On Sunday the U23 women will line up in the road race at the Federation University Australian Road National Championships scattered through a field of elite women, perhaps for the last time. As soon as 2025, the category could have a stand alone race.
“We were one of the first countries to recognise the under 23 women, and have that as a podium – in the criterium, the time trial and the road race – and that’s been the case for several years now,” AusCycling Executive General Manager-Sport, Kipp Kaufmann told Cyclingnews while at the Australian Road National Championships in Ballarat. “I think that was a good, proud starting point.”
It is, however, a journey that seems due for another step.
The first Road World Championships to include an U23 women’s title was just over two years ago, in 2022 in Wollongong, running as race within the elite race, just as it has at the Australian Championships for more than 15 years. But while the recognition of an U23 women’s title is a positive step – with the U23 men long having had a title and stand alone race both on the national and world platform – the format of a combined U23 and elite race certainly has its pitfalls.
For a start, the treasured and quickly recognised photo of throwing the arms up in the air in celebration while crossing the line first doesn’t exist. In fact at times it’s hard for the riders to even know if they have won till after the event, as they get scattered within the combined elite/U23 field where most often the battle for the elite title trumps any other consideration.
The Road World Championships will be moving to a stand-alone women’s U23 event in 2025. AusCycling’s Kaufmann said it will be announcing a decision on whether it also will make the shift next year, in the first half of 2024. If so the stand-alone U23 women’s race would run in tandem with the shift of the National Championships away from Ballarat for the first time in nearly 20 years.
“It is in this transition that we’re making that we want to make the under 23 women’s road race, in particular, become its own standalone race,” said Kaufmann.
There are, however, some challenges and important considerations to tackle before the possibility becomes a reality.
“We need to do two things, make sure we can pull this off operationally… and also ensuring that it’s the best option from an athlete development perspective and for the team development perspective,” said Kaufmann. “I don’t want to speak on…