As the 2018 Women's WorldTour makes its transition from the one-day spring Classics to stage racing, it's hard not to notice the overlap between Tour of California Women's Race (May 17-19) and Spain's Emakumeen Bira (May 19-22). The conflict has forced many women's teams to choose one over the other, something that the UCI told Cyclingnews it aims to fix in future.
"The organisers of the Amgen Tour of California Women's Race empowered with SRAM always link the women's race to the men's race, with both events running concurrently and concluding in Sacramento," the UCI explained to Cyclingnews.
"The UCI regrets the overlap with Spain's Emakumeen Bira race, and for future seasons, we aim to avoid calendar conflicts of events whenever possible."
Last year, Tour of California Women's Race was held ahead of the men's event and shared the city of Sacramento for the women's finale and opening stage of the men's race. Also, there were three days between Tour of California Women's Race and Emakumeen Bira. Even though Emakumeen Bira has a 30-year history in women's racing, it was not on the Women's WorldTour calendar.
Emakumeen Bira was one of three races added to the Women's WorldTour this year to make up the current 23-event series. The Tour of California Women's Race is held later in the week, and on the same days as the final three stages of the men's race, so there is one day of overlap between the two events.
Anna van der Breggen, who won the Tour of California title last year and is the currently the leader of the Women's WorldTour, will not return stateside to defend her title. Her Boels Dolmans team, which is the number one ranked team in the world, told Cyclingnews earlier this month that they don't have the riders or the resources to compete in both races, and chose to race Emakumeen Bira.
American outfit Cylance told Cyclingnews that they were in the same position as Boels Dolmans, and with their sponsors looking for exposure overseas, they too chose to race in Spain. Both teams hope to return to the Tour of California in future editions.
Organisers of events that are part of the Women's WorldTour are obliged to invite the top 15 ranked UCI Women's Teams and must accept entries from these teams that have responded positively to an invitation. After that, they can extend invitations to two national teams (one from the country hosting the event and one invitation to a foreign national team), and the remaining teams must be UCI Women's Teams.
Tour of California organisers announced the 15 teams that will be competing in the three-day race, which does include four of the top 15 teams in the world ranking; Sunweb, Canyon-SRAM, Wiggle High5 and Astana Women.
Kristin Klein, President of the Amgen Tour of California, says she is pleased with the final team selection and says that the overlap with Emakumeen Bira is a sign of growth in the development of women's cycling.
"We're fortunate to have eight of the top 20 WorldTour teams competing in this year's race, as we did last year, and are thrilled to have some of the best riders in the world committed to the 2018 Amgen Tour of California Women's Race empowered with SRAM," Klein told Cyclingnews.
"We recognize the overlap with the Emakumeen Bira this year. From a macro level, it is great for the sport of women's cycling that there are growing choices for teams."
Conflicting races on the Women's WorldTour puts some stress on elite women's teams, but Klein believes that offering more opportunities, and more races, will help build the sport's overall resources.
"More opportunity for the sport of women's cycling and these amazing athletes is a good thing," Klein said. "If anything, it gives growing teams and riders a chance to develop so that we have even deeper resources in the sport for future.
"We will continue to have an open dialogue with the sports' governing bodies to ensure we're working together for the growth of the sport and maximize opportunities for all, including those teams on the cusp of breaking into the top 15."
Along with Sunweb, Canyon-SRAM, Wiggle High5 and Astana Women, the Tour of California has confirmed American teams Hagens Berman-Supermint, Rally Cycling, Team Illuminate, Tibco-SVB, Twenty20 Pro Cycling, UnitedHealthcare and the USA Cycling Team, which will be led by former winner Megan Guarnier.
Other teams include BePink (Italy), Mexican National Team, Swapit/Agolico (Mexico) and Trek-Drops (Great Britain).
"The Amgen Tour of California has always been committed to growing the sport of women's cycling, as evidenced by our women's race going from a one-day race to a WorldTour event over the past decade," Klein said.
"We're all passionate about continuing to propel the sport, and we look forward to continuing to work with sponsors, teams and cities across the state of California to provide opportunity and resources to ensure the sport continues to evolve and thrive.
"It's always been important for us to support our U.S.-based teams and not only grow the sport in the US but worldwide."