The organisers of the Maryland Cycling Classic are hoping to create a women’s race alongside the men’s Pro Series in 2023, if all goes to plan.
The men’s race survived two years of cancellations before finally launching as the first major UCI one-day race in the United States. Sunday’s men’s race has attracted the likes of Michael Matthews (BikeExchange-Jayco), Quinn Simmons (Trek-Segafredo), Neilson Powless (EF Education-EasyPost) and Giacomo Nizzolo (Israel-Premier Tech).
Launching a men’s only race in the era of growing parity raised some eyebrows but according to race owner Terry Hasseltine, president of the Sport and Entertainment Corporation of Maryland, the event is aiming to add a women’s race in 2023.
Any future plans hinge on the success of Sunday’s Pro Series men’s race, a 194km race which begins in Sparks, Maryland at the Kelly Benefits headquarters and ends with four 12km circuits around Baltimore’s famous inner harbor.
Baltimore is steeped in cycling history, from the former Bike Jam/Kelly Cup criterium to the local Kelly Benefit Strategies team that evolved into the current Human Powered Health teams. The race’s presenting sponsor, UnitedHealthcare, supported men’s and women’s pro teams until 2018.
Hasseltine told Cyclingnews the atmosphere of the pre-race events has been “through the roof” and he expects the race to be a huge success. The organisation has big plans for expansion in the future beginning with adding a women’s race in 2023.
“First, we want this year’s event to be a success, then in 2023 we will add the women’s race and then look to add more days to the event,” Hasseltine said.
When asked about a possible step up to the WorldTour level, he added it may be a future consideration but adding a women’s race and expanding the length would come first.
The ambitious plans would be a boon for the Americas where UCI events have declined over the past decade. The US previously had lucrative series of one-day races along the east coast, and later bigger stage races like Tour of Missouri, Tour de Georgia, Tour of Utah and the first WorldTour stage race in the Tour of California. Only UCI 2.2-ranked Joe Martin and Tour of the Gila stage races remain.
Previous races like the Tour of California hosted races for women that were a shadow of their male counterparts’ events, or none at all as in the case of Tour of Utah. The events that have lasted – Joe Martin and Tour of the Gila – have historically had equal days of racing for both genders.
Hasseltine assured Cyclingnews that Maryland would provide parity for the men and women as part of its long-term plan, and not just a token criterium.
“The men race through the countryside from Sparks to the circuit and we plan to provide an equitable race for women.”
The race will likely continue to be held on the same weekend around Labor Day, a quiet period for events in the city before the Baltimore Ravens’ NFL season starts. This year the event overlaps with the Simac Ladies Tour – a Women’s WorldTour race.
While the men’s race also overlaps with the Vuelta a España and first stage of the Tour of Britain (2.Pro), the proximity of the Grand Prix Quebec and Montreal has attracted a relatively strong field – in particular for teams like BikeExchange-Jayco and EF Education-EasyPost who are seeking points toward the 2023 WorldTour relegation fight.
Hasseltine says the organisers will have to work with the UCI and USA Cycling to ensure the women’s event can attract an equally strong field. How that will affect the Women’s WorldTour calendar remains to be seen.