Voxwomen’s guide to the 2017 Women’s World Tour

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March 4 marks the first race of the 2017 Women’s World Tour (WWT). Eagerly awaited by riders and fans alike there is a lot of anticipation and expectation for the exciting season ahead, writes Sharon Laws. 

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From the white graveled roads of Strade Bianche, wind in Drenthe, cobbles of Flanders, sharp climbs of the punchy classics, mountain stages in the Giro, the Team Time Trial in Sweden, the spectator-packed speedy stages of the Women’s Tour and the fast criterium races in London and Madrid – there is arguably something for every type of rider.

The WWT first edition in 2016 replaced the UCI Women’s Road World Cup held from 1998-2015. This previous series favoured ‘one day’ riders, was limited to just 10 race days in 2015 and there were long gaps between the World Cup events. For riders, such as myself, who prefer stage racing it was pretty limiting. In 2016 the riders welcomed the consistency of WWT races throughout the season, the addition of stage races and the complimentary branding of the series to that of the men’s. Finally a platform from which to grow women’s cycling is beginning to emerge.

Megan Guarnier (Boels Dolmans) won the WWT in 2016 and her great recap of the season can be found here.

WHAT ARE THE RACES?

2017 UCI WOMEN’S WORLDTOUR CALENDAR

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Links to the individual race websites can be found on the UCI website.

2017 brings the addition of two, long anticipated, one-day races (Amstel Gold, and Liège–Bastogne–Liège) and two stage races – Ladies Tour of Norway and Boels Rental Ladies Tour.

I’m sad not to see the addition of Euksal Emakumeen Bira, a fantastic stage race in Spain with a long history running since 1988. With the exception of the Giro and this year’s La Course, the WWT races are generally flat or have short, punchy climbs. When you consider the Giro will only have four to five mountain stages, at most, this means only about 10% of the WWT is attractive to climbers. The addition of this stage race would have provided some balance for the mountain goats.

Some riders last year criticised the addition of the ‘criterium’ style races such as Prudential Ride London and the Madrid Challenge. With distances of 66km and 87km respectively but still 120 points for the win, they hardly seem comparable to the tough classics such as Flanders. However, one of the goals of the WWT is to race the profile of women’s cycling and these events attract massive crowds, TV coverage is easier and they can showcase the aggressive style of women’s racing of racing. Having taken part in the Prudential Ride London last year I can vouch that the crowds and support were amazing. With London’s 100 000 Euro prize purse (compared to 1,050 Euro for the general classification win at the Giro) there are also other advantages to the inclusion of this style of racing.

Although ‘touted’ as the World Tour, only two events are outside Europe – the Tour of Chongming Island (China) and Amgen Break Away from Heart Disease (USA). With the Chinese race finishing only 4 days before the start of the one in the USA, it is unlikely that teams will race both. Unfortunately the cost of participating in these overseas races means that only the top UCI Women’s teams, with sufficient budget, are able to attend. This is not ideal for race organisers, fans or the riders since these events are unlikely to be as competitive as the races in Europe. This means that points at these races are arguably ‘easier’ to obtain for the top teams, with more resources, simply due to their ability to attend.

After three years of finishing on the iconic streets of the Champs Élysées, on the final day of the Men’s Tour de France, La Course moves venue for 2017. This year the event won’t be one for the sprinters, finishing instead on the hors categorie Col d’Izoard in the Alps ahead of the Men’s stage 17. The men race a 129km stage from Briançon, via the Col de Vars, finishes at the summit of the Izoard. Instead the women’s limited 66km stage will begin racing directly towards the foot of the climb and will only tackle the first 10km of the climb up to Casse Déserte. Whilst the climbers will be happier, it remains to be seen as to whether the race will attract the crowds and attention it previously has.

WHO WILL RACE?
The WWT is open to UCI Women’s Teams and national teams. Race organisers are obliged to invite the first 20 UCI women’s teams (as per the team ranking on 10th January 2017) for one day races and the first 15 UCI women’s teams for stage races. The team ranking is calculated by adding up the UCI points held by each rider registered for the team. With the shuffling of riders into new or different teams for 2017 this has led to some changes in the top 20 teams from 2016 and their associated ranking.

Once these initial places are filled, race organisers may invite additional teams and the size of the peloton is at their discretion. This typically means we will see more than the top 20 teams at races such as Flanders, where the peloton size is huge, but only the top 15 teams, plus 2 British trade teams, at the Women’s Tour in the UK, where the peloton size is restricted.

Top 20 Women’s World Tour Teams for 2017

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HOW DOES IT WORK?
As well as contending for individual race victories, some riders will focus on the prestigious WWT overall winners jersey. There are 120 points up for grabs for a win in a one day race and for the overall general classification of a stage race, in addition to 25 points for each stage win. Six points are also awarded for wearing the race leaders jersey per stage. Points are awarded to the first 20 riders of each event. The Team Time Trial (Sweden) scores differently with 140 points awarded to the top team (35 points per rider).

Doing the maths, if a rider is aiming to win the overall WWT focusing on one-day races is a better strategy, in addition to performing well early season. For example in 8 days of racing in March/April a rider could gain a maximum of 960 points but the 10-day Giro only has a maximum of 424 points.

An Under-23 WWT jersey is awarded to the best young rider at the end of series. This is calculated by awarding young rider points to the first three under 23 riders (six, four and two points respectively) in each event. In 2016 this was won by Kasia Niewiadoma (Rabo-Liv, now WM3).

The overall team classification is obtained by adding the individual classification points scored by the four best placed riders in each team. Boels Dolmans convincingly won this in 2016.

HOW TO FOLLOW?

In 2016 one of the biggest criticisms of the WWT was the lack of promised media coverage. In some cases this was even less than that of the World Cup races in previous years. For 2017 the UCI are promising that 10 of the WWT races will be broadcast live. There are encouraging signs with the new twitter handle @UCI_WWT already posting details and teasers of the season ahead.
On the UCI website there is a dedicated section for the WWT and associated chronicles and blog posts. The UCI also has a YouTube channel, which will hopefully have some race highlights

And of course, Voxwomen will be on hand to bring you all the highlights and behind the scenes action from the racing as well.

As ever, we will have plenty of race action in the monthly magazine TV show, the Voxwomen Cycling Show, which is broadcast on:
Eurosport
Eurosport France
Bike Channel
Bike Channel Italy
TV2
SBS
SuperSport
Cycling TV…

…And also available on Vimeo On Demand.

We are also once again partnering with ASO on four major races this year, Flèche Wallonne, Liege-Bastogne-Liege, La Course and Madrid Challenge. We will be at the races, live-tweeting, going behind the scenes, producing team features and creating snappy, speedy race reports which will be uploaded as soon as possible after the finish of each race on to our YouTube channel, including a winner’s interview.

We are also once again delighted to be partners with the Amgen Tour of California, and will be bringing you all the behind the scenes action from the four day stage race over in the USA. We will have team features, daily reports and of course, we’ll live tweet all the action from the sunshine state.

And if we aren’t at the races themselves, we hope to bring you as many team takeovers as possible on both Twitter and Instagram, so you can get to the heart of the action, with updates from the racing directly from the riders themselves.