The Future of Pro Cycling Revealed

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

The UCI’s plans for pro cycling in 2015 and 2017 as the plans for reform appear in full thanks to a leaked document on Cicloweb.it

We got a glimpse of this earlier this month with the details buried in a technical bulletin but now a copy of the whole presentation has emerged.

The takeaway is that if the reforms are expected to be completed by 2020, radical change will be coming as soon as 2015. Within the next few years races like the Eneco Tour and Tour de Pologne will get downgraded. Germany’s Bayern Rundfahrt gets promoted. Meanwhile Paris-Nice, Tirreno-Adriatico, the Dauphiné and Tour de Suisse all shrink. Other races vanish.


Who’s running this?

You don’t need to be fluent in French to get this slide. Amidst the alphabet soup of acronyms we see the body of race organiers, the UCI World Tour, ASO, RCS, Flanders Classics and interestingly the Tour de Romandie’s Richard Chassot as well as GCP’s Alain Rumpf. In addition there’s the team association the AIGCP, the CPA rider union and Team Sky’s Bernhard Eisel as the frontman for the UCI Athletes Commission. Note there’s nobody representing sponsors, broadcasters or fans although you can assume some proxy coverage on behalf of other groups.

Team Changes

This slide explains some of the changes to the teams. Currently squads are capped at 30 riders but here the team size will be reduced to 22 riders. This is a reduction… but when we see the calendar being shrunk to 120 days and the end of overlapping races it’s not so small. There are 153 days on the 2014 World Tour calendar alone and that’s before the 573 days on the Europe Tour and more in the US and beyond. Note the final point that team size will be 7-9 riders which suggests continuity although leaves the door open to smaller team sizes in major races.

Another slide also reveals that a team can have a B-team of 8-10 riders for development purposes so it’s possible team sizes remain at current levels. But without overlapping races and more we can expect a big drop in the number of mechanics, soigneurs and other support staff.

Season length

The calendar shrinks to 120 days but note the three grand tours remain. They will account for more than half the season. A three day race is a wonderful adventure but it looks bizarre to shrink other races, for example the Tour de Suisse from nine to six days, without touching the grand tours. Wouldn’t a two week Vuelta be plenty?

The Surviving Races
If a race wants to stay on the calendar it must meet three identified criteria:

  • the calendar: from February to October. No overlap, a defined season of spring classics and ideally action every weekend
  • technical: this requires a race to tick a variety of boxes from logistics, offering riders high quality accommodation to TV production standards
  • financial: the race must be able to fund the important technical criteria, pay teams more money to take part and – no surprise – pay a larger tax to the UCI for the right to be registered on the calendar

Who Rides What?

This slide sheds more light on the participation. The red arrows mean obligatory races, for example the 16 top teams must ride all 120 days on the main calendar just as the second division teams must do all 50 days. Green arrows mean “can”, so a third division team can do a big race just as a top team can do some lesser events.  It’s similar to today’s scheme with wildcards but the system of promotion and relegation is designed to be more obvious and transparent.

Winners and losers

The 2017 calendar looks familiar only someone’s deleted a lot of races. Blue means first division, yellow is second division. The Bayern Rundfahrt seems to be promoted which makes sense given Germany is Europe’s largest country and most wealthy economy, sponsors need to be there. The Swiss seem to do very well with Romandie and the Tour de Suisse. It helps having Richard Chassot as a stakeholder although he’s a dynamic type, his presence is not by accident. Similarly they’re very different countries but Dubai, Qatar and Oman have a combined presence that many others will envy.

But note other crucial markets are missing. Two days in Canada but not one on the USA and nothing in Britain either. The Tour Down Under is still in January but come 2020 and it could be replaced by another race elsewhere in Australia. The Tour of Beijing remains, the current contract with GCP remains until 2014 so it’ll be interesting to see what happens after.

But note this is a provisional illustration. Races must meet the new criteria set out above and this review process has yet to happen. But the calendar does give us a clue as to the UCI’s current thinking.

Next steps
In more immediate terms 15 January 2014 is the next big date. The plans will be confirmed and then launched with a view to beginning the changes for 2015 and beyond.

Conclusion
We got a glimpse a few weeks ago and it was hard to extrapolate too much. It was only a matter of time until the details leaked and thanks to cicloweb.it we get plenty more information. But there are still gaps and as ever, it’s one thing to make some technicolor slides, another to force through the change.

