UCI WorldTour Reforms

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

The UCI has announced bold and sweeping reforms to the men’s pro cycling system only they’re inside a PDF newsletter lurking on a quite corner of the UCI website. These build on plans announced last autumn, involve radical change and they are coming faster than expected. Let’s take a look.

There are three elements to this: the calendar, the teams and the timing.

The Calendar

There will be a first division split into two. Category A of the First Division (1A) will consist of 120 days of racing including the biggest events on the calendar: Grand Tours, major stage races, classics and what the UCI calls lucrative moneyspinners “promising emerging events”. Category B of the First Division (1B) will be made up of 50 days of racing and the component races are not known. the terms like First Division and 1A/1B are labels and will be rebranded with more friendly terms when the calendar is launched.

The UCI says the second and third division is unchanged and relates to current races on the UCI calendar with the HC or .1 suffix. This could be the Criterium International, the Nokere Koerse or the 3 Days of De Panne to list examples of upcoming events currently with this status. But I’m less sure as currently the system is reasonably fluid, the “second division” is mixed bag with some historic races of big prestige alongside newer or temporary races.

The calendar will be organised to ensure a big race every weekend of the season with no over-lapping events, goodbye the clash between Paris-Nice and Tirreno-Adriatico but also the three week Vuelta and the Vattenfall Classics, the GP Plouay and the GP Montréal plus Québec. The UCI also reports there will be no “competition between 1A and 1B events” which implies no overlap but doesn’t say it. The UCI adds “the spring classics will be held over an uninterrupted six-week period” which is what we have now except we also have a series of other overlapping World Tour races like the Volta a Catalunya or will we see a situation like the Tour of the Basque Country which currently runs from the Monday after the Tour of Flanders to the Saturday before Paris-Roubaix, no overlap… but it doesn’t matter as climbers go south, classics riders go north. Cycling embraces a reasonable diversity in bodytype and we’re unlikely to see Nairo Quintana smashing the cobbles and Tom Boonen forced to ride the Mur de Huy.

There’s also a mention of “high quality” television production. Note the word production, this presumably means an agreement about technical standards. But it’s not a solution to the jumble of broadcast rights agreements that leave fans to subscribe to a range of channels to watch different races and where many events simply are not available in their home country via legitimate means. In short the broadcast video will be good but you might not notice it under those pirate pop-ups.

It’s manna for ASO who end up with more a larger percentage of the prime calendar. They’ve bought the Vuelta (in the news this week, on here last November) and will control many of the big races. As the graphic above shows the prime calendar is being reduced to 120 days. Currently the World Tour has about 150 days and this reduction will be achieved by shrinking existing races, eg a week long stage race is reduced to five days but also ditching a few events. With fewer race days teams won’t need such a large roster which brings us to the teams…

The Teams
The big change here is the top tier goes from the present situation of 18 teams with a permitted roster of up to 30 riders down to 16 teams capped at 22 riders. A second tier of eight teams, 1B above will also have a max of 22 riders but these second teams cannot ride all of the top races, they are guaranteed 50 days of the prime races.

With a smaller squad there will be a consequent effect on mechanics and masseurs will follow. If some jobs go others will be created as all of these 24 top teams will be required to have a development team; a similar requirement exists today. Note development means U-23, no mention of women’s cycling.

All 24 teams can dip their toes in the lower level of racing. The existing UCI Pro Conti and Conti teams or at least their essence will remain but it’s hard not to see them as demoted down a rung. In a way it’s what we see right now with the Pro Conti circuit split between major teams like IAM, Cofidis, NetApp etc who hog the wildcards and more modest outfits like CCC Polsat, Topsport Vlaanderen and Rusvelo as examples.

Again the labels used will change. They will have to as you cannot have a first division where a team is relegated from first division to the first division.

New criterion: All the usual current standards to join the top-tier remain, the so called admin, financial, ethical and sporting criteria. Only a team’s sporting value will be measured on the basis of its five best riders. This places an emphasis on a squad with a few star riders rather than a deep roster of domestiques each with a handful of ranking points. This continues and concentrates the trend to measure a team’s sporting value on the basis of fewer and fewer riders every year. It means a team of 22 can have 17 riders without a UCI point between them as long as the remaining five have beaucoup points. In recent years riders with a few points have seen their salaries shoot up as teams scramble for points, now we will see only those with a sackful of points rewarded.

