It has been a long couple of months. Hundreds of events have been cancelled, training has had to be moved inside, and the full impact of the pandemic on the economic viability of various teams, not to mention the ultimate impact on the sport, remains to be seen.

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Nevertheless, the cycling community has held strong, hosting all types of virtual events, sharing strategies for lockdown training and mental wellbeing, and reaching out to help others in need. And finally – things are looking up. This week marks the first time in weeks that Italian pro riders are allowed to train and ride outside again after a long lockdown while French professionals will be allowed outside for training from 11 May onwards. The UCI also announced the revised UCI Women’s WorldTour calendar, containing a few exciting surprises, and the cycling community proves that it is as vibrant as ever. Here is what the rest of the season looks like for women’s cycling.

Annemiek Van Vleuten wins before Anna van der Breggen the sprint at the finish of the ‘La Course by Le Tour de France’ one day women’s cycling race. (Tuesday 17 July 2018) © Profimedia, AFP

Revised Women’s Tour

As announced on Tuesday, the revised UCI Women’s WorldTour calendar will start on the 1st of August with the Strade Bianche and finish on November 8th with the Ceratizit Madrid Challenge by La Vuelta, in Spain. The 2020 series will include 18 events, 13 one-day races and five stage races.

UCI President David Lappartient declared: “We have established a 2020 UCI Women’s WorldTour calendar that is as coherent as possible, alternating one-day races and stage races, and maintaining the circuit’s major events, notably the Giro d’Italia Internazionale Femminile and the Classics.”

Check out the details of the men’s and women’s calendar here: The UCI WWT Calendar.

Salary and television coverage

The pandemic hit in the opening stages of what promised to be a breakthrough year for women’s cycling. With several important strides being taken by the UCI to ensure the integrity and viability of women’s professional road cycling, including the introduction of a minimum salary at the level of UCI Women’s World Teams and a minimum quote for live television coverage, 2020 was set to be a turning point.

Although the feasibility of these new standards was thrown into question due to the precarious circumstances of the last several weeks, it appears that the UCI intends to keep its promise. While discussing the revised calendar for the 2020 season, Lappartient also insisted the minimum salaries for World Tour teams would remain the same as would the guidelines to ensure 45 minutes minimum of live coverage of any Women’s World Tour race. Although he did leave a bit of wiggle room, accounting for the fact that some adaptations may have to be made:

“We want to stick to 45 minutes live but maybe we have to adapt to this because, in some races, there are overlaps with the men and other sports and that is a challenge for broadcasters, as all sports will hopefully be back in September,” Lappartient explained.

Women’s Elite road race at the 2018 UCI Road World Championships in Innsbruck, Austria on September 29, 2018. © Christof STACHE / AFP / Profimedia

Paris Roubaix for the first time

Guarantees of television coverage aside, there was another act that made clear the elevation of the women’s program is indeed a priority. It was announced that a women’s edition of Paris-Roubaix will take place for the first time in 2020. Among the most emblematic of all cycling races, this is certainly an exciting development to come out of the revised calendar.

There has long been a call for a women’s edition of this great classic and it points towards the idea that we may be looking at a women’s Tour de France sooner rather than later. As Christian Prudhomme, the race director of the Tour de France, told AFP earlier this week, women’s professional cycling could anticipate a Tour de France of its own as soon as 2022.

Peter Sagan reacts after winning the 116th edition of the Paris-Roubaix on April 8, 2018 in Compiegne. © Profimedia, AFP

For the time being, we’re happy to see the women’s professional peloton finally get their chance to take on the “Hell of the North” on October 25th.

What about fans?

Of course, this is all good news – but hardcore cycling devotees are still left wondering what their role will be in this year’s framework. No one will dispute the fact that fans are a critical part of cycling’s success but how they will participate in 2020 remains unclear. Lappartient was adamant he did not want to close off races to the public but revealed cycling may have to implement restrictions, adding if we do not see racing until 2021 it could be “a disaster”.

All things considered, it seems that we have plenty to look forward to in the months to come. As the pros can once again take to training outside and getting back to a more familiar routine, we look eagerly to the kickoff of the revised women’s race calendar later this summer. Let’s hope that the UCI continues to work towards gender equality as we’ve no doubt that the women will once again prove they’re more than capable of pulling off a thrilling season of racing.

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