World Championships: Bronzini plays the wildcard for Italy in Richmond, discusses Women's WorldTour

'The sacrifices that women make in cycling are really big,' she says

Former double world champion Giorgia Bronzini is entering the elite women's road race at the 2015 UCI Road World Championships as the wildcard for the Italian team. In an interview with Cyclingnews ahead of the race, she said that if she is there in the finale, she will be the one the team counts on to provide the winning sprint.

"Yes, I would describe myself as the wildcard," Bronzini told Cyclingnews. "If I am there at the end, I will be the one.

"I can handle myself and I've taken care of [training] for this Worlds, and to be here 100 per cent. I feel good with my body and in my head, but as a team we need to be smart enough to understand the tactics of the other teams and keep the race in the right direction so that we will be there in the final."

The Italian line-up for the elite women's race will also include sprinter Elena Cecchini, former world champions Marta Bastianelli (2007) and Tatiana Guderzo (2009), Tour of Flanders winner and La Route de France overall champion Elisa Longo-Borghini, Valentina Scandolara and Silvia Valsecchi.

Bronzini pointed to Longo-Borghini and Cecchini as the two main competitors for the women's 129.9km race on a 16km circuit that includes a cobbled climb through Libby Hill Park, a 19 per cent climb up 23rd street and the final climb up Governor Street.

"For me, it can be a good goal if someone else from the Italian team will try and win. For us that is the main goal," Bronzini said. "We have two strong riders like Elisa and Elena, who have prepared well for this Worlds. I think we have the numbers to be represented in the race and to make the opportunity to win the race."

Italian favours Rio Olympics over Qatar Worlds in 2016

Bronzini announced earlier this year that she will retire from professional racing at the end of the 2016 season, and that she will spend her final year with Wiggle-Honda. Although some have speculated that she will want to try and win a world title in Qatar, she said that course does not suit her, and instead she would like to focus on the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro in August.

"It will be my last season and if I think about Qatar, I really don't like it," Bronzini said. "I suffer in the wind and the echelon, and the race in Qatar will be like that and the bunch know that, so that will work in their favour, for teams like Belgium, Germany and Holland. I think I will be in [the Italian team] but I don't want 100 per cent of the responsibility on my shoulders. I will prepare because if they call me to be there I want to be professional enough to be 100 per cent for my teammates.

"It will be my last season and it will be my main goal to be at the Olympic Games. They say it is a really, really hard course but I think we have riders like Elisa [Longo-Borghini], and for her, I will be an important rider over there if she has the legs to do a good results."

Bronzini supports the Women's WorldTour, offers more suggestions for women's cycling development

The UCI officially announced the calendar selected for the new Women's WorldTour in 2016 to include 17 events. The series will offer four stage races with the Tour of Chongming Island, Tour of California, Aviva Women's Tour and the Giro Rosa. It will also include one-day events that were on the World Cup with the Flèche Wallonne, GP Plouay, Tour of Flanders, Open de Suede Vargarda road race and team time trial, Ronde van Drenthe, Trofeo Alfredo Binda and Philadelphia Classic. In addition, Strade Bianche, Gent-Wevelgem, La Course by Tour de France, La Madrid Challenge and Prudential RideLondon have also been added to the mix.

"I think it's cool that they decided to do the Women's WorldTour instead of having a World Cup, and to have more races added to the Women's WorldTour," Bronzini said. "We don't really have a full calendar, and some races need to increase the level in order to have the UCI points. I think that will give our racing more value.

"I think the calendar is good because there is a little bit of everything for riders who are climbers, for the sprinters and there is a little bit in the calendar for all the different types of athletes. It's a good mix.”

The Women's WorldTour is a step forward for the development of women's racing, and one that Bronzini fully supports, but she made some other suggestions about how women's cycling could improve its structure.

Her ideas include combining resources from multiple smaller women's teams to form one larger team that would compete on the Women's WorldTour, men's WorldTour teams opening a women's program, and for WorldTour race organisers to offer women's races at their men's events.

"From one side, yes, the Women's WorldTour will improve women's cycling," Bronzini said. "For example, if I speak about the Italian racing situation, we have no teams at this high level, and if they want to be in the big races then they need to improve themselves to grow.

"It's not simple because of money, of course, but my advice is to put together the smaller teams to do one big team and then go to the bigger races. Having a lot of smaller teams that are not able to give the girls a salary or a good environment is not good. Putting together the power of the small teams means that they might be able to do something good.

"Also, asking the bigger men's teams like Lampre to open a women's side because we can see from the other programs, like Lotto Soudal and Giant-Alpecin, they are able to support a women's program.

"For races like La Course and Madrid, the women are next to the men, and for the women, that means a lot of support. We have never seen so many people around us than in those two races during this year."

One area in women's cycling that the UCI, teams and riders have yet to find a solution is the lack of a minimum wage for riders. The subject has been approached, but some suggest that if the UCI implements a minimum-wage rule in women's cycling, it could backfire because the teams' overall budgets, which are a fraction of the men's teams, could not afford it.

Bronzini doesn't have a solution for the problem, but she did give some insight into what the financial situation is like in women's cycling.

"The sacrifices that women make in cycling is really big," Bronzini said. "I'm not saying that the men don't make sacrifices, of course they do too, but I would like that the salaries of the women, and for those women who support the leaders, to be given more consideration.

"I know some women who spend all season working for the leaders that take nothing [no salary]," she added. "I'm one of the leaders and I know that my teammates are like [racing] for free but they are all the time pulling for me, and that is really sad.

"Sometimes I don't want to take a share of the prize money because I don't need the money for myself but I know they really need it, and that is really sad."

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