Note reducing a team’s roster down from 30 to 22 might not result in any big budget savings. Save eight riders at UCI minimum wage means about a third of a million euros but we could well find star riders rent-seeking their way to bigger salaries as bidding wars see teams scrambling for points.

In addition there’s a fifth criterion: “organisation”. This relates to the working conditions and in particular the training of riders. The UCI is nudging teams to ensure riders are coached in house rather than going to outside coaches. Entourage is a big deal in anti-doping and it’s long baffled me why many teams hiring riders on huge contracts let them train by themselves or resort to a preparatore. How the UCI assess this is another matter.

It’s hard to be conclusive on the first division concept. The top-16 teams look comfortable and able to pick their events but the next teams in the 1B bracket may be confused. As we see above UCI Pro Conti teams can still do the biggest races if invited so I’m unsure about why a team would want to be in the 1B bracket given they’re capped at 50 days of prime racing and presumably don’t hold the golden ticket of an automatic right to start the Tour de France. But the system seems to be more about rankings and points rather than races.

The Timing
It starts now and will fall into place for 2017. For 2015 the 16 top-ranked teams will qualify for the World Tour. The two remaining places will be awarded to the two teams (UCI ProTeams, UCI Professional Continental Teams or new teams) with the highest accumulated points total from their best five riders on the UCI WorldTour in individual ranking. The same system will be used in 2016. In simplistic terms this means the best 16 teams plus Alonso’s team and the best of the rest will get a ticket to ride.

In 2017 the 16 best teams on the 2016 UCI WorldTour ranking will make up Division 1A. The teams ranked 17th and 18th will join Division 1B alongside the other teams registered in this category. For 2018, a promotion/relegation system will be introduced. Each year the top team in Division 1B will be promoted to Division 1A, while the bottom team in Division 1A will be relegated to Division 1B.

Conclusion
This is massive and if was emailed out to some subscribers for everyone else – you – it’s tucked away in a PDF on an unloved page at UCI.ch, hiding in broad daylight if you like. But it’s not the first time, much of this builds on the 2020 proposals also announced in the back of a PDF bulletin last October.

But nevermind the means. We go from proposal to execution and the pace speeds up, this is not for 2020 but everything will be in place by 2018 and the changes start now. For example teams planning to stay in the World Tour for 2015 need to ensure they have five riders under contract for 2015 with big points to stay safe.

The clearer promotion and relegation system looks good but the 1A/1B system of teams confuses me. With few automatic rights – in fact being capped to 50 days of big racing – a team might prefer to drop down to second division and hope for wildcards. Some certainties:

  • The plans are going ahead and there’s a timetable to complete the job by 2018
  • Teams will be smaller with the 22 rider limit, down from 30
  • Only the top 16 are sure of riding the Tour de France
  • The World Tour calendar will be shrunk from 150 to 120 days
  • ASO get stronger as they will control a larger percentage of the prime calendar
  • Teams will be ranked on the basis of their five best riders to qualify for the 2015 World Tour

All this looks set to bring more clarity but that doesn’t mean everything gets obvious. I’m still confused by a system where teams get relegated but can still ride in the top league, just not all the time. If this blog post has used up 1,500 words in a brief attempt to explore what’s coming, pitching the concept to fans, TV executives and sponsors is a big ask. Beyond this there are plenty of questions, uncertainties and unintended consequences.

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{ 82 comments }

Sam March 25, 2014 at 11:52 am

I have to salute you, INRNG. Your ability to analyse clearly AND post speedily, is seriously impressive. Thank you.

Matt March 25, 2014 at 12:36 pm

I agree Sam – fantastic anlysis

Leo March 25, 2014 at 11:58 am

Call me a traditionalist, but the proposed calendar changes abhor me.

The Inner Ring March 25, 2014 at 12:09 pm

We’ll see but they’re not really that big, it’s a way to shrink the teams a little and then formally identify the split in the Pro Conti ranks between the regular wildcard guys and the no-chance teams.