The theme seems to be “small is beautiful” but the changes might not be enough to delight E. F. Schumacher. Yes the calendar shrinks and some races will vanish but the season becomes dominated by three grand tours. Some races have been in trouble and surviving from year to year, now the UCI will impose a technical and financial test and only the fittest will survive the cull. But these plans still reveal big geographic gaps, a sport that remains focused in particular areas of Western Europe.

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{ 68 comments }

Human Cyclist October 30, 2013 at 9:38 pm

Very interesting. I’d say there’s room for a new Grand Tour in Feb! Forget about those class 2 mini tours and get another Grand Tour in. United states maybe. Would be very interesting to see riders coming straight into a big tour with their training legs still on!

A distinct lack of room in that schedule for the Tour of Britain to establish itself.

Craig November 1, 2013 at 4:40 pm

Ohhhhh…. They could do it coast to coast. One year going E-W, next the opposite. You have plenty of mountains on each side and then brutal flat fast windy stuff in the middle. 3000 miles … perfect. I will set up a home stay at my house for a team!

fausto October 30, 2013 at 10:12 pm

Dubai Qatar Oman on 2nd division from 2017. so they are on the SAME LEVEL as Het Volk, Pays Vasco, Romandie. oh dear!

I see the calendar just show 1st and 2nd division races from 2017

so the likes of Catalunya, Haut Var, Tour Med, Strade Bianche, Scheldeprijs, Emilia, California and so on, will be in a 3rd division kind of races?

The Inner Ring October 31, 2013 at 10:42 am

It’s worth stressing the calendar part is just a provisional illustration. Races must meet the new criteria set out above and this review process has yet to happen. But the calendar does give us a clue as to the UCI’s current thinking.

nick Evans October 31, 2013 at 2:01 pm

Most of those races are already “3rd division” as they’re .HC or .1. No real change for them, as 1st division teams will still be able to race them.

Felix October 30, 2013 at 10:26 pm

Vuelta a Catalonia will vanish and there is still no USA race at the top level, which i could not understand. A good infrastructure would is given and in opposite to the Tour of Quatar an enthusiastic audience. Quatar is a race which should not be in the calendar, because it is neither interesting nor has a big audience. As the new Abu Dhabi circuit I suspect it is to please RCS and ASO for the cuts on their other circuits.
This my major Point of criticism on the outlay. Paris-Nice lives from its flair as little Tour de France with action almost every day. And how do you want to come in 6 days from Central to southern France. Also it endangers the existance of the Tour de Suisse, one of the oldest and most historical cycling races. ASO can back up 2 days less racing, but TdS as a single Event is loosing 3 full days of coverage. This effects on potential hosttowns as well as sponsors, not to speak from the dramaturgy of the race.
As a german cyclist the upgrade of Bayern-Tour is primary positiv but it damages the best german continental Teams which will lose their biggest stage to present themselves.
Which I consider as an interesting move from UCI is to give with exeption of Scheldeprijs all races of the flandres classics organisation an upgrade. I think this is a move to bring a third big player in the game and weaken the dominant position of ASO in the spring classics and to strengh them in the calendar.
I already said that I do not like the Eneco and Poland Tour and that a event in britain or USA would make more sense in a competetiv and a economic perspective (With Kwiatkowski and Majka sucess ToP could boom).
All in all I would say that the big players (on organisation and team side) will get more of the cake which will weaken the little teams (less representation) and the middle big races (Tour de Suisse)

denominator October 31, 2013 at 10:39 am

Concerning Tour of Poland, I disagree. At first, there should exist one high-division race in eastern Europe (as well as in China, USA, UK). The problem for the organizers was that purely on Polish soil it was difficult to atract the best climbers. In the past puncheurs like Sagan and Moser won. But now they are searching for the “climbers formula” – this year’s two stages in Dolomites are just a beginning, next year one mountain stage should take place in Slovakia, later I can imagine one in Czech republic. In both countries mountain-top finishes with 1000 m altitude difference and 4-7% average (up to 20% max) are possible.

Felix November 1, 2013 at 2:24 pm

I must admit that I don´t like Tour de Pologne because it was taken into ProTour in the same time as Peace Tour vanished from it. For me the Peace Tour had always more potential because it was already there where Tour of Pologne wants to be now. It covered Poland, the Czech Rep. and Germany with a exiting and challenging Pacours. Historicly seen it was also the more prestigeous event. But maybe I am just a little bit sad that this part of cycling history has gone and blame ToP for that. There is no doubt that it is a wel organized race with huge potential, from the fans (imagine what happens if Kwiatkowski or Majka could wear the maillot jaune for just one day) and the geography. But in my opinion Peace Tour had the bigger potential.

