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RideLondon Classique wants to keep its place as one of the richest women’s races on the calendar when it returns in 2022.
The event will be a three-day race next year after two years away due to COVID-19 related cancellations. Despite the men’s event not returning for 2022, race organizer London Marathon Events intends to keep its prize pot of €100,000 ($115,245) for the women’s race.
Also read: 2022 Women’s WorldTour calendar
Though it has been overtaken as the richest women’s race by the incoming Tour de France Femmes — which has an overall prize fund of €250,000 ($288,161) — RideLondon Classique will still pay out more euros per kilometer than any other event.
“We absolutely intend to carry that through, it’s so important. It’s wrong to say we’re not having a men’s event and so we lower the prize money,” race director Hugh Brasher told VeloNews. “I don’t think that’s right at all. You need to have more prize money and you need to reward cyclists.
“The prize pot is intended to be as it was before, how we divide it up and look at the various different stages and what happens is still to be determined.”
The event lost its headline sponsor at the start of this year but is in discussions with potential new partners ahead of next year and Brasher expects to have a deal lined up in the near future. Plans for television coverage of the event are also in the works — the race has previously been broadcast live on the BBC.
Live coverage is now a prerequisite for a spot on the WorldTour calendar, a requirement that was introduced in 2020. It is part of a growing number of increased demands from teams and organizers who want to compete at the highest level.
Also read: RideLondon to resume in 2022
Brasher believes it is a positive step but says more needs to be done.
“It’s about time but it’s still got so much further to go,” he said. “We put on the London Marathon and we’ve had parity in prize money pretty well from the start. I can’t understand even why we’re having the conversation that it’s unusual for that to be the case. It’s just wrong.
“It is great that there is more happening and there are more opportunities for women riding but it needs to go far further. I know the teams believe that and the riders believe that. It’s all about getting the right partnerships together to make that happen.”
COVID-19 has hit races hard all over the calendar, but it has been particularly difficult for British races where tight restrictions on sporting events made it all but impossible to hold one.
While the Tour of Britain and the Women’s Tour were able to get underway in September and October respectively, the added challenge of running a mass participation event near one of the world’s biggest cities meant RideLondon would have to wait.
“This event is bigger in scope than the London Marathon. It might not be bigger in worldwide terms, but it is in terms of scope and the number of people taking part,” Brasher said. “Therefore, the decisions that you have to make on this are a lot further ahead. And with the uncertainty that existed in 2020, and ’21, there was no chance.”
Swapping Surrey for Essex
The RideLondon series of events are part of the legacy left behind by the London Olympics back in 2012. While the men’s race brought the peloton through the countryside on the outskirts of London before finishing in the city center, the women’s event was an amped-up crit race.
During the time away, the race organizer has made some changes. It has canned the men’s event entirely and put its full focus behind the women’s race, which will now be held across three days. The mass participation events will be back in 2022, including the 100-mile ride.
BACK FOR 2022
3️⃣-day UCI Women’s WorldTour road race,
1️⃣0️⃣0️⃣-mile sportive on closed roads,
RideLondon Sunday 29 May 2022.
Entries open Wednesday 10 November.
if you’re excited!#RideLondon
— RideLondon (@RideLondon) November 2, 2021
“I think it’s, it’s about evolution. It’s about a place on the calendar and women asking, rightly so, for more challenging events,” Brasher told VeloNews. “We believe it is so important that cycling becomes more diverse, and we are going to do everything in our power to promote that. We’re just delighted that we’ve got such a fantastic partner in Essex.
“It is now three days and we really look forward to the best women cyclists in the world coming back to the shores. We think it fits nicely in the calendar as many of them would then go to the Women’s Tour.”
The race was previously held in August but ultimately lost its WorldTour status ahead of 2020 as the UCI sought to reduce calendar clashes. It now takes up a new slot at the end of May, allowing teams to ride it and then head onto the Women’s Tour at the start of June.
Brasher hopes that holding back-to-back events in the UK will be a big boost for both races and see more people encouraged to ride.
“By being at a similar time of the year, it makes more sense for teams to come over to come to this island and to race here,” he said. “We could see where the WorldTour calendar was going in terms of the Women’s Tour de France. So, moving the event from August absolutely makes more sense.
“Encouraging people onto two wheels at the start of the season is a better thing to do because of our weather, too. It makes sense strategically, from a world tour calendar point of view, from a team point of view, from us as an organizer point of view, and from an inspiring more people to get on two wheels.”
The finer details of the event have not yet been confirmed but it was announced this week that the first two stages will be in Essex.
Brasher wouldn’t reveal precisely what the route would entail but did agree that it would look different from previous editions.
“That is absolutely the plan. A more varied parcours would be exactly the right phrase. And you can say some others and I might agree with them. That’s a perfect description,” he said. “I’m not going to get into the detail because the team is working on it with Essex. There’s a lot of work going on and there will be other announcements.”