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Riders show ‘overwhelming desire’ for standalone under-23 women's road race at World Championships

TRENTO ITALY SEPTEMBER 10 Hannah Ludwig of Germany leads the peloton during the 27th UEC Road Cycling European Championships 2021 U23 Womens Road Race a 808km race from from Trento to TrentoPiazza Duomo UECcycling on September 10 2021 in Trento Italy Photo by Justin SetterfieldGetty Images
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The overwhelming majority of Women’s WorldTeam and Continental Team riders believe there should be a separate under-23 women's road race at the World Championships, a survey by The Cyclists’ Alliance (TCA) has concluded. 

The survey, conducted in November 2021, polled 96 elite, under-23 and junior riders and found that 97 per cent would be in favour of a standalone under-23 road race at the World Championships.

No women’s under-23 road race world title is currently awarded, but UCI president David Lappartient suggested in September that there were plans to introduce an under-23 rainbow jersey at Wollongong 2022. However, this would be within the elite road race, with the winner being the first under-23 rider to cross the line. 

The Cyclists’ Alliance survey found that not only do riders overwhelmingly support the creation of a standalone race, but many are also against the idea of an integrated under-23 championships: 42 per cent said an under-23 title should not be included in the elite race from 2022 even as an interim solution. 

Respondents raised concerns over the changes to team selection and racing dynamics that the holding the under-23 race within the elite race could bring. 

“Then there needs to be bigger teams to select a U23 rider,” one surveyed rider commented. “In the Netherlands for example, they already have too many great elite riders. So, an U23 rider will not get selected.”

67 per cent said they would be in favour of additional team quotas and an increased peloton size to accommodate the selection of U23 riders and ensure elite riders don’t lose out on spaces.

One respondent also commented that should there be a separate race, under-23 riders should be able to opt to race in the elite event, which they currently can at the European Championships and World Championships in other disciplines. 

A further finding from the survey is that the majority of riders also support the idea of a dedicated under-23 race series as a way to develop riders’ abilities and bridge the gap between junior and elite. 87 per cent of riders responded in favour of the idea.

Gracie Elvin, co-founder of The Cyclists’ Alliance said: “Supporting a separate U23 women's category at World Championship level, as well as the introduction of U23 races within the season, is the next logical step in continuing the progress in elite women's cycling and creating an environment where young women can develop and thrive.” 

The Cyclists’ Alliance are asking the UCI to take into account the findings of their survey and to consult riders, teams and national federations as well as the athlete’s commission when making decisions around the development of junior and under-23 categories.

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Matilda Price is a freelance cycling journalist and digital producer based in the UK. She is a graduate of modern languages, and recently completed an MA in sports journalism, during which she wrote her dissertation on the lives of young cyclists. Matilda began covering cycling in 2016 whilst still at university, working mainly in the British domestic scene at first. Since then, she has covered everything from the Tour Series to the Tour de France. These days, Matilda focuses most of her attention on the women’s sport, writing for Cyclingnews and working on women’s cycling show The Bunnyhop. As well as the Women’s WorldTour, Matilda loves following cyclo-cross and is a recent convert to downhill mountain biking.