But there are big risks, especially with the shrinking calendar and if things get too homogeneous, booting out classic races for new ones for a quick buck rather than building a calendar. Eg let’s do the Tour of Beijing but we don’t need a second stage race like Hangzhou, instead we need a World Tour stage race in Germany, the US or Britain with prime TV coverage.

Anonymous March 25, 2014 at 6:52 pm

This seems a new mess in the making. I recognize that the UCI doesn’t have the clout to dictate exactly which teams ride which races, so they give the top three team tiers a some sort of access to the big events. Fair enough. But this scheme suggests that a 1B team could win grand tours, but only get ranking points from results over 50 days of lower status races. It isn’t hard to imagine this winning team lower ranked than another 1B team that cleaned up in the Tour of Austria, etc. The worse team would get the auto-upgrade to 1A. Similar dynamic for pro-conti teams. I’m all for the chess match of racing (should I work with Sagan in the break or sit in?, etc.), but team structure, calendars, etc. aren’t the place for such nuance. I do not seem much appeal in fantasy cycling manager leagues…

hiddenwheel March 25, 2014 at 6:54 pm

That’s me anonymously above. Now I’m here with my handle. Big difference, no? ;-)

Cillian Kelly March 25, 2014 at 12:02 pm

I’ve read as far as….

“There will be a first division split into two.”

It’s already more complicated than it should be.

The Inner Ring March 25, 2014 at 12:10 pm

Exactly, even if the labels are temporary it’s confusing. No matter what labels people on it I think fans could be scratching their head over the new system.

Lock up your Vaughters March 25, 2014 at 10:59 pm

We need a Gifted Group to simplify things.

tourdeutah March 26, 2014 at 5:30 pm

Problem is they are using a “grifted group” to figure this out.

So far I hate it. The system totally screws the non “Euro” races and makes ASO the big dog in the ring.

lancasterke March 25, 2014 at 12:04 pm

how long does the tours agreement to invite the top teams from the UCI run? does the giro have a similar agreement? will these have to be renewed? and are ASO and RCS thought to be in agreement with these changes?

as i see it, no changes the UCI can do will be implemented if ASO and RCS agree amoungst themselves to do something else

The Inner Ring March 25, 2014 at 12:17 pm

I think the agreement’s been renewed if not perpetuated as the condition for ASO along with RCS and Flanders Classics to sit down with the UCI.

cyclingu19 March 25, 2014 at 12:10 pm

With “promising emerging events” and “high quality” television production maybe finally we are going to have live picture from Oman at least.

Sam March 25, 2014 at 12:13 pm

Anyone watch the coverage of Catalunya yesterday? Outstanding….

Paul Fritz March 25, 2014 at 10:32 pm

Except for the finishing straight camera that didn’t show the riders actually crossing the finish line. :/ Otherwise, though, it seemed like they had more cameras at the front during the race.

Jerome March 25, 2014 at 12:19 pm

Teams will still need to field at least two complete squads and support staff, to use your RRV-basque- PR example you aren’t going to be able to fly mechanics and masseurs from Flanders to Spain and back again on consecutive weekends. How often do WT squads field teams in three places around the globe? I assume two would be common place already so I don’t see much changing

Tricky Hawes March 25, 2014 at 12:19 pm

Wow, well found and thanks for sharing.

Huge amount to absorb there. As a starter, just wondered – are most of the World Tour currently close to 30 riders? If so, cutting to 22 seems like a pretty big deal.

Second, can see advantages to only using points from top 5 riders. Might actually increase the value of good domestiques, rather than reduce them – in that most riders will not be there to generate and deliver points for themselves, but to help team leaders get them. So a higher value placed on those who can actually do that – in which case a good step, I think.

Sam March 25, 2014 at 2:47 pm

the average number is closer to 28 than 30

Martin McEvoy April 7, 2014 at 1:29 pm

By my limited calculation, if 18 World tour teams current average 28 riders, to get down to 16 and 22 means losing 152 riders (16 x 6 + 2 x 28). the 1b teams, if they took up 22 riders would then be 8 x 22 = 176 riders – in effect 24 more riders in 1a+1b.

