Analysis: The lack of top-level women’s stage races in March takes the zing out of spring

My dream would be a stage race.

This week, Nokere Koerse visits and the sixth round of the Women’s WorldTour at the Trofeo Alfredo Binda round out the women’s cycling schedule.

There is one conspicuous omission from the calendar, namely large multi-day events, despite the fact that these are wonderful races with fantastic action.

With the reintroduction of the Tour Down Under, the launch of the Women’s UAE Tour, and the long-running Setmana Ciclista Valenciana in January and February, we’ve got more than usual this year.

But, as March progresses, top-tier stage events are being replaced by one-day competition.

The women’s calendar is nothing new, but each time it occurs, it serves as a reminder that the timetable still needs improvement.

It’s not meant to disparage these races, which provide us with a lot of exciting racing and are crucial to the sport, but the absence of top-tier competition causes the big names to hibernate for a few weeks, which reduces the pit from spring.

After participating in Strade Bianche at the beginning of March, Annemiek van Vleuten won’t be seen again until the Tour of Flanders the following month. She used a similar strategy last season, so we can’t even attribute the previous season’s shortcomings to the shorter calendar.

It’s a little disappointing that we have all the stage races back together in March because that month is more suited to sprinters and flat races, according to Van Vleuten. In an interview with VeloNews. “Maybe that might be enhanced in the future [the UCI] reexamine our calendar. A stage race would be nice for me as well, but they are now all together in July and August.

The Vuelta Comunitat Valenciana is Annemiek van Vleuten’s only stage race in the first four months of 2023 (Photo: Alex Broadway/Getty Images)

WorldTour stage events are not held in March or April, although there are four in May and two in June. Can’t we show greater love to one another?

Demi Vollering will be visiting the Sierra Nevada mountains in March, but she won’t be competing; she’ll be heading for altitude. She also participated in the competition in Flanders the previous season, though it is unclear when she will play again.

Lianne Lippert, Juliette Labous, Mavi Garcia, and Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio are among riders that took most of March off from training.

Elisa Longo Borghini has been absent for some time, although this is more likely due to the flu symptoms she contracted after Strade Bianche. She is one of the climbers who also likes to switch things up during the flatter races, as evidenced by her winning efforts at Paris-Roubaix in 2022.

It is typical for riders to take extended breaks from competition to ensure they are at their best for challenging objectives, but it is distressing to see so many well-known athletes absent all at once.

However, the peloton appears to be in a minor lull for the majority of March despite having up to two major race days every week.

The Classics are fantastic, but Spring would be even better if there were more events to choose from in the early part of the season.

Naturally, there are a few obstacles that make changing the spring calendar very difficult. Women’s teams find it much harder to spread their race schedule across numerous events at once than men’s teams do to run double, triple, or even more race programs.

It is challenging to place two teams of at least six riders on the field and leave the teams open because most teams have a roster of approximately 14 or 15 riders and there is a potential that a few riders will be injured. to begin with modest amounts

Strade Bianche marked a difficult turn towards one-day racing on the women's calendar
Strade Bianche marked a difficult turn towards one-day racing on the women’s calendar (Photo: Luc Claessen/Getty Images)

There is no way we could have Paris-Nice and Tirreno-Adriatico racing simultaneously like we witnessed last week in the men’s peloton. Major collisions should be avoided with any scheduling modifications.

In all honesty, that isn’t something women’s cycling should strive for. Combining two of the biggest stage events of the season feels like poor strategy.

The majority of spring one-day events, with the exception of the Trofeo Alfredo Binda, are linked to men’s races, making it considerably harder to transfer them. This presents another difficulty for any schedule reform for the women.

To save money, most event planners choose to schedule their men’s and women’s races on the same day.

We could accommodate a few extra spring stage events and persuade more of the top climbers to continue competing in March if certain event organizers were ready to split their men’s and women’s race days or shift the entire event forward or back a day or two.

By having a few extra stage races in the early spring and including Veronica Ewers, the new three-day 2.1 Tour de Normandie is a step in the right direction, but the generally rolling terrain deterred most climbers.

We need a hilly race that fits into the spring schedule, but we also need a race director who is willing to step up. Although it presently has a rating of just 2.2 and attracted no WorldTour teams for its inaugural edition, the new Vuelta Extremadura appears to be a potential possibility for the future.

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