Cycling fans will get their first chance in more than six years to see a top level women’s cycling race in Australia televised in real time, with the news announced today that the Seven Network will broadcast live from the women’s event at the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race.
The race, called the Deakin University Elite Women’s Race, made the step from being a domestic level race in its first year to gaining a UCI ranking this year. The next step forward in the television coverage of the January 28 event in 2017 makes it a rare chance for followers of women’s cycling to watch the on road battles play out in real time. The last time a UCI ranked women’s cycling event in Australia was covered live was when the Road World Championships were held in Geelong in 2010. The only other live coverage at any level we know of since was the SBS broadcast of part of the women’s race at the Stan Siejka Launceston Cycling Classic in 2014.
With the Deakin University race taking a substantial step forward every year since it started in 2015, we can only wonder what’s in store for 2018.
“We are looking for a truly global WorldTour, and frankly this event ticks the boxes for a future ascension to WorldTour status, should it so desire to apply,” Tracey Gaudry, UCI vice president, president of the UCI Women’s Commission and UCI Oceania president told Ella CyclingTips.
“With the number of international teams that are already secured, with the live broadcast and what we know is a world class, quality event … it has all of the ingredients for a Women’s WorldTour race as a one day classic at the start of the year,” Gaudry said in an interview following the media conference announcing the broadcast.
Australian cycling fans have long revelled in the opportunity to watch some of the top male riders in the sport on their home turf. The Santos Tour Down Under in South Australia gained WorldTour status in 2008 and then in 2015 there was the introduction of Victoria’s Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race, with the men’s event now having gained WorldTour ranking for 2017.
The women’s races which run in parallel with these events, however, weren’t UCI categorised until this year and are still below the WorldTour status of the men’s events. They have also previously only received small amounts of delayed television coverage and have not in the past been as laden with top level international riders. However, the level of interest from international teams has also taken a step up for 2017 with the live broadcast and live streaming another factor adding to the appeal.
For the sponsors as well as the fans
“My vision for the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road has always included a strong women’s race,” said Cadel Evans, former road world champion and Tour de France winner. “To have the Deakin University Elite Women’s Race broadcast live places us on par with other big women’s races such as La Course.”
There are ten international teams confirmed for the 2017 edition of the 113 kilometre long Deakin University Elite Women’s Race, eight of them UCI women’s teams. They include Canyon-SRAM, Ale Cipollini Galassia, Cylance Pro Cycling, Drops Cycling Team and of course Australia’s Orica-AIS.
“To have it live and broadcast on television… it’s a really massive step forward,” said Amanda Spratt of Orica-AIS, reigning Australian road champion and 2016 Deakin University Elite Women’s Race winner. “For people to be able to see that on television it’s really important for the sponsors of our team and the sponsors of the race.”
Women’s cycling has long struggled to gain financial backing anywhere even remotely close to the level seen in the men’s side of the support. Even at the very top level team budgets are tight and some of the very best female cyclists in the world struggle to get a wage that means they can make ends meet. Broader publicity is seen as a key to changing this.
“One of the KPI’s of the UCI is for women’s road races to be broadcast live or live streamed,” said Gaudry. “Importantly if the fan base increases worldwide that brings a new economy into women’s sport, it brings more potential partners and sponsors into the sport because that is a way for them to realise a return on their investment.”