Riders approach the end of the longest stretch of gravel but there's a tough climb to be tackled first - Strade Bianche Elite Women 2016

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by Anne-Marije Rook

March 9, 2016

Every week we scan the internet for the interesting stories of women’s cycling that deliver unique insight, inspire or simply make us laugh and round them all up in a weekly news digest.

Lizzie Armitstead (Boels-Dolmans) is the first to wear the jersey of the leader of the UCI Women's WorldTour by winning the Strade Bianche.

Let’s talk: Is the Women’s WorldTour really a new dawn for women’s cycling or did it start too soon?

by Anne-Marije Rook

An interesting conversation took place on LinkedIn last week when Steve Fry of M2 Sport Management posted a blog ahead of the first-ever Women’s WorldTour event, the Strade Bianchi last weekend. He hailed the inaugural tour as a “new dawn for women’s cycling” yet that’s where his flattery ends, turning his tune and asking the UCI to step it up and provide more coverage.

“The opportunity for women’s cycling is a big one, and now is the time to break the cycle it’s been in for too long….Despite numerous examples of there being a large audience out there wanting to watch women’s cycling on TV (2014 Women’s Tour in the UK had an audience of 2.2m over 5 x 1 hour highlights programmes) seeing professional women’s road cycling on the TV in the UK is still a rarity,” he penned.

“…local authorities and sponsors only tend to want to invest decent sums of money if they are guaranteed good levels of media and TV coverage and rightly so.  Essentially this creates a viscous circle for the women’s side of the sport as no coverage = minimal sponsor/local authority income = not enough money for the race organiser to pay for TV production and so on,” Fry continues before delivering a possible solution:

“There’s an onus on the World governing body of cycling, the UCI, to step up to the plate here.  The cost of ensuring every day of Women’s World Tour racing is filmed and edited into at least an hour of highlights is probably c.£800k.  £800k that we know could then be recovered at least 3 or 4 times over through the increased income it can generate for the race organiser from sponsors and local government.   However no-one wants to make that £800k investment on the premise of ‘jam tomorrow’ and this is where in our opinion the UCI need to step in and make that initial £800k investment to break the viscous circle and create a virtuous one.”

But the conversation didn’t end there. Who knew LinkedIn was where men discuss women’s cycling?! Stefan Wyman, the Owner and Manager at the Matrix Fitness Pro Cycling women’s team responded to Fry arguing that the WWT started a season too soon:

“When we had the announcement of a WWT, I too saw a new dawn. That dawn was targeted to start in 2017, when the WWT was due to start…To me, it feels rushed to market, confused and lacking clear and concise communication, consultation and leadership,” Wyman said.

“Economics are always going to play a part in major changes such as this. But they are not a shock, these costs will be easy to calculate, and as such, should be evaluated before announcements are made. But I feel that long-term damage could be done to the brand, and value of the brand, of the WWT, by having a sub-optimal debut year,” Wyman continued. “I’m praying it’s not been set up to fail. I feel the WWT logo, the name of races, and jersey, should have been kept back for a full-scale launch in 2017. Or later, basically, when things were ready. We should not be discussing WWT in 2016 in my opinion, only hearing news of what is planned for it’s future launch. There is an audience for good women’s racing, the Women’s Tour, La Course, and others, have consistently shown that. I fail to see at the moment what enhancements there will be for races like the Women’s Tour by joining the WWT. I hope I’m proved wrong.”

We are glad to see such discussion happening. Especially out on a public forum. What do you think? Do you agree with Fry — is the UCI responsible for coverage? Or do you share the opinion of Wyman, did the WWT start too soon? Tell us in the comment section below.

This week’s photo comes from VeloFocus, showing the gorgeous white roads of the iconic Strade Bianchi.


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