Women's vs. Men's World Tour

A lot has been said by us about the men’s UCI World Tour. We’ve talked mostly about how it really isn’t a tour around the world at all. With only three races outside of Europe, it is kind of a stretch right? The same can be said about the Women’s world Tour (WWT) by the way, only three races outside of Europe. Are we sure we aren’t comparing Apples with Oranges though?

So first of all, you can easily compare apples to oranges, but let’s just forget about that for now. I also want to mention before anything else that it is great that the UCI finally decided to create a World Tour for women in which the best events of cycling are combined. I just want to know how the two World Tours compare.

The racing statistics are the first thing I want to take a look at. Not counting the Team Time Trial (TTT) at the World’s the WWT consists of 17 events, 16 really if you think that the race in Vargarda (SE) consist of a one day race and a TTT which are counted individually. Together these races will result in 35 days of racing for the peloton with 8 days outside of Europe, almost a quarter of all racing days. The men’s tour consists of 27 races, these races are on average much longer of course with a total of – if I did the math correctly – 147 days of racing with also 8 racing days outside of Europe a measly  5,4% of all racing days. The fact that the Women race so significantly more outside of Europe then the men is even more impressive if you think of the difference in budgets between the Women and the Men.

Who can compete? That’s a very good question. In the Men’s edition it is always a scramble to find teams to take one of those World Tour licenses as they require your team to start in all the WT events. In the WWT the situation is a bit different. There is no World Tour License for teams, instead the top 20 teams in the UCI ranking will get an invite for the race. Organizers then have the liberty to add teams in a wild-card system much like we know from Men’s cycling. It’s good to note that in Women’s events, teams usually start with only six riders as opposed to eight or nine in Men’s cycling (with the notable exception of the Tour Down Under).

Which races can we find on Both Calendars? There are five races that can be found on both the Men’s and Women’s World Tour calendar, today was such a day with Gent-Wevelgem, but in chronological order these are the four others: Ronde van Vlaanderen, La Flèche Wallonne, Giro D’Italia and the GP Plouay – Bretagne. If we really want to be generous, we could count La Course and the Madrid Challenge as these are races on the final days of both the Tour de France and The Vuelta a España organized by the ASO. More interesting are the fact that both The Strade Bianche and the Amgen Tour of California are part of the WWT, and should really be on the Men’s calendar too. Other notable events are the Tour of Chongming Island (China) and the TTT in Sweden. Remember the great success of the Men’s Tour of Beijing and the TTT event in The Netherlands? Yeah, me neither really.

It’s interesting to see that there is only one “Grand” Tour in Women’s cycling with the Giro D’Italia. The Giro Femminile is a 10 day race that mostly coincides with the Tour de France. In some countries this means there will be (minor) coverage during the extensive Tour de France coverage, but just think of how much more coverage there would be if the Tour Feminine would be placed back on the calendar on the same (yet shortened) course of the men! ASO has put the first step back into getting more women’s racing out there with La Course, but there is much room for improvement.

So what can both Tours learn from each other? First of all the Men’s Tour should take on the Strade Bianche and the Tour of California straight away. The Tour of California also adds some much needed race days outside of Europe, 25% of races outside of Europe is a nice goal to aim for. Another great thing would be smaller teams. Just think of the amazing racing in the Grand Tours when there aren’t teams of nine riders to chase down the leaders. This also would allow for a few more wildcard teams in major events and still have less riders, which would be great with our focus on rider safety.

The Women could really do with more major stage races. I realize that this isn’t really a learning, rather it is a complaint to the race organizers. Have the Women follow the last week – or two weeks of the Grand tours and we will instantly have much better coverage and exposure for Women’s cycling. This can only be good for the sport.

All in all, I am very positive about the direction the UCI is going with Women’s cycling. The Women’s World Tour is the first step of many to follow. I also really hope that Women’s cycling gets more TV – or streaming – coverage soon. I know that the women might not sprint or climb up a mountain as fast as the men, but if you’ve seen some races you know you can almost always expect to see an exciting race between the super stars of women’s cycling – much more so than with men’s racing.