Procycling - - Women's 2017 World Tour -

Strade Bianche, Gent-Wevel­gem, Ronde van Vlaan­deren and Flèche Wal­lonne all run on the same day and the same roads as the men’s events. But there are some dif­fer­ences in how the women race them that adds an ex­tra di­men­sion, mak­ing them Clas­sics in their own right.

The UCI dis­tance lim­i­ta­tions means they’re shorter. The 2016 men’s Tour of Flan­ders was 256km to the women’s 141, for ex­am­ple, though this year this has been in­creased to 160km. In some races this makes the course more in­ter­est­ing - in Flèche Wal­lonne, the women miss the men’s warm-up sec­tion, just rac­ing on the loop that starts and fin­ishes on the Mur de Huy. In oth­ers it means some of the climbs and cob­bles the men face just can’t fit into the dis­tance. With the length, and teams of just six rid­ers, tac­tics have to be dif­fer­ent.

With 100 fewer kilo­me­tres to ride, the women have more en­ergy for at­tacks, and while the races are at­tri­tional, they’re un­pre­dictable, with less team­power to con­trol the ac­tion. They al­ways add value to the men’s races, show­ing a dif­fer­ent way to ride the sim­i­lar course. While the men’s Flèche is fa­mous for end­ing the same way ev­ery year, for ex­am­ple, the 2016 women’s win­ning at­tack went on the penul­ti­mate climb.

It’s win-win, sharing the races, with the women rac­ing in the same car­ni­val at­mos­phere, and fans get­ting more rid­ers to cheer for as they tackle the iconic roads of cy­cling. Mix­ing stand­alone women’s races and Clas­sics shared with the men makes the Women’s WorldTour an ef­fec­tive show­case for the sport.

Lizzie Deignan and Peter Sa­gan won the Tour of Flan­ders as World Champions in 2016

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