The Inner Ring November 1, 2013 at 6:02 pm

The Peace Race lived on but fell away, harder to run a race in several countries at once. I know what you mean about the Tour de Pologne, it is run by an ex-pro but as a tight business – which explains all those inflatables.

BC October 30, 2013 at 10:27 pm

Its a bit difficult to understand why popularity, history and financial success of events should not be the deciding factor in their survival. Given more freedom, the best teams will be attracted to the events that provide the three factors above. Recent forced introductions by the UCI have distorted the calendar, and have not in the main proved popular with fans.
The UCI surely have more important pressing matters to deal with than trying to make the World Tour the be all and end all of Pro cycling.
Letting the market decide is sometimes the best option.

Linus October 30, 2013 at 11:47 pm

1) Money talks. Everywhere on this calendar and re-organization you see that money is Priority #1.

2) The calendar is very conservative-and you can decide for yourself if this is a good or bad thing. It is the equivalent of the austerity budgets so popular among the ruling class in the last decade or so. But in the quest for solvency though austerity, the UCI has retreated back to it’s historical core meaning…

3) The idea of elite pro cycling being a global sport is dead, at least for many years. Very hard to see Beijing or TDU surviving unless those races come up with very serious amounts of cash. The Canadian races may squeak by since they are French Canadian and the money we are talking about here is primarily French, Swiss, and Arab.

I can still imagine races like California surviving, possibly, as long as they can attract enough 1st division teams to go along with their Continental level teams. But clearly UCI no longer wants those types of races muddying the schedule. Britain never had a chance as it was already having trouble attracting WT and PC teams.

mr_poll October 31, 2013 at 12:46 am

You have put “for example the Tour de Suisse from nine to five days” but it hasn’t, it is down to 6 days like all the other races in the new bracket – Romandie, Pologne, Dauphine etc etc

The Inner Ring November 1, 2013 at 6:03 pm

Fixed that, thanks.

Goonie October 31, 2013 at 1:09 am

Rationalizing the calendar makes sense. But a plan that doesn’t include Britain or the USA for top-tier racing? That’s completely insane.

Alex October 31, 2013 at 5:36 am

THIS.

NO really. This comment is the truth.

Ronan October 31, 2013 at 12:21 pm

The Tour of Cali has always stated it did not want to get a bigger accreditation as that would exclude some of its domestic teams. Perhaps under this new structure they would be interested in upgrading their race, but you have to ask why they would want to?

They would have to exclude more of the domestic riders (and sponsors) as well as agree to a certain race format and hand over a bigger chunk of cash to Aigle to boot. It seems to me that certain races can continue as they were, in spite of this new calendar.

denny October 31, 2013 at 1:18 am

A Chinese sage once said “anything that includes the Tour of Beijing is a joke”

Looks like I’ll be watching a ****load of old videos of dead European races.

Goonie October 31, 2013 at 1:40 am

The Tour of Beijing in its current form is not great. But the *concept* of the Tour of Beijing…

It’s the biggest and most important city in what is the biggest, richest (in aggregrate, not per person) country in the world. And they want to host our marginal little sport for a week?

Grab the opportunity with both hands.

Patrick October 31, 2013 at 2:12 am

california should be a 2nd div race (perhaps also utah and/or colorado) but the problem is that then none of the US teams could race – the domestic teams are continental rather than pro-conti. that should change with the UCI finding ways of making it worthwhile for teams outside of europe to go to pro-conti level, but until that happens there is no way the US races will want such a status.

i do wonder whether it wouldn’t be better to make the grand tours 16 days and keep paris-nice, suisse etc a bit longer at 7-9 days. huge jump from 6 day races to 23 day GTs. maybe the contrast is deliberate. i’d guess thats where the tradition won out that they daren’t touch le Tour in particular.

down under and beijing look out of place… expect something to change there…

if my french is correct the 2nd div teams each get a GT which is good for teams, riders and sponsors. hopefully they’re also assured a good spread of races for buildup and throughout the year.

overall though i like the principle, will be interesting to see how the reality works out.

Rod October 31, 2013 at 3:52 am

Just trying to wrap my head around this… isn’t this pre-Cookston?

From the news going around GCP, I wouldn’t be surprised if this calendar changes very significantly with the new leadership at the UCI.

We’ll see. I don’t like losing Basque, Catalonia, etc.

Rob October 31, 2013 at 5:32 am

This is completely the wrong direction to go in.

