Women’s U23 World Titles: create the slot, scale participation

In 2022, the UCI has deemed it timely to create world title events for U23 Women in road race and time trial. Obviously, the best way to do this is to simply integrate the even into the existing Elite Women competitions.

This innovative approach to giving rising stars the opportunity to shine – by potentially crossing the line bathed in confusing midpack glory – was greeted with the enthusiasm it deserved by riders when it was announced in 2021:

Sadabh O’Shea of Velonews asks “…does the integrated U23/elite women’s road race at the worlds cause more problems than it solves?” Surely an issue that the sport’s governing body might have considered before deciding to run it for three years before giving its own place in the schedule in 2025 at Rwanda 2025, the first Worlds to be held in Africa?

When the UCI chose to introduce the professional Team Time Trial discipline to the nation-based World Championships, it didn’t slide it down the back of existing Elite Time Trial events.

Instead it had its own slot, despite its manifest issues with attracting and retaining a deep and competitive field.

More recently, the Mixed Relay discpline arrived with much fanfare and a similarly limited level of participation. But it too was given its own slot in the schedule.

So if the concern here is that initial fields might of limited size and variable ability, it certainly isn’t one the UCI has had an issue with in recent expansions of the competition schedule.

Indeed a small entry list is exactly the sort of situation a talented rider from a smaller nation might regard as an idea opportunity.

Tactically, “sit in on Belgium/Netherlands/France/Italy/etc then pick your moment” and “go early and hope they under-estimate your ability to hold off a charging bunch” are not without merit or results.

Equally “small teams, chaos” and “that got attritionally quickly” are both valid race formats that fans love to see.

When it is due to become a standlone event the Worlds is hosted in a country with limited experience of hosting a major event. The course for Rwanda 2025 is likely to be rather selective – it’s not dubbed “land of a thousand hills” in error. Would Wollongong, Glasgow and Zurich not be chances to iron out issues and grow participation?

Fundamentally it seems the UCI has put things in the wrong order. It’s much easier to scale participation in a clear opportunity than it is than it is to untangle participation from an existing event.

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