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Back in January, the UCI announced it would debut a Women Under 23 category at the 2016 World Cyclocross Championships, and today is followed up on that promise, sharing details of the added category.
The Women’s U23 race will be the first new addition to the World Cyclocross Championships since 2000, when a women’s elite race was first held.
As an effort to grow the sport of cyclocross and to get more young women competing, a women’s youth category has already been successfully implemented at the continental and national championships level. At the World Championship level, however, all women competed together in one category. Up until now.
With this under 23 category -which the UCI abbreviates as WU – female athletes ages 17 to 22 will now be competing against peers in their own age group for a prize purse equal to that of their male counterparts. For the Continental Championships, the WU category will replace the Women’s Youth category, which combined Junior Women and Women Under 23.
If these races are successful, a Women’s Under 23 category could be added to the UCI World Cup series as well.
The WU category is a direct result of a concerted lobbying effort by British cyclocross pro Helen Wyman and her fellow representatives of UCI Cyclocross Commission.
“I think the women’s U23 category is a great step forward. I think it shows the desire of cross to provide a legitimate career pathway to the top,” Helen Wyman told Ella CyclingTips. “When a 16-year-old women has to race the likes of [Katie] Compton, [Marianne] Vos and [Sanne] Cant week in week out, it becomes very demoralising. With a category of their own it gives people an incentive to stay in the sport.”
Adding the WU category is only a start, Wyman said, but it has seen success at the national level as well as in other discipines.
“Within a short time frame, it should be able to be rolled out into the other category of races, too,” Wyman speculated. “This is what has happened in mountain biking and off the back of it, there’s been a lot of success of neo pros winning elite races. This is where I hope the future lies for cross, too. I understand it will take time for this to happen. So let’s look back in three years and see what we have achieved!”