Currently, Le Tour has 22 teams of 9 riders, of which last year 3 were pro conti invites – 198 riders. If the teams were reduced to 8 – 25 x8 = 200 riders – all 1a and 1b could ride the tour, but that would leave leeway for only one proconti teams. And although the rider numbers are similar, I’m not sure what the logistical knock on of three extra teams would be.

noel March 25, 2014 at 12:36 pm

having just 5 ‘scoring’ riders strikes me as a bit narrow. A couple of injuries/crashes to your top (most expensive) couple of riders could have serious consequences… I do like the way a valuable domestique wouldn’t now have to be concerned about trying to pick-up points here and there, but 8 or 10 scorers would have made a better balance I think.
Also it makes it quite an interesting balance for teams between the way points are allocated for stage wins/placings vs overall classification/races etc…. teams may become even more strategic about targetting certain races/stages and doing the minimum in others if the balance is wrong.

The Inner Ring March 25, 2014 at 12:44 pm

It’s not in the small PDF but currently a rider’s sporting value is the sum of their points for the last two years, so a bad injury in one year need not ruin their/the team’s sporting value. But your point’s still very valid as risk concentrates in a few riders.

I suppose with the new system a dropped team could hope to rise back up… then again a rider on a relegated team invokes a break clause and moves.

serken March 25, 2014 at 12:43 pm

Won’t teams get any points from races outside their division? Why can’t they just adapt a pointsystem like cqranking? The rankings are so pointless when they are only rewarded points for a few of the races they participate in. For example OPQRS were close to the bottom of the WT-rankings even after winning everything in the beginning of the season.

Larrick March 25, 2014 at 12:53 pm

When I talk to other road cycling fans or for that matter, engage online, it strikes me that most do not care about WT rankings and are not fixated about ‘supporting’ one team. Most have favourite riders but it is the race itself and the outcome that is the enjoyment, not an aggregate of points scored over a season. I can’t see how lessening the amount of racing and choice (eg no stage race and a classic on the same day) will bring more money, fans, excitement or improvement to pro road cycling.

As for promotion and relegation, the less number of teams that can be promoted/relegated, the bigger the gap that will be established between the divisions. This has been proved time and again in ball sports all over the world.

I’m not against change or progress but the UCI has yet to explain the benefits as far as I can see and your excellent piece doesn’t have the sound of a ringing endorsement.

channel_zero March 26, 2014 at 7:12 pm

This is my experience too. Casual fans sort of get the idea that it’s a team sport, but tune into the race for that race.

The nicest thing you can say about it is UCI has some strange ideas about marketing their sport. Which suggests there are other forces at play.

Ronan March 25, 2014 at 1:15 pm

Surely you can read that the 1B teams get a minimum of 50 WT days racing, not a maximum, as they can get wildcard invites on top of this.

If, for example, Cannondale were a 1B team, they would use up 35-40 WT days on Italian races alone (Giro, TA, Strade, Roma, MSR, Lombardy etc) , would this then exclude them from riding a second grand tour, even if they got a wildcard invite?

The Inner Ring March 25, 2014 at 1:19 pm

Good point, a minimum guarantee which gives them advantages over the Pro Conti level teams.

Peds March 25, 2014 at 4:19 pm

Another point is that if you cap it at 50 days then there won’t be enough days between these 8 teams to fill the GT wildcard slots and you’ll find even more of them than now going to the weaker local squads. The nice bit here is the guarantee that presumably all of the 1B teams will get at least one grand tour which is far from guranteed at the moment unless its a French/Italian/Spanish team.

MK March 25, 2014 at 11:19 pm

It is unclear if it is min 50 or Max 50. If its min50, then a 1B team would be a good result.

Nick March 26, 2014 at 1:47 pm

Seems pretty clear to me. Look at p. 3: “the 8 teams from Division 1B will be
required to participate in the 50 days of racing on the 1B circuit … Furthermore, 1B
teams will have the opportunity to participate in events on the 1A circuit and HC and Class 1 events on the UCI Continental Circuits under certain conditions”

So it’s a *minimum* of 50 days for the 1B teams, and their team ranking – and therefore chances of promotion to 1A – will depend on performance in the 1B events.

Vanilla_Thrilla March 26, 2014 at 4:46 am

One thought, would Division 1B appeal to a team that wishes to target only certain ‘types’ of races?

