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The women’s Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race has secured a UCI classification of 1.2, becoming the second Australian women’s race to obtain a ranking for 2016, which is bound to bolster the appeal of the nation’s summer season of racing for riders and fans alike.
Deakin University has also come on board as a sponsor of the January 30 race, which will now be known as the Deakin University Elite Women’s Road Race, and it will be strengthened with the addition of the Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling Team in 2016.
In recent years the Oceania women’s calendar has been notable for its lack of UCI races but with the 2.2 classified Women’s Tour of New Zealand returning in 2015, the Santos Women’s Tour gaining a 2.2 ranking in 2016 and now the classification of the Deakin University Elite Women’s Road Race, the situation is looking healthier.
“From a UCI perspective there has been a very tangible focus on growing women’s cycling all around the world to raise the profile of women in cycling, to create a platform of high quality events in as many continents as we can,” said Tracey Gaudry, UCI vice president, president of the UCI Women’s Commission and UCI Oceania president.
Gaudry told Ella CyclingTips it was important for the UCI to take into account what was the optimum situation for the teams and athletes, so calendar decisions had to include considerations such as the troughs and peaks of the season, a chance for athletes to have a break and efficiency with travel to utilise team budgets.
“Being a very high quality early season race, this now gives teams the opportunity to came out for two events, which makes it a very attractive proposition to race and train while Europe is still in the middle of winter,” said Gaudry.
Australian cycling fans have long revelled in the opportunity to watch some of the top male riders in the sport on their own home turf, with the Santos Tour Down Under gaining WorldTour status in 2008 and then last year there was the introduction of the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road, which will have a 1.HC rating in 2016. The women’s races, while still peppered with notable international riders, haven’t in the past been UCI categorised and have not been as laden with top level international riders. The 1.2 and 2.2 rankings mean the women’s races are still below the level of the male races they run alongside, but the shift of the status of the two key women’s races does take them into a whole new arena.
A UCI-ranking increases the appeal of a race to teams and riders as with the categorisation comes the opportunity to win points that contribute to the world ranking, with the number of points on offer dependant on the categorisation. The first number signifies whether it is a one day or multi-day event (1.WWT or 2.WWT) and the second number or letters the categorisation, which include .WWT for Women’s World Tour, .1 and .2.
In 2015 both the Santos Women’s Tour and the women’s Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race were a part of the National Road Series, a feature which Gaudry said was important remained.
“The Deakin University Elite Women’s Road Race is retaining its status as one of the races in the National Road Series as well as carrying UCI points, so what that is doing is maintaining the support for the national series. This is very important to encourage more women to came in and race at the domestic level, whilst making the transition for the stronger racers to the international level,” said Gaudry.
At the inaugural 2015 edition of the women’s Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race Rachel Neylan soloed to victory, adding to a second place performance at the Australian National Road Championships and paving the way for a return to the professional racing scene. She will be defending her title as part of the Orica-AIS team in 2016.
The women’s Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race on January 30 is a 113 kilometer long one-day race and the Santos Women’s Tour is four days of racing in South Australia running from January 16 to 19.