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Teams and riders dissatisfied with lack of live coverage at RideLondon Classique

LONDON ENGLAND MAY 29 LR Eleonora Camilla Gasparrini of Italy and Team Valcar Travel Service Leah Kirchmann of Canada and Team DSM Christine Majerus of Luxembourg and Team SD Worx and a general view of the peloton competing in front of The Big Ben during the 5th RideLondon Classique 2022 Stage 3 a 835km stage from London to London RideLondon UCIWWT on May 29 2022 in London England Photo by Justin SetterfieldGetty Images
Fans did not see live coverage of first two days of RideLondon Classique, only a two-hour broadcast for stage 3 in London (Image credit: Justin Setterfield/Getty Images)

The RideLondon Classique returned to the cycling calendar on the last weekend of May after having been cancelled for two years in a row due to the COVID-19 pandemic. While the event should have been in a spotlight for three days of racing this time around, the lack of a live broadcast for the full event was overshadowed by the Lotto Thüringen Ladies Tour, a 2.Pro race, which provided a live broadcast for all six days.

A legacy of the 2012 Olympics, it had been run as a criterium-like one-day race in the centre of London since 2013, entering the Women’s WorldTour in 2016. For 2022, the race was expanded with two additional stages in Essex before the final stage in London. But it turns out it was not all good news for Essex. The lack of any live broadcast for their two days was a disappointment disappointment for teams, riders, media, and cycling fans alike. 

UCI rules mandate, at a minimum, a 45-minute live broadcast from each day of Women’s WorldTour racing. Only late-night highlights packages were available for stages 1 and 2 while the final stage of the RideLondon Classique, lasting just over two hours, was broadcast in full.

Esra Tromp, team manager of the Jumbo-Visma women’s squad, pointed out that teams went to extreme lengths in order to race in the UK, especially after Brexit, and could justifiably expect race organisers to keep their end of the bargain.

“Cycling is a sport that mainly depends on their sponsors, and sponsors get their reward by being visible. As a team you find many ways to be visible, but the most important part is showing your sponsors on live television,” Tromp said to Cyclingnews.

The minimum requirements about live broadcasts have been in force since the 2019/2020 off-season, and the UCI demoted the Giro Donne from the Women’s WorldTour to 2.Pro status for 2021 after the failure to provide live coverage for the 2020 race had been the straw that broke the camel’s back after a history of organisational shortcomings for the Italian stage race.

Tromp was clear about her expectations from race organisers: “When you apply to the Women’s WorldTour as a race organiser, you know what the UCI mandates. If it is not possible to match those rules, then you should apply for a different status, for example 2.Pro. The UCI’s job is to control if a race organiser follows the rules they set. 

"We have many rules to follow as teams, and there are a lot of checks by UCI and PricewaterhouseCoopers, which is a good thing in my opinion. In this case the organiser did not follow the rules, and I am curious what the UCI knew about this and will do about it,” she said.

Asked about which repercussions the RideLondon Classique would face now, Tromp answered: “This is a question the UCI needs to answer. They will probably fine the race organiser and reconsider the Women’s WorldTour status for the next year. In my opinion, it is important to keep the Women’s WorldTour exclusive. This is the highest level of racing, and that is expected from the teams, the riders, and the race organisers.”

A statement from the RideLondon Classique organisers said that, with the race “returning for the first time since the pandemic and with the Classique expanded into a new three-day format, it has not been financially viable for us to commission live coverage of all three days”, and that this situation had been communicated to the UCI. 

The organisers went on to say that a new broadcasting contract with the BBC would ensure live coverage of all three stages from 2023.

Tromp wasn’t the only one dissatisfied that the first two stages weren’t broadcast live; riders participating in the race voiced their disappointment, too. In typical Australian fashion, Brodie Chapman (FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope) did not mince words and tweeted that “teams would be better off racing in Thüringen where there is coverage and respect for our sponsors”. Fellow Australian Sarah Roy (Canyon-SRAM) agreed, calling the situation “super disappointing”.

Running concurrently with the RideLondon Classique, the six-day Lotto Thüringen Ladies Tour, a 2.Pro race, is the longest-running women’s stage race with its first edition in 1986, two years before the first Giro Donne. Traditionally run in July, the Lotto Thüringen Ladies Tour had to vacate this date when the ASO started La Course by Le Tour de France, pushing the Thuringian race out of its summer holiday spot.

The German stage race moved to late-May/early-June and has provided live coverage since 2021, going above and beyond the UCI requirements this year, providing over two hours of live footage from each stage. The UCI mandates a 20-minute live broadcast for 2.Pro races.

“I think the organization of the Lotto Thüringen Ladies Tour deserves a big applause,” said Tromp. “Every year, they manage to organise a great event which really contributes to women’s cycling. It is really great that they managed to find sponsors to broadcast the race, this shows what is possible, also in these hard times. For sure we need to reconsider what is the best race for our team next year.”

The next race on the Women’s WorldTour calendar is the Women’s Tour, held in England and Wales from  June 6 to 11. After several years without a live broadcast, the race is scheduled to have live broadcasts from all six stages in 2022.

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