Elisa Balsamo won this year's Road Worlds, but if there was a combined elite/U23 field, fourth-placed Kata Vas would have won a rainbow jersey too.

The women’s peloton really wants a separate U23 road race at Worlds

97% of survey respondents want a standalone race.

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A couple months back, UCI president David Lappartient indicated that an U23 women’s world champion is likely to be crowned at the 2022 Road Worlds in Wollongong.

At first glance that looks like a positive development – U23 men have long had a standalone race where they can battle it out for a rainbow jersey, while U23 women are still currently forced to take part in the elite race. The UCI’s plan, while seemingly a step in the right direction, still isn’t ideal.

Rather than a standalone U23 women’s race, the U23 women look set to continue racing in the elite field in 2022, with rainbow bands being handed to the first U23 woman across the line from the combined field. That’s a setup used in various other events around the world, including the Australian Road National Championships.

In the days and weeks after Lappartient broke the news of the UCI’s 2022 plans, several riders in the women’s peloton spoke out about that plan. “If your [sic] going to have a title for u23 give us our own race,” said Niamh Fisher-Black (SD Worx) on Twitter. “Its [sic] a complete different dynamic. The point of this sport is to cross the line first, not finish somewhere in the bunch and get rewarded for it. That’s not why I race.

“Come back when you can give us a proper race @UCI.”

Today, The Cyclists’ Alliance (TCA) – an independent union for professional female cyclists – revealed that it had surveyed its members about their thoughts on the combined elite/U23 women’s race that seems likely at the 2022 Worlds.

The results of that survey are clear.

  • Of the 91 professional female riders who responded to the survey, 97% want a separate race for the U23 field.
  • 70% said that if a separate road race wasn’t possible in 2022, a separate U23 women’s ITT race would be a good step in the right direction.
  • 67% suggested that rider quotas should be expanded if the U23 and elite fields were combined into one. The concern is that combining the two races could cost places for elite riders, with some teams instead dedicating resources to winning the U23 race.
  • There was also a concern that having different races within the same race would create dangerous conditions.

“The Cyclists’ Alliance believes a separate race category is paramount to help develop riders as they transition out of the junior category and provide a pathway for creating greater depth in riders’ ability and technical skills before they transition to the elite category,” the TCA wrote in summarising the survey.

“Following the survey, The Cyclist’ Alliance asks the UCI to (1) take this feedback gathered and presented by TCA into account and (2) to consult with TCA, the riders, the teams, national federations and the athletes road commission representative to develop the women’s junior and U23 categories and the addition of an U23 rainbow jersey at future World Championships.”

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