British Cycling has announced that Junior Women will enjoy their first ever standalone Road Race Championship event in 2017.
Up until now, junior women have had no choice but to race with the seniors, which represents even more of a challenge when you consider the fact that they must race on restricted (lower) gears.
It was only in May last year that we saw the first junior women’s race on the open road in the UK, after coach Huw Williams and several others put the groundwork in to creating a series.
He commented at the time: “[There is a] lack of opportunities for girls when they [mature] from youth into juniors at age 16. The current system sees many girls at this age drop out of the sport as the only racing option available to them is going straight into the senior ranks while still on restricted [lower] gearing, often at the same time as experiencing open road conditions for the first time. This has proven quite a deterrent for a high number of riders."
Last year’s first foray into separate junior women’s races seems to have been a success, because now – like the boys – the girls aged 16 to 18 will have their own National Championships.
The girls and boys races will be held on Sunday 16 July in Wallingford, Oxfordshire, and will have equal prize money. The junior men’s race will cover 118km, and the women will cover 86km – and both events will take the peloton out to the Chiltern Hills.
Jonny Clay, British Cycling’s director of cycle sport and membership, said: “The opportunity to stage a standalone women’s race has come about due to the surge in numbers of competitors eligible to race. In recent years, British Cycling has put numerous initiatives in place to address the historic gender gap within the sport, and we are delighted that the inclusive culture within our clubs and events is leading to more and more women taking up cycling for sport or for leisure, as is illustrated by today’s announcement.
“To stage the Junior Men’s and Women’s Road Race Championships on the same day and in the same location will give spectators the opportunity to see some of this country’s most promising young male and female riders compete.
“The circuit, on the edge of the picturesque Chiltern Hills, should provide a challenging course worthy of the championships, and we are very much looking forward to the event."
Tony Sefton, co-organiser of the Wallingford Festival of Cycling, said: "This is the biggest, most important sporting event to come to Wallingford and we are all deeply honoured and also mindful of our responsibility to put on a world class sporting event that is a safe and entertaining spectacle for all concerned."
For more background on the opportunities, or lack of opportunities, for junior women in road racing check out this informative post by Huw Williams.