a six woman Movistar squad. In recent years that number has become the accepted number of riders in women’s teams though UCI Regulations allow organisers to decide, proving they do not exceed minimum or max numbers of between four and seven per squad.
Until the 2017 event the Giro Donne permitted seven rider squads, though that has been reduced to six in subsequent editions.
“Maybe it’s better to have seven riders so teams can control the race better,” Rousse continued. “We will work closely with the teams, we want their opinion. In women’s cycling we have come far, it’s important to take the good decisions at the right moment.”
DSM arrived in France with ambitions for both sprints and the GC, and had to balance both with just four support riders and more riders would help target both classifications.
“I would encourage it,” said team manager Albert Timmer. “For this year’s Tour we have six girls with one GC leader and one leader for the sprints, a lot of the girls are really versatile, they can do a lot of things, but one extra can really make a difference in the way you plan your tactics and in case somebody has to leave the race.”
But with a such a busy Women’s WorldTour calendar already set for 2023, more women in one race puts pressure on squads for other events.
“When I see the WorldTour calendar for next year it’s crazy it keeps on growing and teams are not ready, you can see a lot of races teams are starting with four.”
Surely then the simple answer then is to increase the maximum size of WorldTeams from 16 to 20
“The majority of teams don’t have the budget to fill a roster with 20 riders,” said Ronny Lauke, Canyon-SRAM’s manager. “If you have 20 you have a significantly bigger race programme so you need more staff you have to have bigger infrastructure, I don’t see many teams being able to fulfil these obligations at the moment. We certainly cannot do it.”
There’s another issue. While developments in the women’s sport are beginning to attract more talented riders, there is still insufficient quality ready to compete at the highest level.
“Not yet, but it will come,” said Timmer.
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