The International Cycling Union (UCI) has announced the launch of the UCI Women’s WorldTour (WWT), starting next year. It will replace the UCI Women Road World Cup which ran from 1998 until this season and which has been won for the last two years by Britain’s Lizzie Armitstead.
The WWT will see an increase in the number of race days compared to the previous competition. Beginning with Strade Bianche in March, it will comprise 35 days of racing across 17 events up to and including the recently formed La Madrid Challenge by La Vuelta in September. There will be four stage races and 13 one-day races which will take place in 13 different countries.
A UCI press release promises ‘substantial live broadcast and streaming as well as highlight packages’.
Growing the profile and professionalism of women’s cycling was one of Brian Cookson’s election pledges and the UCI President said: “The launch of the UCI Women’s WorldTour is a major step forward for women’s cycling and reflects detailed and very constructive discussions we have had with all our key stakeholders for more than a year now.”
UCI Vice-president and Chair of the UCI Women’s Commission Tracey Gaudry added:
"The UCI Women's WorldTour will present a season-long calendar of events that will help build a strong narrative around our sport. With riders battling for honours in one-day classics and stage races as well as for overall WWT rankings, I'm convinced we now have a premier product that will bring a whole new set of fans to women's cycling. This is an important moment for women's cycling."
Earlier in the week, the UCI also approved a number of reforms for men’s professional road cycling. Among the changes are three year licences for WorldTeams from 2017, the implementation of 10 rules designed to strengthen anti-doping efforts within each team and changes to the various ranking systems.