The UCI should not pick “winners” (races). Let organisers compete with one another to create good races, that attract good teams, and attract sponsors because of good viewing. Perfect example the Dauphine, and Td Suisse being at the same time competing to attract the top riders.

Competition leads to better quality. This proposal will simply lead to lazy organisers that are assured of their races being raced by teams. No team should ever be forced to enter a race.

channel_zero October 31, 2013 at 7:07 am

Why shouldn’t they pick winners? They already have done it with riders. Not that this will “grows the sport”, has “grown the sport.” The UCI has picked more winners, Grand Tours are the future. Why not? ASO owns 1, has a big stake in the Vuelta’s owner, and Italy is okay despite the trash talking Tour of California.

Cycling remains a fringe sport. Oh well…

nick Evans October 31, 2013 at 2:07 pm

Nothing in this prevents competition between race organisers to get their races into the WT (if they want to).

Rob October 31, 2013 at 5:42 am

Who is the UCI to say there is too many racing days. If they don’t want to watch it all, then don’t. I enjoy watching stages from 2 or more races a day.

There is a strong worldwide demand to watch all the races that are broadcast currently, why restrict supply?

Dimitris October 31, 2013 at 6:06 am

It’s bizzare that Britain got out of the calender. Cycling is very popular there, funding wouldnt be a problem. They had nice tv coverage the last few years. I suppose the organizers could find a more suitable date, if that was the problem.

channel_zero October 31, 2013 at 7:11 am

I’ve heard both cycling in Britain is bigger than ever or smaller than ever.

Bigger in the sense viewers have a draw with Sky riders and now even a Grande Depart! Smaller in the sense of fewer races and racers and an even more starving Continental-and-below elites. (men and women)

The Inner Ring October 31, 2013 at 8:55 am

It’s the mass market that counts. You’ve probably seen the crowds by the road when a big race happens. But TV audiences are still lagging, that’s a big issue for racing in Britain from a sponsor/pro team perspective.

STB October 31, 2013 at 9:47 am

Do you have an stats for the TV audience? This year the Wiggo/Cavo combination made the Tour of Britain mainstream news in the UK, it had a very high profile.

In Britain cycling now has a very high profile with many televised events such as the summer criterium series, Revolution track, Tour of Britain, National Championships, Track World Cup, World Road Races.

The new calendar is so retro with all the traditional European races favoured with Belgium, France, Spain, Italy the big winners.

The USA, Britain, South/Central America, Africa, Asia are all poorly represented.

Not really progress in my opinion. Reduce the Vuelta should be reduced to two weeks for a starter.

The Inner Ring October 31, 2013 at 9:51 am

There were peaks for Wiggins’s win when the race was shown on a main channel but I gather cycling is shown on a secondary channel called ITV4. The numbers for 2012 are here: http://www.theguardian.com/media/2012/jul/23/bradley-wiggins-tour-de-france-tv

Al October 31, 2013 at 10:42 am

RE ITV4, yes, msot cycling including the Tour, Vuelta and (maybe?) giro. Except Le Tour and (AFAIK) the tour of Britain, there is no live coverage. Just a short 30 mins highlights programme. They wheel out some decent commentators & presenters for the Tour (Boardman’s good) but otherwise it’s just rehashed highlights footage and some frankly bottom drawer commentators. I don’t think they even had ANY coverage of the Giro this year.

They probably do get crap viewing figures, not least because they don’t show anything but also becuase what they do show is hidden away on a very niche TV channel. I wonder how the cycling compares to the usual ITV4 repeats and 90′s man-TV rubbish. I guess this is exactly the problem with letting the market decide! Do it badly and it all looks crap and (surprisingly) ends up unpopular.

Tovarishch October 31, 2013 at 11:48 am

But 50% of the UK audience watch cycling on Eurosport, not ITV4 (although this figure tends to 0% when Declan Quigley is commentating).

channel_zero October 31, 2013 at 7:24 am

Some races have been in trouble and surviving from year to year, now the UCI will impose a technical and financial test and only the fittest will survive the cull.

I’d argue they are demoting the races by changing the demands on the promoter, or just plain denying a promoter the event. They’ve been doing a version of this for years.

