Women’s WorldTour takes shape, improves media presence

The UCI aims to expand and improve the elite international series for professional women, renaming it the Women's WorldTour for 2016.

The Women’s WorldTour (WWT) will return in 2016, built around a 30-day calendar that will include both one-day races and stage races. The new series, which replaces the current World Cup, is designed to improve the season-long narrative of women’s racing while further professionalizing both teams and race organizers.

The new series bears little resemblance to the current World Cup, borrowing much of its basic structure and organizational requirements, albeit dramatically slimmed down, from the men’s WorldTour.

After years of variable organization quality between races on the women’s calendar, many of the updates appear focused on a broad professionalization of both the peloton and race organizers, with clearly delineated financial and media requirements and a guarantee that top women’s teams will receive invites to the entire calendar.

In-series racing days increase from 10 to 30, and, unlike the World Cup, will incorporate major stage races.

Individual, team, and national classifications will be awarded, and the individual leader will wear a Women’s WorldTour jersey. Points will be tallied on a rolling year, so that each time points are counted (at least once per month), the points from more than one year prior are removed from the tally.

Races will be allowed to run slightly longer, to a maximum of 140 kilometers — up from 130 — and a maximum average of 120 kilometers, up from 100.

One-day events will be contested by teams of six riders, no fewer than four, and stage races by teams of between five and eight riders.

The deadline for race organizers to apply to enter the Women’s WorldTour was August 1, and the UCI is expected to release a full calendar in early fall. Events must hold Class 1 status to apply, and the UCI will create the calendar with an eye toward a season-long narrative and ease of travel for teams, according to UCI documents.

VeloNews understands that most of the current World Cup calendar will continue into the WorldTour in 2016. This includes one-day races like the Ronde van Drenthe, Trofeo Alfredo Binda, Ronde van Vlaanderen, La Flèche Wallonne, and Philadelphia Cycling Classic. Stage races like the Giro Rosa are likely additions to the new calendar.

Just as important as the structural changes are media requirements the UCI is putting on all WWT race organizers, including requirements for video coverage and web and social media presence.

All events must have a website in French and/or English, and create social media accounts on both Twitter and Facebook. Hashtags for each event must be defined by the promoter early in the season and promoted. All events must provide live coverage of racing on their Twitter accounts.

A race organizer’s ability to produce compelling media will be taken into account during the calendar selection process. A UCI document states: “Candidates are required to produce their event for either: live TV, live streaming (Internet) or at minimum a same-day highlights magazine. A news clip of approximately five minutes should be produced in all cases.”

Organizers retain TV rights, a potential revenue stream, but the UCI will help organizers distribute footage to international broadcasters.

The UCI will also seek to centralize post-production of highlight reels — including the addition of commentary in English and graphics — with costs offset by organizers.

As a means of providing some stability for professional women’s teams, the UCI will require that all one-day WorldTour events invite the first 20 teams in a classification determined by the UCI at the beginning of each season, based on “a sport evaluation made by the UCI.” Organizers of stage races are required to invite only the top-15 teams.

Organizers must accept entries from any of these invited teams, but it appears that the invited teams are not required to attend every event — a major point of differentiation from the men’s WorldTour.

The UCI also set prize money requirements across the new series. The numbers are still low — 5,130 euro ($5,701) for a one-day race and 2,565 euro ($2,851) per day at a stage race. Race organizers are also required to provide accommodations for all teams at stage races.