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Tour of California, USA Pro Challenge Announce Women's Stage Races in 2015

Announcements of women's stage races by the organizers of the Tour of California and the USA Pro Challenge provide reason for optimism about the state of women's cycling in the United States.

Amber Neben competes in the 2009 women's invitational time trial held alongside the Tour of California
Amber Neben competes in the 2009 women's invitational time trial held alongside the Tour of California

In March, 2013, women's cycling was rocked by the news that the Exergy Tour - a standalone women's stage race in Idaho - would be cancelled. The race was one of three to receive the UCI's then-new 2.HC ranking, making it one of the bigger events not just in North America but on the global scene. Since then, women have had no high-level multi-day races this side of the Atlantic despite the existence of UCI level stage races for the men's peloton in Utah, California, and Colorado.

After the last two weeks, though, things are looking better. Both the Tour of California and USA Pro Challenge organization have announced multi-day races for women to be held in conjunction with men's races in 2015. The announcements were a marked distinction from prior years when women have had the opportunity to compete in single-day races prior to men's events in California. Last year, women competed on the Sacramento circuit race course on the first day of the men's tour and later in an invitational time trial prior to Stage 6. Though retired racer Jessica Phillips organized a four-day women's race that culminated with a criterium in Aspen prior to the final stage of the men's race in 2011, the USA Pro Challenge has not held an multi-day event for women since.

Details on the races are still scarce. The Tour of California will host a three-day stage race May 8-10 that finishes on the first day of the men's tour. The first two days of racing visit the Lake Tahoe area and the final stage ends in Sacramento, using the same circuit race course that men will race on later in the day. The standalone time trial will remain and women will compete prior to men on the Stage 6 time trial in Big Bear. Fewer details exist for the race held alongside the USA Pro Challenge. Shawn Hunter, CEO of the event, merely said the plan is to use many of the same roads used in the men's race without giving details on the number of stages.

Still, the announcements are reason for optimism, showing race promoters are responsive to the growing pressure to hold women's events alongside men's races around the world. This year the Tour de France held a circuit race on the Champs-Élysées before the final stage reached Paris, perhaps following the example set by the Tour of California's single day events for women in prior years. Next year, La Course is scheduled to return and the Vuelta a España is set to hold a similar event. Will the races held alongside the Tour of California and USA Pro Challenge provide an example for expanded, multi-day events in France in future Julys? We can certainly hope so.