Paul G October 31, 2013 at 8:23 am

…..There is a precedent for these kind of changes and the lack of sentiment over who should have a race and who shouldn’t. Driven by a certain Mr B Ecclestone, since the 70′s…F1 has been turned into a Major Cash Cow and what is a boring TV spectacle has grown into a Worldwide TV phenomena. At the expense of history, sentiment and ‘on the ground’ support, finance rules. The organisers of the races, sponsors and TV rights pay vast sums to be part of the circus and Ecclestone is very much the Dictatorial Ringleader. There are a couple of historical references, Monaco and Monza but France , who held the first ever Grand Prix, doesn’t even have an F1 race……..because they won’t put up the money.

F1 has never succeeded in the USA, but that hasn’t stopped the Money Mill.

At least 8 out of the 20 odd races are now effectively underwritten by Governments of countries that want the prime time TV exposure…they are the ultimate sponsor, surely.

Ecclestone came from a Team background, whereas Cookson is from the Organisational side.
Is Cookson an Ecclestone? Can he herd the Cats?
Can he do for Cyclings finances what Ecclestone did for F1.
Is F1 a better spectacle for how it is run now?

F1 is financially sound, but at the expense of weaker races, organisers and, certainly, the views of fans and enthusiasts were not taken into account when making decisions. Many made comments like those expressed above.

……if only my crystal ball could see 10 years ahead…….

Birillo October 31, 2013 at 8:40 pm

I’ve read all 49 comments (posted so far) but this is the one that sends a chill down my spine. You’re probably right: money trumps tradition.

Shredded Legs November 5, 2013 at 5:50 am

F1 is a good example where 2-3 technically driven teams can dominate a series and destroy competition. Dave Brailsford’s marginal gains already hints cycling ‘wants’ to go down that road, so 2-3 teams with that same attitude are looking for a leader. Will Cookson allow himself to assume that roll and sanitise the sport of character? Once sports stops being rough round the edges it becomes predictable, then boring.

The quest for money dominates sport today, you can’t isolate cycling. However will cycling be run responsibly or in a Bernie/Blatter dictatorial manner – that is the key.

I hope they leave the Giro at 3 weeks… it’s a classic and teams should simply live with it.

Luc October 31, 2013 at 8:42 am

While reorganization is undoubtedly important, this approach is foolish.

This plan cuts numerous jobs, riders and support staff alike, at the same time as cutting races that are important in cycling history. Mysticism and history are often integral to cycling, both as a complete entity and in regards to cycling heroes, and famed roads and regions.

It would make much more sense to reorganize that calendar in a logical fashion without cutting races. While it may be cluttered, that does not pose a problem. With races capped at 9 riders or less, and rarely more than 2 races at a time, there is little problem in having two at once.

We are all dismayed by the number of forced retirements this year due to disbanding teams. With this enforcement, there will be even less professionals. For what gain?

Save the history, save the cyclists, and rework the plan.

Samuel G October 31, 2013 at 8:48 am

Some sources are saying this is an old McQuaid endorsed plan, perhaps this has been leaked deliberately by Cookson to gauge the views of fans, media and sponsors before making final revisions?

The Inner Ring October 31, 2013 at 8:54 am

It’s the plan approved at UCI’s Congress in September. It’s not really McQuaid’s masterplan, Cookson’s been on the UCI Management Committee for plenty of time.

But of course it can be changed, altered or even scrapped. We should know more in January but hopefully the idea can be presented and discussed more before then.

denominator October 31, 2013 at 10:20 am

Neverthelless it is to a large extent pre-Cookson and after his win I expect some promotion for English speaking countries’ races. At least one stage race in USA (probably 5-dyas California), in longer terms maybe one (London) classics in UK. With the same argumentation as with Bayern Rundfahrt or Beijing – each big and rich country should have at least one high-division race. And if I had to say where the days should be cut, I’d propose 2 days from Vuelta, 1-2 from Giro; Dubai looks dubious at this moment, maybe Dwars Door Vlaanderen must not really be there?

James October 31, 2013 at 9:11 am

You forgot to mention that there are 11 days worth of new races to be added to the first division calendar. There are only 109 first division race days accounted for on that slide. Presumably that will consist of two new stage races lasting between 5-6 days although looking at the calendar it’s not easy to see how they’ll fit in those races without any overlap between 1st and 2nd division events.

It has to be said that it does look completely out of place with the rest of the changes to include three 3 week long grand tours in the season…

Dan Caz October 31, 2013 at 10:05 am

Why are so many people against the TDU? Comparing it with Tour of Beijing is a bit much.

