The top-level women’s peloton will officially become professional in the U.S. in 2013, USA Cycling announced Tuesday. The move comes after the federation announced earlier this year that the women’s road championships would pair with the men’s professional championships in Chattanooga, Tennessee, in May.
The professional national championships will offer equal prize money for men and women.
The move comes as USA Cycling adds female representation to its Professional Road Committee.
“There has been a tremendous increase in awareness and interest in women’s professional road racing over the past decade,” Steve Johnson, president and CEO of USA Cycling, said in a statement. “I think bringing the two championships together and equalizing the prize lists are important steps in the continuing development of women’s cycling in the U.S.”
Women holding a Cat. 1 or 2 license and riding with a UCI-registered professional or elite road team will be eligible to compete in Chattanooga.
Additionally, under-23 women, who have previously raced alongside the elite women at nationals, will contest their own national championship for the road race, criterium and time trial during the weekend of the amateur and para-cycling road nationals.
“Combining the women’s and men’s national road and time trial championships in 2013 is nothing but a good move,” said Exergy-Twenty12 manager Nicola Cranmer. “Not only because of the obvious boost in media exposure that this will gain for women’s racing, but also the fact that creating a separate U23 national championships later in the year gives the young athletes a target. Showcasing pro women alongside the pro men is a positive statement.”