THE FAMOUS CLASSICS
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