Women move into spotlight at Cyclocross World Champs as race switches to Saturday
Organisers aim for more exposure for women's race - and more home fans to cheer on Marianne Vos
The world’s top female cyclocross riders will step out of the shadow of their male counterparts at February’s World Championships in the Netherlands with their race moving to Saturday, where it will become the headline event – although it’s unclear whether the UCI, which under new president Brian Cookson says it plans to raise the status of women’s cycling, will make the change permanent.
Since the women’s race was introduced in 2000, it has always been raced on the Sunday, ahead of the men’s elite race. But organisers of next year’s event at Hoogerheide say that the UCI has agreed to let them switch the women’s event to the first day of the two-day championships.
The change means that the men’s under-23 race, previously run on the Saturday, will instead move to the Sunday, with an 11am start time, and the men’s elite race starting at 3pm.
The Saturday will see men’s junior race start at 11am, with the 3pm slot filled by the women’s race.
Commenting on the change, organising committee chairman Jan Prop said: “The women are now the main event on Saturday, which means they are given a more important place in TV programmes that day with a live broadcast of their race.”
Given the defending champion – and favourite to win – is home rider Marianne Vos, six times a winner of the event, it clearly makes sense to organisers to ensure a bumper crowd on both days, a point not lost on Prop.
“For us as organisation the additional advantage is that spectators are more likely to come to the races both days and buy a ticket for the whole weekend,” he explained.
“On Saturday, Marianne Vos stands a chance of winning the race, on Sunday spectators will see local favourites David and Mathieu van der Poel in action for the first time – provided they are selected of course – and they get to see the men’s main event with Lars van der Haar.
“All in all, we have an attractive programme for spectators and people watching the race on TV. We are very pleased that the UCI approved our proposal, which is tailored to the Dutch situation.”
Last year’s event in Louisville, Kentucky went ahead despite being threatened by flooding during the weekend of the championships, causing all races to be held on the Sunday.
Prop said there was unlikely to be a repeat in the Netherlands next year: “We are far enough away from the Oosterschelde estuary so we don’t have to worry about flooding,” he said. “What’s more: the Brabant Ridge will also defend us
against that danger.”