Only a few days ago I was singing the praises of the UCI World Tour as an idea that had its merits given the way the ProTour flopped.
For me the biggest attraction of the new World Tour is a calendar finally including all the big races like the Tour de France, Giro d’Italia, Paris-Roubaix and the Tour of Lombardy. The ProTour fell flat on its face because race organisers like RCS and ASO rejected the UCI’s plans, leaving a calendar where the biggest stage races were the Eneco Tour and the Tour of Poland. Born without the backing of the big races the ProTour proved to be a major humiliation for the UCI.
Only I should have done my homework, I’d stupidly presumed that an agreement was in place for the new World Tour. After all, why launch this new World Tour calendar and name races if you haven’t got the race organisers on board? Surely the same fundamental mistake couldn’t be allowed to happen again?
But lesson learnt, you can never assume anything when organisations like the UCI are involved. Because within days of the plans being announced by fanfare – they’ve even got a logo – it looks like things could go wrong. Here’s cyclingnews.com:
Giro d’Italia organiser Angelo Zomegnan told Cyclingnews “that we already have an agreement that we signed in September 2008.” Under this agreement, the top seventeen teams of the 2010 world rankings would qualify for the Grand Tours, while all changes would first have to be discussed.
So we have the organiser of the Giro, Tirreno-Adriatico, Tour of Lombardy and more saying things have yet to be discussed, yet alone agreed. Indeed cyclingnews.com says it understands that “the launch of the World Tour was carried out without the consent or backing of Giro organisers RCS” whilst adding that Tour de France technical director J-F Pescheux attended the UCI meeting in Melbourne as a representative of the big races – it looks like he was presented with a fait accompli. Indeed it’s not clear whether ASO will sign up, nor whether other big races like the Tour of Switzerland have even been informed.
If you think this is appalling, you’re not alone. But it’s not the worst part of the story. Brace yourself because when asked about the lack of agreement with the Giro d’Italia’s Angelo Zomegan, the UCI President Pat McQuaid didn’t bother with conciliation, he just fired back:
“If he doesn’t want the best 18 teams, his races shouldn’t be on the world calendar.”
For me this is amazing. Rather than learning from the past failings, notably that you need to take the race organisers with you, McQuaid blasts Zomegnan. Imagine a “world calendar” without the Giro, it’s like excluding the Pyramid of Giza from the seven wonders. By a range of metrics – duration, distance, prestige, history, TV audiences, roadside fans, budget or number of riders – the Giro is one of the biggest races going. A calendar that skips the Giro is going to lose credibility faster than you can say “not again Pat“. And that’s before ASO have their word.
A basic lesson from cycling is that working together makes you go faster. The UCI needs to be a rallying force in our sport, bringing organisers, teams, riders and sponsors together into a big peloton, rather than dividing people. But it seems we have key actors within the sport who aren’t consulted prior to the launch of such a big idea. How on earth does this happen not once… but twice?