For example, say a Belgian team wished to focus only on one day races rather than have to also enter mountainous stage races in Spain. Could this allow them to only enter top events in their target market rather than have to enter ‘useless’ events like say, the Tour of Beijing? Could this enable specialised teams, ie just sprinters and their trains, or just climbers and their domestiques?

As for simplifying the calendar and removing overlap, I’m all for it. Good move.

joe March 25, 2014 at 1:59 pm

Until I see something on those charts indicating that EuroSport has been forced to broadcast in the US, it ain’t a reform. ;-)

In all seriousness, great analysis. Thanks for clarifying the muckety-muck that the UCI published.

Uli March 25, 2014 at 2:01 pm

So which races get hurt by this? Thanks.

channel_zero March 26, 2014 at 7:14 pm

Anything NOT owned by ASO, RCS and the Belgian Spring Classics cooperative. That’s been the case for years now, so this is a formality.

Bundle March 25, 2014 at 2:11 pm

Limitations, regulations, dwarfing… The only thing we need is maximum competition between organisers, and freedom for them to offer the best races they can think of. I’ve read that PDF… Where exactly is it assumed that the Vuelta gets diminished?

Larry T. March 25, 2014 at 2:31 pm

As a mechanic by trade, I’m inclined to ask “what’s broken?” Most of the current mess goes back to Heinie’s stupid adventure – the Pro Tour or whatever it’s called this week. Teams are too big, which means they cost too much. ASO has too much power. Events with passion and history are losing out to made-for-TV (though with little actual TV) events in places where nobody cares much for the sport. The sport doesn’t do much against doping. The latter seems to be changing finally, but this new scheme doesn’t make much sense to me. Why do we need these divisions? What exactly is the point of all this? Is there any coherent statement regarding what they’re trying to do here? With leadership like this, it’s no surprise that teams and other stakeholders keep threatening to break away and form their own “league” or whatever you want to call it.

Sam March 25, 2014 at 2:50 pm

The teams, race organisers and riders (via the CPA, for what its worth) have all had input. One of the pieces of definite feedback to the UCI for sure, is a cap on the number of race days.

Bundle March 26, 2014 at 4:23 am

Exactly. It ain’t broken! And fans should demand more race days, not less.

channel_zero March 26, 2014 at 7:17 pm

But, the UCI seems obsessed with this notion of concentrating demand for cycling events by protecting one elite event per Sunday.

I don’t know another sport that has chosen this idea and it should be obvious why it is wrong.

Nick March 27, 2014 at 5:12 pm

Loads of sports have non-overlapping events: F1 races take place one at a time, tennis Grand Slams don’t overlap, nor do golf majors. Champions League games don’t take place on the same day as World Cup games, and so on.

vimes March 25, 2014 at 3:05 pm

So will they shrink Tirreno-Adriatico to five days and transfer it to June or nonsense like that? Nothing good will come out of this. Well, it’s the UCI, what can you expect.

Matt M March 25, 2014 at 3:46 pm

Any word on team size during races? Any hope of 8-men teams without race radio for WT? What about the number of vehicles required to cover the races? Do we need 50 motorcycles and 50 cars?

The Inner Ring March 25, 2014 at 4:39 pm

I think we’ll see race radios as the teams want them. But yes, smaller teams are a possibility, we’ve seen them tried already in races like the Tour de Pologne and the Giro di Trentino.

Harmenvdm March 25, 2014 at 4:27 pm

I’m with Larry T. on this: what ‘problems’ are supposed to be fixed by this, and who do they concern?

- the number of race days: so the teams (what teams, WT, PCT, CT, do they all agree?) would like less race days? Or would they like less mandatory race days, which means World Tour? I don’t see how a Belgian ProContinental Team would care about the Tour of Bejing or the Tour Down Under? Is this something mainly WT-teams are complaining about, and so, does it concern the WT mainly? Because if so, I don’t see why I (as a fan who would rather have more than less course days) should have to suffer, and with me, a lot of organizers of smaller races, and their fans.
Especially not if at the same moment the internationalization of cycling continues, which would mean old, traditional races will have to make way for new races in Asia, Africa and the Middle East. I think cycling is and should be a traditional sport, and beautiful races with a history (like a Tirreno, Volta de Catalunya, Lombardia) shouldn’t be cast away because some people at the UCI think cycling should be more like American sports.

