I've been running a series of analysis for the last couple of years, and you can read all the previous posts in the storystream. I started out picking 2006 as my baseline year, as it's the earliest year CQ Ranking has full information for, and that works nicely this year, as that makes ten years to look back on. And the next analysis year is 2011, as that's the first year I started doing this.
Caveats, as always, that what's on the UCI calendar now might not be what's raced, so I'll need to re-do the ten year stats after the end of next season too, for the definitive answer, but here's what it looks like from this point in time:
How the number of women's races has changed, 2006-15
|Type of races||Category||2006||2011||2013||2014||2015|
|Day races||World Championships||2||2||3||3||3|
TOTAL UCI RACES
That's really good news! But it's important to remember that numbers aren't the most important thing, the races that have disappeared include two ten-day Grand Tours, the Grand Boucle and the Tour de l'Aude. So here's the analysis looking at changes in terms of racing days:
How the number of women's racing days has changed, 2006-15
|Type of race||2006||2011||2013||2014||2015|
|Stage racing days||117||80||112||118||130|
TOTAL UCI RACING DAYS
So that's more good news! I'm really happy about this, it feels like yes, women's cycling IS back on the up! I'd love to see the World Cup expand again - and as we'll see later, expand geographically again as well as in terms of numbers of races, because it's also interesting to look at where the races have come and gone, and what's happened over the years.
How have those races changed?
The changes haven't been in a clear line - there's been a lot of churn - losing races and gaining them. Here's a table looking at that. Green are World Cups, light blue are day races, dark blue are stage races.
There's a caveat here too - not all the "disappearing races" are bad, because in some cases it's evolution - for example, the Omloop door Middag-Humsterland day race evolved into the Energiewacht Tour, and the GP Elsy Jacobs and the GP Nicolas Frantz combined to become the Festival Elsy Jacobs stage race, and the Novilon Eurocup Damesronde van Drenthe changed from being a stage race to three day races - the Ronde van Drenthe World Cup, Molecaten Drentse 8 and the Novilon Eurocup. There are various others like that, and I've tried to cluster them together on the table so it's easier to spot them.
(If they're small, double click on them to make them bigger)
One thing that interests me is how the summer races seem to be, in general, more stable than at other times of year. I don't know why, though. And we lost a lot of races after the 2008 Olympics, too - is this something about that year? Global recession? Or is it something to do with the Olympic cycle? I guess we'll need to wait and see what happens after Rio....
Where have the changes happened?
It's also interesting looking at where the changes have happened, and there are some significant parts of the world where we've lost races - especially Australia and Canada, but also the Italian races are reducing, which is a shame. It's great that we have two Swiss races on the 2015 calendar, because the losses are big there - and of course, there are still no UCI races in Africa at all. As a Brit, it's embarrassing, and frustrating that we only have one UCI-level race, but at least we have one now, and it was such an incredible race for fans!
(If there are any mistakes, I apologise deeply - but this is all spreadsheeted, so the mistake would be the same everywhere. If you'd like to play around with the spreadsheet yourself, talk to me in the comments)
I wanted to look at the changes that have happened in the "big" European cycling nations (I've left off countries with only 1 race, and places like Sweden where there are just the World Cups. There's a caveat about the BeNe Ladies Tour - this happens across the Dutch/Belgian border, and this year it was classed as a Belgian race, next year it's Dutch, so just take that into account!
The big story here is the decline in Italian women's races. It's frustrating, because the Italians are one of the largest populations in the peloton, and have some of the best riders in the world - and the Italian junior and u23 racing scene is excellent - but the elite races keep disappearing. On the other hand there's a real growth in Belgium (lead partly by the Lotto Cycling Cup races moving from national- to UCI-level a few years ago and hopefully we'll see more Belgian women coming into the peloton too.
One of the issues with where the races have come and gone, is about the geography, and what it means for the racing. I say this a lot, but we've lost a lot of the climbing races in recent years, and while I love the growth in places like Belgium and the Netherlands, it does mean that the calendar has got much flatter, and orientated to sprinters/Classics riders. It's very important that we don't look at these stats and think everything's ok, because there's a lot of room for developing races in the countries like Italy, France, Switzerland, Austria, Spain etc, so we can have a properly balanced calendar again, and the climbers get the chance to, well, climb.
There's also a real need to ask some tough questions - why, in 2014, are Federations in countries like Australia and Britain, where there's so little activity, are men's races like the Tour de Yorkshire and the Cadel Evans race allowed to go for UCI status while having only domestic women's races? Why does the UCI allow this? I'm not saying all new men's races should have to have women's races too, but it's time organisers weren't given an easy ride here.
Taken as a whole, though, this is really, really positive, and it shows women's cycling really is on the up. Combined with better tv coverage, and races like BeNe and Emakumeen Bira planning to expand for next year, we can be really excited about the sport - and justified in our ambitions for it's future!
If you've got any questions, comments or thoughts on any of this, or can spot any mistakes, please do let's talk in the comments. I'm really interested to know what patterns you can see, and if there's anything I've missed. Let's chat there, or as always, you can reach me on my twitter. And don't forget to read Part 1 of this year's analysis, which looked at the 2015 calendar in more detail, especially compared to 2014.