Dave October 31, 2013 at 10:18 am

Inrng;
Clearly this calendar was created prior to the election of Cookson.
Can you tell me if it is set in stone or now that Cookson is in situ, or can it be revisited?
Given the downgrading of races in the UK, where cycling is on the up, this seems a silly move.
I may sound paranoid here, but was the downgrading of UK races done after Cookson announced his run for the top job?

As for the calendar, and as an Irish person I think that a one day “semi-classic” in Ireland ahead of the ToB would make sense.
The ToB normally starts on the North West coast of Brittan, and as all teams and race logistics are in place, transporting the whole lot to Ireland for a one day event 3 to 4 days ahead of the start of the ToB seems logical.

The Inner Ring October 31, 2013 at 10:26 am

Note the UCI President is constitutionally bound not to help out their home nation so just because there is a Brit at the top of the UCI doesn’t mean the calendar changes.

Anonymous October 31, 2013 at 11:28 am

This is definitely pre Cookson. No future for the Tour Of Britain then and nothing in the US!. If they manage to ruin Paris Nice, one of my favourite races then I will seriously consider my interest in Pro racing.

Andrew October 31, 2013 at 12:18 pm

No clashes between first and second division races then, except for … the Tour of Beijing and Paris-Tours. Strange, that.

There are some large gaps in the calendar which other races could fill if allowed, e.g. the Tour of Britain could continue to run in the week after the Vuelta as at present. It would be interesting to know why the UCI thinks that fewer races are better.

Is there scope for some kind of breakaway series for the races that have been displaced?

Bundle October 31, 2013 at 12:40 pm

But why oh why on earth all this scrapping, all this limiting, and this downsizing and prioritizing??? Can’t they think about growth and expansion?? AWAY WITH THE WORLD TOUR!

Larry T. October 31, 2013 at 2:57 pm

+1! In many ways the current mess began with the World Tour, Pro Tour or whatever this brain-fart of an idea was in the head of Mr. Mars. Teams got larger to cover overlapping races, budgets went through the roof to cover extra staff and equipment and now there’s no money to sponsor all of this unless you are a country (Katusha, Astana) in the same fashion F1 races are bankrolled by national governments. The big multi-national sponsorships of the LeMond and BigTex era have had their day – it’s time to accept reality and set things up to reflect it. Cycling’s never again going to rival football as a top sport and expansion into places with lethal air quality like China is as stupid as having the football World Cup in the desert in the summer. Let’s hope Cookson can understand this and make the rest of the stakeholders accept it.

hoh November 1, 2013 at 12:03 am

The lethal air quality in China is as much a European/America problem as it is a Chinese problem. The west lived on cheap Chinese goods for the last two decades whilst most of the Chinese suffered.Without “made in China”, or its modern day south-eastern Asian replacement, living standard in the west would regress for a couple years at the least.

Both parties were in it together, the Chinese wanted investment & money whilst the west wanted cheap goods & somewhere to shift their problems aboard (There were probably as much if not more media & academics singing for shifting production off-shore as there are people singing for bringing production back in to Europe/America). It’s only after some morons in Washington/London/New York etc. mucked things up that the west start to take moral high-ground and shed their partners in crime.

Politics & Economics aside, China has the largest cycling population & most trips made on a bicycle by a long way; long before hipsters in the west start to think about utilising old track bikes to do alley racing, Chinese kids of the red-guard generation were racing their friends on the heavy & sturdy Flying Pigeon bike; cycle-touring (mostly on mountain bikes) is also booming in China. So in terms of popular interest & sponsor money in cycling, there’s plenty in China. The only problem is the lack of racing culture, but that could be nourished in time and what better way to do it than organise some big race in China? Arguably, Beijing is not the best place to do it. There are plenty of places in China with stunning views on the road & not pollution (Only problem is that normally they are quite far off from the big international cities on the coast where most of the pro-cycling fans live).

In terms of quality of current races in Asia, the Japanese races are the best (particularly the Japan Cup). Sadly speaking, there are limited spaces for Asian races in the calendar and China brings more money onto the table. Worse, races held in either country does not radiate its influence into the other. In an Ideal world, there could be a pan Asian Grand tour which starts off in Japan and goes all the way to the west through China/India/etc. all the way into the Gulf. Of course that’s just dreaming.

Shawn October 31, 2013 at 1:12 pm

If teams do not get a serious share of revenue and remain dependent upon title sponsors, then this calendar seems short sighted. Why sponsor a team that only races in limited geographical regions? You are limiting sponsors who are interested in markets outside of Western Europe and the Middle East.

