Giro d’Italia and Milan-San Remo organiser RCS have announced they plan to introduce a women’s edition of the one-day classic next season.
RCS currently own just one women’s event in the form of Strade Bianche. However, at a pre-Giro d’Italia press conference on Tuesday, the managing director, Paolo Bellino, said: “We are working this year to launch a Milan-San Remo for women, because I think that it’s a spring Monument event that should be for the women. Of course, not such a long distance but we are working now to guarantee it for next year. It would be on the same day, so it would be in the same format as Strade Bianche.”
A women’s Milan-San Remo has existed in the past. The ‘Primavera Rosa’ as it was known finished in San Remo just before the men’s race on the same day and was run by RCS from 1999 until 2005 when it was axed.
There are mixed opinions on the merits of the return of a women’s Milan-San Remo, however many riders have expressed their desire for their own version of the race. Unsurprisingly, Italian riders in particular showed interest with world champion Elisa Balsamo saying, “I really hope that they can have a Milan-San Remo for the women. Of course, not from Milan to San Remo because that’s very long, but I think that they can do a very wonderful and also exciting race in the last kilometres of the men’s race.”
Amstel Gold and La Flèche Wallonne winner, Marta Cavalli, has also added her voice to those calling for a women’s Milan – San Remo: “It would be great to skip the first part [of the men’s race route from Milan] and start in Genoa along the coast. It could be an awesome race.”
“I love San Remo and I’ve spent a lot of timing training there,” Cavalli continued. “The Poggio is one of my favourite climbs and I’ve done it 15 times at a camp last year. I know it well. I would love to play out a big fight with all the riders from the Women’s WorldTour on the Poggio. It would be a dream to win San Remo.”
Bellino stated the women’s race would take place on the same day as the men’s meaning that it would not overlap with Trofeo Alfredo Binda, raced the day before. Binda, which takes place in Cittiglio, is one of the longest-running events on the women’s calendar.
As well as stating RCS’s intent to hold a women’s Milan – San Remo, Bellino also expressed interest in teaming up with the current Giro d’Italia Donne organisers.
“We are discussing with the national federation to see if there are opportunities to work together. My intention is to define something by the beginning of June because there is a question of the calendar, and how to pack everything together,” Bellino said. “I think that in the next few months you will have some good news regarding this event. We would like to move it closer to the [men’s] Giro d’Italia but the women’s calendar is very tough, which is good and it’s a good opportunity.”
Inspired by the Tour de France Femmes, Bellino says the women’s Giro would mirror the format of running a women’s race directly after the men’s Grand Tour finishes.
“I thought at the beginning that it would be much better to work together with them instead of creating a new race especially as the one belonging to the national federation is already on the WorldTour calendar. Now, with the new rules, to become WorldTour takes some years,” he said. “So, my intention was exactly the same one, and I would like to say that the Tour de France did an incredible thing. It was my intention to put together the Giro d’Italia men and women, not on the same days but one following the other.”
RCS are the latest organisers to identify the rapid growth within women’s cycling.
“I think that women’s cycling is growing very quickly,” Bellino said. “If I compare it to tennis and running, athletics, golf, all the sports are growing, and I think that in the next four or five years there will be incredible growth of the cycling movement and luckily in this moment we also have some incredible female riders that achieve incredible goals. We saw it in the last season and in the last few events. We are working and I hope that we will be able to do everything next year.”