The Santos Women’s Tour application for a higher race classification has been granted by the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI), the governing body for world cycling.

The 2018 Santos Women’s Tour will now be ranked as a 2.1 class race on the UCI international calendar (up from UCI 2.2) making it one step closer to achieving the long-term goal of WorldTour status.

In 2018, 17 teams of elite international and national female cyclists will return to battle it out over four stages in South Australia at the Santos Women’s Tour.

The 2017 Santos Women’s Tour (UCI 2.2 class event) saw 102 riders from 19 different countries contest the peloton with the overall honours going to ORICA-Scott’s Amanda Spratt.

South Australian Minister for Tourism, Leon Bignell, said there has been a huge amount of interest in the Santos Women’s Tour since it started.

“The news from the UCI is most welcome, and we know the riders will be even more inspired to put on a display of fierce competition for the fans. We have worked hard to elevate it to be part of the UCI International Calendar, as a 2.1 class race.

“The State Government actively promotes and encourages women’s involvement in sport. We do so through the $24 million women’s change room facilities program, and the creation of the South Australian Women in Sport Taskforce – which has already launched a myriad of programs and campaigns.

“Next year is shaping up to be a huge year for cycling in SA, with the Santos Tour Down Under notching up its 20th year, and we are committed to growing the women’s race year on year both on and off the bike,” the Minister said.

Kimberley Conte, who will return as the Race Director for the Santos Women’s Tour for 2018, agrees that the higher classification announcement contributes to the incremental growth of women’s cycling, and further cements the sport on the map.

“This news is fantastic with the increase in status meaning the race can offer more UCI points to riders and teams. Whilst winning is the goal, points are important to teams and are utilized for international rankings and status which is vital for ongoing exposure and sponsorship opportunities.

“The change in status provides the race with a strong field of UCI international teams yet still allows the race to provide a solid pathway for our top Australian domestic teams, and the mixture of high level international and domestic teams provides our younger developing riders the chance to test their skills alongside the best riders in the world,” Kimberley said.

The Santos Women’s Tour started in 2015 as part of Cycling Australia’s National Road Series. The 2016 race was elevated as part of the UCI Oceania Calendar and has grown year on year.

The Santos Women’s Tour will be held on 11 to 14 January 2018, as part of the 20th Santos Tour Down Under cycling event. The 2018 stage routes will be announced in the coming months.