Annemiek van Vleuten has suggested that the Giro Rosa should move to May alongside the men’s Giro d’Italia to offer more stage racing opportunities for the women’s peloton in the early season. Speaking to Cyclingnews from her Movistar Team Women training camp on Monday, Van Vleuten also said that moving the Giro Rosa to the spring would make more room for races like a pending women’s Tour de France in the summer of 2022.
"The most exciting news was that the Tour de France [Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO)] is also organising a Tour de France for women, again, it’s back on the calendar," Van Vleuten told Cyclingnews. "It took some time but I think that’s a milestone. A women's Paris-Roubaix is also a milestone, too, because it started with the Classics, all being organised for women, too. We are now seeing the same thing happening with the stage races."
The first version of a women's Tour de France was held in the 1950s, but it was only one edition. ASO launched its own version of the women's Tour de France in 1984 but then cancelled the event in 1989. There have been other versions of the event through the 1990s and early 2000s - Tour Cycliste Féminin and Grande Boucle Féminine Internationale - but with no ties to ASO's marquee men's Tour de France. The Grande Boucle was later reduced to just four stages before it officially ended in 2009.
ASO have gone on to organise women's one-day races like La Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège, only recently offering live broadcasting last year, and La Course, which came about following a petition for ASO to include a women's race at the Tour de France. However, ASO have been criticised for not living up to its promise to grow La Course into a women's stage race.
Last year, ASO and the UCI announced an inaugural women's Paris-Roubaix, which was set to take place as part of the revised Women's WorldTour. It was cancelled due to COVID-19 but is set to take place in April this year.
There have been rumblings of a pending women's Tour de France for the last couple of years, and the promise that ASO are working on a women's stage race. Last August, UCI President David Lappartient confirmed that ASO would launch a stage race for women in 2022, but he could not confirm that it would be officially named as the women's Tour de France.
ASO stressed that it would be 'logistically impossible' to have the men's and women's events held at the same time. It has been reported that ASO are expected to host an eight-day women's race that would start in Paris on the same day the men finished their stage 21 of Tour de France on the Champs Elysées.
A women's stage race in France, potentially in late-July or early-August, isn't the only event in the works. Organisers of Challenge by La Vuelta aim to increase their race from five to seven days in the future. A 10-day stage race in Scandinavia is also in the planning phases through Norway, Sweden and Denmark called the Battle of the North.
Van Vleuten is all for building out the calendar with quality stage races, but she is also cautious that the growth of new women's events doesn't harm existing events like the Women's Tour in Britain, that have a long-term commitment to the sport and offer world-class racing.
"I’m a bit careful that these new events should not clash with the stage races that we already have," Van Vleuten told Cyclingnews. "It would be sad because there are some organisations that are already doing good work and we should not ignore their efforts from the previous years where they have put on really nice races. It’s important that they continue to have their places on the calendar, so that they are not ruined by the new races.
"It’s really exciting that the organisers want to put on these races for women, too. To have all three Grand Tours for women, might be a little bit too fast."
Giro Rosa in May
The Giro Rosa is a long-running women's race with more than 30 years on the calendar, and held in July at the same time as the Tour de France. From a historical context, it has been the biggest and most prestigious women's race in the world, and the only event that covers 10 days of racing and includes iconic mountain passes.
Van Vleuten has placed a primary focus on racing the Giro Rosa each season and won the overall titles in 2018 and 2019. She was leading the overall classification last year when she crashed and broke her wrist, and was forced to abandon the race.
Van Vleuten said she hoped that with the pending growth of the women's calendar, the Giro Rosa would move to May, and held alongside the men's Giro d'Italia, which would give more stage racing opportunity in the spring.
"I would hope to have a Giro Rosa, or a bigger stage race in May, that would be awesome for us because we don’t have too many stage races in the earlier part of the season," Van Vleuten said.
"Together with the Giro Rosa, a women's Tour de France, and the Women’s Tour in Britain - which I would not forget because it is a big and important race for us - that would make a really good group of stage races on the calendar. We can’t ignore the races that are already there and I hope that they can still exist and find places on the calendar in the future."
The Giro Rosa will not be part of the Women's WorldTour in 2021 after being downgraded to 2.Pro by the UCI Management Committee. The event came under fire last year for not meeting the mandatory live television condition, and there were other shortcomings and safety concerns.
"I’m sad for them that they are not WorldTour anymore, but also maybe a good message that they need to step up their game," Van Vleuten said. "It was a wake-up call for them to start meeting their requirements. I’m happy that the UCI set some requirements and also sent out the message that if you want to be on the WorldTour than you have to meet those requirements, if not then you can’t be WorldTour."
Van Vleuten said that she hopes the event will fulfill all of its requirements this year and return to the Women's WorldTour in 2022. Her main hope is that the organisers provide live broadcasting, and that it aligns better with the men's Giro d'Italia.
"I think it’s a race with high potential and I would like to see it in May together with the Giro d’Italia," Van Vleuten said. "The WorldTour are our important races and the Giro is part of that, so I hope they will meet the requirements so that everyone can follow the race live online. That's the most important thing, to be able to show live broadcasting of the races. That’s what we need to focus on."
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Kirsten Frattini is an honours graduate of Kinesiology and Health Science from York University in Toronto, Canada. She has been involved in bike racing from the grassroots level to professional cycling's WorldTour. She has worked in both print and digital publishing, and started with Cyclingnews as a North American Correspondent in 2006. Moving into a Production Editor's role in 2014, she produces and publishes international race coverage for all cycling disciplines, edits news and writes features. Currently the Women's Editor at Cyclingnews, Kirsten coordinates global coverage of races, news, features and podcasts about women's professional cycling.
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