The Inner Ring October 31, 2013 at 1:19 pm

Sponsors want different reaches. No sport will ever be perfectly global with fans in every country just as there are few global brands so the overlap and sponsorship opportunities are not huge.

The Tour de France looks set to continue its domination and all the other pieces of the jigsaw slot in around it.

cd October 31, 2013 at 1:46 pm

IR, any idea if this report was produced or aided by an outside the UCI consultancy? It’s got that feel. Is there a line item in the UCI budget that you’ve come across for consultants?

The Inner Ring October 31, 2013 at 1:48 pm

Yes, it’s all being done in conjunction with Deloitte.

Felix Mattis October 31, 2013 at 2:45 pm

I just had a deeper look into the .pdf and I’m wondering, why everybody thinks, the calendar for the big teams shrinks to 120 races or must-races. They also have to start in some Div.-2-races, as far as I understand what’s written in the .pdf, don’t they?

Have a look on page 28 for this. It sais 37/38 Div.2-races for the Div.1-teams. That means we are landing at 157/158 must-races a year, which is more than the 154 we had in 2013…

The reason is the table on page 27, which sais races of the 2nd Div. will have a minimum of 12 Div.1-teams…

thetobyjug October 31, 2013 at 4:23 pm

People shouldn’t panic just yet about their favourite races being omitted from the list above. As others have noted, there are still 11 days yet to be written in for “new” races – this may well include some top-flight races (one-day or small stage-races) in either or both of the UK and the USA – admittedly this does assume that existing races could be included within this definition of “new”.

With a business head on, the reorganisation looks like a relatively good idea in terms of trying to appeal to a (potentially new/growing) TV audience, and therefore to try to ensure the survival of the professional sport in a tough economic environment – less clashing races reduces confusion in a wider (less knowledgeable) audience, and a better points system could be implemented alongside this in order to provide a league table, showing teams’ performance relative to each other as the season progresses (and giving clearer ideas of any potential promotions/relegations than we currently have).

Also, this calendar seems to offer up a better opportunity for a season-long league for individual riders in one-day races; a chance for fans to get behind individuals and follow their progress throughout a full year, similar to an F1-type competition.

All that said, the problem with the above statement is the fact that it starts with the phrase “With a business head on”. Cycling fans who have followed the sport for years don’t want to lose their favourite races, the ones that have accumulated a rich history over 100 or so years. It’s not only the races with a long history that would be missed, either – I for one love Strade Bianche, which hasn’t been allocated one of the 109 first division days in the document above.

I would like to think that some of the above representatives would vouch for the fans’ views by proxy, but the make-up of the working group of cycling stakeholders seems questionable from the start – as inrng has called out, Richard Chassot has done very well to get himself on this panel, and this has no doubt led to the greater possibility of the retention of two top-division stage races in Switzerland.

If the proposal above does come to fruition (and I think it is likelier than not that it will in some form or another), there will inevitably be some races that miss out, and I would assume there will be races that come in and out of the calendar, similar in the way that F1 venues come on and off the calendar. Either way, it’s going to be interesting to hear the official UCI communication when it does arrive.

Tom Parr October 31, 2013 at 4:23 pm

Yesss! Two Tour de Romandies in 2017 (28-30th April and 1st 3rd May) – can’t wait!!! This almost makes up for halving the number of stages.

Local October 31, 2013 at 6:34 pm

I think the problem is tackled at the wrong end. Obviously, the UCI aims to improve its product, otherwise cycling loses the interest of the crowds compared to other sports. The UCI tries this by modifying the race calendar, which will not affect the “product” (the race) in any way. Today, all racing becomes so predictable, its either the typical “group let go, end in a bunch sprint” flat stage or a mountain top finish (which is rarely exciting and not much else than a power to weight ratio contest). Let alone some classics or unpredicted external factors such as crashes, punctures or bad weather, not much else impacts the ranking. This is not going to change, even with the modification in the race calendar. Other sports have dealt with such issues much more radically and wisely by simply changing or adapting the rules (see for example Basketball who have repeatedly changed the 3 point line over time etc.).
Therefore, the best option to make bike racing more attractive would be to reduce team size down to 5 or 6 riders per team and race and invite more teams, which will make the racing more open and better to watch. But I guess that means that team managers will lose control, so this proposal is unlikely to be well received.
At the moment, I adapt my viewing schedule for bike races to the type of terrain they are racing in. Flat stages: last 10 minutes, mountain stages: last climb. I rarely miss the decisive action.

frogface October 31, 2013 at 10:54 pm

Bball came to my mind, too, right away, as a good example. Like I wrote before somewhere: this is really only a business move, coming from consultants (fairly standard advice btw). That’ s all. I do hope we will see more changes and adjustments in the future with more substance and aimed at the sport, not the product.