- the number of cyclists: what good does limiting this number do? A lot of riders, mechanics, masseurs, doctors and other staff will lose their job, for what? If they would go for smaller teams in races, teams would maybe be able to ride even more races, and those races would be harder for big teams to control, which would amount to more excitement for the fans. It’s just a (not that original, I know) thought, but I just don’t see the problem that’s fixed here, to refer to Larry T. Anybody?

- promotion/relegation: again, why? As mentioned by others, the risk of relegation only makes sponsoring less attractive, and the supposed added excitement is, at least for me, negligible. Does anyone genuinely care if a team is WT or PCT? It matters because the system makes it matter in criteria for race selections, but for me as a fan, it is of no concern whatsoever. I like to see the best riders in the biggest races, but that is already happening, and if it’s not, like with Quintana and Paris-Roubaix, it’s for a reason.
That races have some freedom in selecting teams from their own country, or teams they like is a good thing, I think, which makes for diversity. Am I wrong to think this freedom would be limited in the new system?

- the power of ASO: with their acquisition of the Vuelta, aren’t they becoming too powerful? I’m wondering what the European Commission would have to say about such a monopoly (or at least oligopoly) .

- in addition to this last point, I have one more question, which is: money? I’m sure the biggest reasons for this idea must be (and have been said to be, if I remember correctly) financial. Who will benefit from this, who will be hurt by this, and how is this system supposed to lead to more income for teams?

What assumptions is this system based on? I read talk about a sort of Cycling World Series, with a sprint, a time trial, a climbers, and a classics stage, which should be better for the tv-viewer that thinks cycling is too complicated and boring at the moment. This last part is my interpretation, of course, but you get my drift. Who says old fans won’t be driven away, while new fans fail to emerge? I really don’t like the look of this top-down, less is more except when the bank account of ASO is concerned plan of the future of cycling. Is there anything we can do to change it?

I would really like some input, since I really don’t know what to make of all this.

tourdeutah March 26, 2014 at 5:41 pm

you are obviously a euro and this new system enhances your local market and events. Here in america it will probably be the death knell for Cali, USPro and Utah as 1a and 1b teams have no incentive or reason to race in america, asia, or africa.

This is a well financed power play by ASO, RCS, and UCI to circle the wagons and keep out new race organizers, new entrepreneurs, and potential new team owners.

channel_zero March 26, 2014 at 7:19 pm

Agree with tourdeutah.

Continental racing has been impoverished for decades now and it’s not getting any better under the new system.

Qwerty March 25, 2014 at 4:41 pm

That main diagram says it all, all those arrows going in different directions. 16 teams here, 50 days there, nobody will be able to understand this.

The Inner Ring March 25, 2014 at 4:56 pm

Agreed, it’s got more arrows than a medieval battle. The existing system is complicated so any evolution is going to keep a lot of complexity, short of a fixed franchise and a calendar run by ASO it seems hard to avoid this. But it still makes for a system that’s hard to explain “to the man (or woman) in the street”

Toe Strap March 25, 2014 at 5:24 pm

I understood the 120 days and 50 days to be related to the scoring (ranking) system – ie you get your points from your best 120 days worth of racing. So your team can race (say) 200 days, and pick the best 120 days for its score. It presumably also means you don’t need to turn up for all events?
So the 120/50 days are maximum days that count towards the team’s score, rather than maximum number of days they get to race.

Nick March 26, 2014 at 1:57 pm

Don’t think that’s right. A Div 1A team could race 200 days, but their ranking would come from their results in the 120 days of the Div 1A races. Similarly a Div 1B team could race 200 days, but their ranking would come from the 50 days of Div 1B results.

Toe Strap March 26, 2014 at 4:16 pm

Thanks – its a subtle difference that I missed.
Either way, the new rules won’t limit racing days, as some people are saying.

Chris March 25, 2014 at 6:56 pm

Conceptually looks good… but haven’t we heard all this before, numerous times?
I bet it totally sucks when they try to implement it.

