Desire For Women’s Milan San Remo Is Still There but Maybe Waning

Poggio Milan San Remo Sign

Pro women cyclists across Europe can, these days, envision themselves in the iconic yellow jersey of the Tour de France, conquering the legendary Roubaix velodrome, or dominating the gruelling climbs of the Ronde van Vlaanderen. Yet, one prestigious race remains absent from their aspirations: the Milan-San Remo. A race that previously existed as the Primavera Rosa was held between 1999-2005 and won by star riders like Zabirova, Ziliute, Ljungskog and Melchers, but stopped due to lack of funding almost 20 years ago.

In the world of men’s cycling, Milan-San Remo, an Italian cycling monument, is celebrated annually. However, the women’s peloton still awaits its opportunity to compete in this historic event. Despite initial plans, a women’s edition of the race has never re-materialised since 2005, leaving many wondering why.

Trixi-Worrack-Primavera-Rosa-2005

However, according to RCS, the organiser of Milan-San Remo, prioritising a women’s edition of the race is not currently on their agenda. While RCS acknowledges promoting women’s cycling, they have not elaborated further on potential plans for the race since previously saying they did have plans to hold the race. In 2022, they mentioned that they might hold an edition in 2023. Then last year they said there would be one in 2024. So far though, nothing has made it onto a race calendar.

Annemiek van Vleuten, former professional cyclist, has previously expressed enthusiasm for the prospect of women tackling the almost 300-kilometre course, including the famous climbs of Cipressa and Poggio. She emphasised to NOS, “It would be a unique event on the women’s calendar.”

While Van Vleuten expressed interest in seeing all cycling monuments, including Milan-San Remo, incorporate women’s races, she prioritised focusing on existing events. “It’s better to focus on the races that do exist and make them a success,” she stated. “That’s how change happens.”

Reflecting on her time in the peloton, Van Vleuten noted Italy’s lag in organising women’s events compared to other countries. This year, RCS took over the organisation of the women’s Giro d’Italia, previously managed separately by the likes of Starlight, who organised the Giro Donne for the last few years.

The women’s peloton on the Poggio in 2005’s Primavera Rosa

Iris Slappendel, chair of The Cyclists’ Alliance, remarked on the lack of demand for Milan-San Remo among female riders to NOS. She and Beth Duryea, manager at Canyon-SRAM, cited logistical challenges such as distance limitations set by the UCI. Despite initial excitement from riders like Elisa Balsamo and Marta Cavalli, there appears to be little vocal support for the race among current competitors.

In the current calendar, Milan-San Remo would conflict with the Trofeo Alfredo Binda, considered one of the most prestigious races in women’s cycling. Slappendel favoured the Trofeo Binda, citing its challenging course and significant role in developing young riders through its junior race which is like a who’s who of the current peloton. With the men’s Milan San Remo on a Saturday, the logical place for the women’s race would be on a Sunday, a direct clash.

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