Women athletes do not only participate in UCI events, they provide some of the most exciting racing in our different disciplines. While the history of women’s cycling may be shorter than that of men, our female athletes have made up for lost time. Today, our women World Cup winners and World Champions are incredible ambassadors of our sport.
UCI Women's WorldTour
The first women’s world ranking for road cycling was introduced by the UCI in 1994, and four years later the World Cup made its debut in Sydney, Australia. American Dede Barry won the opening race, while Lithuanian Diana Ziliute was the first overall winner of the series.
Eighteen years later, 2016, the series was replaced by the UCI Women’s WorldTour. This new series comprises the best women’s events in the world and includes 21 races for a total of 47 days of competition, combining 15 one-day races and six stage races held across 10 countries and three continents. All information about the series can be found in the UCI Women’s WorldTour section of the UCI website (link above).
Track cycling races date back to the 19th century (the first World Championships were held in 1895), in the days when women were not exactly encouraged to participate in any sports. The post war period in Europe allowed for women to slowly earn their place on the continent’s velodromes, and today the men/women ratio of participants in UCI Track Cycling World Cups and Championships are very balanced, as is the prize money for these events.
Unlike other traditional disciplines, mountain bike events have always combined women’s and men’s races. From the introduction of the World Cup in the 1990s, Olympic cross-country female stars such as Juli Furtado, Alison Sydor and Paola Pezzo received the same attention and were paid the same prize money as their contemporaries John Tomac, Bart Brentjens and Thomas Frischknecht.
Equality is probably one of the greatest values that this young sport, born in the 1980s has carried forward. In 2011 the UCI introduced a team ranking that, thanks to its points system, favours mixed teams. This has had a particularly positive impact on the development of women’s downhill, as teams started looking for young talents in order to be competitive in the team ranking. In Olympic cross-country, most teams have been mixed for a long time.
First introduced for the 1993-1994 season, the Cyclo-cross World Cup was a men-only affair until 2005-2006, when a women’s elite race was included. Although cyclo-cross is the Belgian national sport - and therefore where most of the financial support comes from - it is the women, from countries with less tradition in this discipline, who are slowly but surely ensuring its globalisation.
BMX was born in the 1960s and although it was originally a baby brother of motocross, it eventually found its home within the cycling family. By 1993, the discipline had been fully integrated into the UCI portfolio. Since its introduction to the Olympic programme in 2008, female participation in BMX has been on the rise, and its top athletes are internationally renowned.
Trials is one of cycling’s most spectacular disciplines that requires outstanding bike handling skills, control and nerves of steel. Time is of lesser importance than in other disciplines, with the win going to the rider who incurs the least number of penalty points. It is a competition in which men and women are judged on exactly the same set of criteria.
Para-cycling is all about offering equal opportunities; not only to men and women, but to people. At the Paralympic Games, 40% of the medals are awarded to women.