KB March 25, 2014 at 7:41 pm

I can see positives in fewer race days and smaller teams. There’s the potential for less specialization of riders, especially if stage races are shortened by having fewer prologues. I personally find racing exciting when the outcome is less predictable, and I enjoy riders who have capabilities in a variety of situations. A course purposely designed for a rider/team or a team overpowering a race is dull. Smaller teams racing fewer days, and no picking and choosing between competing events, could mean more riders can and will feature in a wider variety of races out of necessity, an advantage to all-arounders vs specialists. And fewer racing days, i.e. a more manageable workload, could also discourage incentive to dope.

I don’t know what to make of the league structure really but hopefully the proposed calendar reform will contribute to promoting clean, unpredictable, exciting racing. That’s what the sport needs in my view.

Martin McEvoy April 7, 2014 at 1:35 pm

If there are ‘shorter’ stage races in particular, will that not simply encourage the return and expansion of 1a, 1b split stage formats? IF you’ve only got 5-6 days to play with, would you not be more likely to stick your time trail on the same day as a long flat stage, CriteriumI style?

The Inner Ring April 7, 2014 at 2:05 pm

Sounds possible… but the organisers shorten the stages precisely so that the riders are fresher and more likely to attack a lot. Tiring people out with a time trial or making riders conserve energy for the next stage will prevent this. The attacks bring in the big TV ratings.

Patrick March 25, 2014 at 9:00 pm

so there will be no other significant races on during a grand tour? i can see the logic of this, but if you have 22 riders on a team, 9 of who are racing the GT, then what do the other 13 do for 3 weeks? Particularly during the vuelta when they want to be building form for the world champs (via the north american races at current).

overall i see good and bad, its hard to draw any clear conclusions until we have more detail of what it all really means in practice. i think the uci need to come up with this quickly to stop people coming up with negative opinions based on speculation which will then dirty their perception of whatever actually happens.

Nick March 26, 2014 at 1:56 pm

You could still run .HC and .1 races during Grand Tours. So nothing to stop the Tour of Colorado, Tour of ALberta, Tour of Britain, Paris-Brussels, etc, running during the Vuelta.

AK March 25, 2014 at 10:52 pm

The split first division sounds like the kind of uncomfortable compromise you get when too many parties have to come to an agreement and they all refuse to back off.
I like the less total race days, no overlapping events thing. It will lead to more races with all the big guns in them, which makes for better racing.
I would be in favor of not having the sporting value be dependent on the individual riders. Just give all the points to the team and let the teams figure out who can help them win races and is worth investing in. There will be a one year delay when big riders move teams but I don’t see a problem with that, the same happens with football/soccer. You would have to come up with a sensible rule for when completely new teams pop up out of nowhere but that shouldn’t be too hard.

Bundle March 26, 2014 at 4:20 am

Having the same field of big guns in every race would be very boring. And why does anybody want less race days?? If they ask me, I want races every day, and several of them if possible! If they ask me why, I’d say it’s because I like cycling races.

Shawn March 25, 2014 at 11:05 pm

So long as ASO & RCS can pick wildcards from both 1B and ProConti divisions, then I agree there may be little motivation for teams to get into 1B. If they had to pick all or the majority of wildcards from 1B, then that would be a different story. Somehow I doubt the grand tour organizers will allow themselves to be so constrained.

MK March 25, 2014 at 11:14 pm

Careful on the Tom Boonen comments. As an U23 he ran 2nd on the Mur de Huy!
Before people jump all over me, yes i know U23 and the World Tour are completly different!

ExpatDadSG March 26, 2014 at 4:01 am

So when does the calendar change? I understand that the team qualification changes from next year

thesteve4761 March 26, 2014 at 4:09 am

I, for one, will miss the overlapping races! Watching top riders win or lose elsewhere, and then finally compete at the top events is one of the spectacular parts of cycling. If Contador and Froome are climbing against each other every 1-2 weeks, as opposed to only a handful of times a year, a ton of the suspense is lost. Boiled down to simplicity, it would be like if two ball sport teams only ever played each other. BORING.

I hope this project fails. The chaos of cycling is part of it’s allure.

The Inner Ring March 26, 2014 at 8:07 am

Overlapping races are a problem… but ending the overlap won’t solve everything. As you say two GC riders could race together repeatedly but they might not clash every time preferring different objectives. Plus their teams could enter the races without them, eg Contador and Froome stay at home often for training.

weeclarky March 26, 2014 at 7:38 am

So if a lowly domestique helps Froome take time on a stage of the Tour, Froome will have to take the win since only the top 5 riders points count for the team? Seems a bit mean.

