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Survey: Women’s peloton wants stand-alone U23 road race at world championships

A survey of riders revealed a desire for a stand-alone event after the UCI indicated it might introduce a U23 rainbow jersey but no separate race in 2022.

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The women’s peloton wants separate U23 and elite races at the road world championships, according to a survey published by The Cyclists’ Alliance (TCA).

An emphatic 97 percent of the 96 respondents to the survey said they preferred a stand-alone competition and not an integrated race with the U23 winner being decided within the elite race.

There has never been a U23 women’s world champion awarded in the competition’s 100-year history, while the men have had the category since 1996.

In an interview with Direct Vélo at the Flanders worlds in September, UCI president David Lappartient said the governing body was considering adding the category for 2022, but a separate race would not be added yet.

Also read: UCI plans to introduce U23 women’s category within 2022 road worlds

His suggestion was received negatively among some riders on social media and that has been borne out in this TCA survey. Of the respondents, 46 percent were in the U23 category and 48 percent were elite-level riders.

“There have been some significant positive changes in women’s cycling in recent years, particularly with the new World Tour system in place,” TCA co-founder Gracie Elvin said. “TCA is proud of playing a big part in some of these changes and supporting a separate U23 women’s category at World Championship level, as well as the introduction of U23 races within the season, is the next logical step in continuing the progress in elite women’s cycling and creating an environment where young women can develop and thrive.”

The survey asked a number of other questions relating to the issue of a women’s U23 worlds race, including if a combined race with elite riders would be OK as an interim measure. In this instance, 51 percent said they would accept it as a “first step” for the category while 42 percent answered no to the question.

One respondent commented, “yes, it’s nice for them to have the recognition like a white jersey, however, it needs to be noted that it could change how team selections are made and race dynamics”.

Another said, “why is next season not already possible?”

Quotas, time trials, and more

The issue of world championship team quotas was covered in another question, with 67 percent saying that team sizes should increase to allow more U23 riders to be added.

A total of 34 percent thought that team sizes shouldn’t be increased, but there was an even split among them between those who thought national federations should decide the mix of U23 riders and elites, and those who believed it should be regulated by the UCI.

Currently, nations can be given a maximum quota of seven riders depending on their position in the world standings. There is an extra spot for the defending champion that cannot be swapped for any other rider, which meant the Dutch had eight riders in Flanders.

On the question of whether there should be a separate U23 time trial if a stand-alone road race could not be done, 70 percent agreed while 30 percent said an ITT should only be included “in combination” with a separate road race.

The final question looked elsewhere in the calendar and 87 percent of respondents said they thought there should be a U23 series during the year. Of those, 53 percent believed there should be fewer than 10 events and 38 percent said it should have between 11 and 20.

Summing up its findings, TCA asked the UCI to take the feedback “into account” and consult with stakeholders to develop the younger categories and the inclusion of a U23 category at the world championships.