Track Racing Is (Finally) Moving Towards Equal Distances for Men and Women. Is That a Good Thing?

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Track Racing Is Moving Towards Equal DistancesNurPhoto - Getty Images

The UCI slipped a few new regulations into their handbook last week that are going to have a big impact on the future of women’s cycling. Starting January 1, 2025, a few of the key race distances in different track events will (finally)shift to being the same for men and women.

So, which races will change?

  • Kilometer Time Trial: Rather than men racing 1 kilometer and women racing 500 meters, both will race 1 kilometer.

  • Individual Pursuit: Both men and women will now race 4 kilometers (giving women a chance to aim for the famed sub-4 club!). Previously, the women raced 3.

  • Junior Individual Pursuit: Men and women race 3 kilometers. Previously, the women raced 2.

  • Scratch race: Men and women race 10 kilometers. This is actually a downshift for the men, who used to race 15.

  • Junior Scratch Race: Men and women race 7.5 kilometers. (Men previously raced 10KM.)

  • Tempo race: Men and women race 10 kilometers. (Women's previously was 7.5KM.)

The changes were released less than a month after the Nations Cup race at the Milton Velodrome in Ontario, and Chris Reid, the executive director of the National Cycling Institute Milton where the race was held is thrilled at the change. “It’s really exciting as the 4 km is a great benchmark,” he told Canadian Cycling. “You’ll really get to appreciate just how fast, say, a Chloé Dygert is.”

Will other cycling disciplines adopt similar changes?

It will be interesting to see if other disciplines begin to follow suit. In recent years, we’ve seen cyclocross race durations come closer together, but the men still race longer than the women. In road racing, there has been a lot of conversation about increasing distances or days of racing for women.

Some people actually argue in favor of how the UCI is changing the scratch race: Rather than increase the women’s race distance or duration, why not drop the men’s distance down?

“I’m not an advocate around longer races for women. I think when we talk about equal racing, we need to look at what’s good and what’s working,” three-time Olympic gold medalist and cycling coach Kristin Armstrong told Bicycling. “I actually think women’s races are more exciting than men’s right now. I would argue that the men should be fighting to be more like women’s racing, meaning I think that men should be asking for three to four hour races instead of six to seven like they have now.”

So, why wait until 2025?

These race distance shifts on the track—some increasing women’s duration, some decreasing men’s—may be a hopeful sign that the UCI is thinking critically about the best way to align men’s and women’s racing so that both races are exciting while also (finally) being equitable.

So, if that’s such a great idea, why the 2025 start date? While the news is exciting, the increase in distance for the women will require some changes in training and racing protocols and strategies, and this will take time. Remember, shifting from 3 to 4 kilometers is a huge increase when you're going all-out!

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