Women’s WorldTour season-closer the Ceratizit Madrid Challenge by La Vuelta will race across three stages for the first time this weekend.
The race kick starts Friday with a brand-new opening stage in Toledo, central Spain.
This year’s event will mark the first time the women’s race organized by officials from the Vuelta a España will run over three days, having added a time trial to the original one-day circuit race in 2018 and 2019.
“It’s very important for us to keep developing a project that we believe to be full of opportunities,” said Javier Guillén, head of both the Madrid Challenge and Vuelta a España. “It is absolutely essential to claim our vocation to support women’s cycling, [and] it’s precisely why we turned to this project, to try to push it forward despite the difficulties generated by the health crisis.”
Though event organizers discussed a three-stage format earlier this year, the late detailing and confirmation of the event came after increasing concern over COVID-19 in Spain, with many areas of the country currently in strict lockdowns.
The new opening stage will be 82.8km of racing through the region of Toledo, before the peloton returns to stages used in previous editions. Stage 2 will be a 9.3km time trial, followed by the traditional circuit race in Madrid on Sunday. The final critérium will run ahead of the finale of the Vuelta a España, with the 18th stage of the men’s race also closing out in downtown Madrid.
“These three days of racing will place women’s cycling at the forefront, which will help an entire community feel that they are participating in an event in continuous growth, and which will contribute to the recovery of our normality and strengthen our morale as a country,” said Irene Loazano, president of the High Council for Sports.
The expansion of the Spanish race is the next step in a wider push to develop women’s racing.
Although the inaugural Paris-Roubaix canceled last month due to COVID restrictions in France, both the men’s and women’s races are set to return in April. Tour de France organizers have been whispering of a women’s Tour de France in the next few seasons, and this weekend, ASO revealed the details of a tough, classics-style route for La Course in 2021.
Six WorldTeams and 11 Continental teams will take part in the Madrid Challenge, including Ale-BTC Ljubljana, Canyon-SRAM, Mitchelton Scott, Movistar, Sunweb and Trek-Segafredo.