Rob October 31, 2013 at 11:51 pm

If that is all you watch, I assure you, you have missed a lot.

maximflyer October 31, 2013 at 10:37 pm

I agree with Local that reducing team sizes would allow a less predictable racing, UCI is also looking into it at Tour of Poland and Eneco this year.
On the other hand I don’t mind the clashing events. For me it is a bonus that I can watch / follow two events on the same day. If the newcomers find it confusing then they should take the time to familiarize with the history of cycling and the particular event. I am also a newcomer I am only following cycling for the last 5-6 years.
On the growing team budgets: I would reduce World Tour teams somewhere around 12. These could be the large budget teams with global exposure participating every WT event. The organisers could issue 10 wild cards for each event so smaller teams could chose btw the events more freely. As we can see with the Italian ProConti teams they only interested in the Giro, the same could apply to other teams with different geographic / audience preferences.

Shawn C. October 31, 2013 at 10:52 pm

Does everyone see this as less teams? I see this as less WT teams, yes, but it looks like they are trying to grow the middle class. Give more chance for pro-conti and conti teams to ride. More exposure for the mid sized teams by having less mega teams. More teams with reasonable budgets for sponsors to enter the sport into perhaps? That’s just my take though.

Anonymous November 1, 2013 at 1:10 am

Men in suits with grand plans and big ideas, yes its sure to balls up the sport of Pro Cycling that I have loved. If it goes the way of premiership football, then count me out. I will go watch the fish n chippers and be just as happy.

Tom Simpson November 1, 2013 at 2:01 am

We’ve had 20 years of the Hein vision of the business of Pro Cycling and since we’ve gone to the ultimate extreme of over managing cycling – and potentially managing cycling right into the ground via this proposed new scheme – how about instead we try a total reversal of the pendulum and let the business of Pro Cycling manage itself for the next 20 years? Ditch creating a calendar, ditch world,regional or any tours, ditch minimum/maximum team size – let the horrible, raunchy, unmanaged racing market stumble around and entertain us. Let race organizers give their best shots towards luring racers to their events and let the success or failure of cycling rest on THEIR work, not Aigle. We’ve seen their best work and it leaves much to be desired.

Who owns the business of Pro Cycling? If it’s Aigle they should have had their heads handed to them years ago for dereliction of duty.

Bundle November 1, 2013 at 9:34 pm

Couldn’t agree more. Magnificently put.

Anonymous November 2, 2013 at 11:58 am

Lets hope Brian thinks pretty much the same way and that these barmpot ideas were the work of him that recently departed.

The Inner Ring November 1, 2013 at 9:52 pm

I like the idea and agree that the UCI is trying the obvious consultancy route of harmonization, standardization etc. But isn’t the sport already very atomistic already?

I have a column from time to time in 2r Magazine (http://2rmag.com/open/inrng) and in the my last piece said the sport is so divided that Brian Cookson will find, if he doesn’t know already, that the UCI President is far from the most powerful figure in pro cycling.

I think the UCI has some role to play, creating minimum standards and a predictable environment is good for the sport and its sponsors. But going into control of the calendar, picking which races survive and other powerful roles sit uneasily alongside the UCI’s traditional role as a mere rule-setter.

Habib November 1, 2013 at 2:00 pm

Personally, of all the week-long stage races I saw this year, my favourite was the tour of the Basque country. Also enjoyed some of Catalonia. I know money may be the primary issue with these races’ loss or downgrades, but I don’t think they deserve it; they’re just lacking a strong interlocutor. Conversely, tour of Romandie was pretty dull.

Considering that there are loads of serious issues affecting cycling, it seems pretty bizarre to be trying to fix one of the few aspects that isn’t really broken; i.e. the races themselves!

Keir November 7, 2013 at 9:20 am

“The interests of a few team owners should not take precedence over the interests of the sport as a whole.” http://keirplaice.com/post/66169067771/with-the-release-of-yet-another-strategic-vision

Robert Johnson March 15, 2014 at 4:52 pm

1. Moving the Tour of California back to February would fill the gap in February and feature the US in the World Tour.

2. The one day Japan Cup could be added to the end of the season, which is where it is already. It would involve Japan and be conveniently near to Beijing, which is the race it follows.

3. There is a room and justification a for a one day race in London in August the week before the Vuelta.

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