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The U23 women’s road race and time trial category will debut in 2022 as part of the elite women’s events, with a stand-alone event set to roll out by 2025.
The UCI confirmed Saturday that world titles will be awarded in a newly created women’s U23 category in Wollongong, Australia, in September, with the winners coming out of the elite women’s road and time trial races.
Stand-alone U23 women’s races will begin in 2025, with the next three years serving as a transition as the new category is introduced to world championship racing.
“As a transitional measure for the 2022, 2023 and 2024 UCI road world championships, for technical and logistical reasons and due to commitments already made, the women’s races will include both the elite women and U23 women categories, and two titles will be awarded at the end of the events,” read the UCI’s message.
The statement also confirms that the women’s peloton will see a stand-alone U23 race at the worlds by 2025.
“From the 2025 edition, which will be held in Kigali (Rwanda), a separate event will be organized for athletes in the women U23 category,” read the note.
Debate over the U23 category continues to churn
The question of the women’s U23 category continues to churn debate.
A recent survey by The Cyclists’ Alliance revealed that 97 percent of 96 respondents said they would prefer a stand-alone competition to a massed race.
As the women’s peloton continues to grow and expand, many began to ask why there wasn’t a U23 category similar to men’s racing.
The men’s U23 category debuted in 1996 as part of a reorganization of the international calendar.
The UCI all but ended the amateur category that year when it allowed professionals to race the Olympic Games, beginning in the 1996 Atlanta Games.
The men’s U23 category was created in part to give amateur-style riders a chance to compete for the rainbow jersey in their own category after leaving the junior ranks but who might not quite yet be professional.
Even those lines have blurred over the years as male riders turn pro at an ever younger age.
The decision to include the U23 inside the women’s elite race for the next three years, however, will certainly not please everyone.
The UCI insisted that the decision is a boon for women’s racing.
“The award of a UCI world champion title in the road race and individual time trial in the women U23 category is a further step towards parity between men and women in terms of sports programs and is part of the policy implemented by the UCI in this area, which will lead, after an incremental progression, to the full attainment of this key objective for the federation,” a statement read.
UCI chief David Lappartient said the step to award a title to U23 racers is part of a wider move toward bigger things.
“With the award of a women’s U23 UCI world champion title in the road race and individual time trial at the next UCI road world championships, I am delighted that we have taken another step towards parity between men and women in our sport,” Lappartient said. “This innovation, like the progress made in protecting the integrity of cycling and its players, makes our sport more inclusive, and we will continue our work in this respect in the coming years.”