The Inner Ring March 26, 2014 at 8:05 am

Not necessarily, the domestique could take the win knowing their leader will collect all the points from the GC win which offers a lot more points.

ExpatDadSG March 26, 2014 at 8:23 am

The problem is that all the points go to the rider, would prefer X% going to the rider, Y% to the team and Z% to the team mates that raced that day/race

The Inner Ring March 26, 2014 at 8:28 am

We don’t know the points scheme yet but the UCI had a plan for 2014 where 80% of points earned go to the rider but a residual 20% stays with the team:
http://inrng.com/2013/02/uci-points-system-to-change/

tourdeutah March 26, 2014 at 5:48 pm

I hate the ppoints scheme. Only riders from less competitive teams will get into the break because no DS will want to see his 20th rider steal a win and points from a star. SAme in the finale, no wild attacks and teams will sit up to allow their top stars to cross the ahead of them. What of the lowly domestique who is having a good race, but has to stop his or his teams chances of a pdium to allow a star to finish higher for the points ?

This alone will allow cycling to becoming more predictable and thusly more boring.

izoard March 26, 2014 at 7:50 am

a pointless reform. a big issue would be to get some young fans and young people on the bikes !!

Kguld March 26, 2014 at 7:54 am

Regarding the rankings – it seems like we will get an overall rider and nations ranking covering all ‘divisions’ while team rankings will be division-only (naturally) so no more WT only rider ranking, those wins in continental races will also count (a lot less, but still count) – if I interpret this section correctly:

A «universal» individual ranking will be drawn up on this basis. The nation ranking, also covering all circuits, will be compiled from the individual ranking. These two rankings will faithfully reflect the hierarchy of global cycling and will improve interest in the media and among the general public.

The Inner Ring March 26, 2014 at 8:16 am

Yes, I read it the same. Seems the UCI is keen to have a ranking that lets people identify “the world’s best cyclist”. But this likely to be an arithmetic contest, a statistical status created by the allocation of points between stage racing and one day races, overall classification and stage wins. The nice thing about cycling now is that nobody’s after The Best because it’s all about different skills during the year rather than a high average over the season.

Anonymous March 26, 2014 at 9:45 am

I’m looking forward to receiving a massive full coloured glossy wall chart from the UCI explaining how Pro Cycling works so that I can understand as the season unfolds.

Dave March 26, 2014 at 11:03 am

Was this a pre or post Cookson decision?

The Inner Ring March 26, 2014 at 11:05 am

Both. It was presented during the Worlds in Florence under McQuaid’s reign for review and now confirmed and approved by Cookson.

Anonymous March 26, 2014 at 12:12 pm

The sport needs MORE money, MORE megastars, MORE fanfare, MORE glamour, MORE sparkle, MORE lights, MORE colours….or perhaps not.

Paulo Rocha March 26, 2014 at 3:41 pm

A real Reform would be the restructuring of the financing/revenue model for teams and race organizers.

Unless UCI, ASO and the other institutions don’t reach a sustainable revenue model for a team to survive, teams will always be popping in and out of world tour leaving few places for smaller teams that struggle to survive and develop a project. All it takes to enter the circus is a big check from a patron and all it takes to get kicked out is your patron getting bored and moving out his cash to another big toy. Another factor that enhances it is the points system based in cyclists instead of teams. It is much easier to catch a jet to Europe and buy some cyclists for a new structure instead of actually getting involved in an existing team.

As a small team director and small race organizer I got fed up of guys consistently eating out my work. Actually it had a defined pattern. At the junior’s level, on one year they were away of cycling trying to convince companies to sponsor their structure for one year only. Then at the next year they would race with the top 2nd year Juniors they fish from the other teams that actually develop cyclists.
The same goes for Professional cycling. In the present it makes no sense to run a Continental Team or to create a 2.2 race in the calendar because nobody cares, but believe me when I’m saying that one creates more sustainability into cycling with a small race than with a Eurosport’s televised Tour of Middle East of Nowhere Cares of Cycling categorized WT.

Just like in Finance Valuation, it is always more important the “quality of the cash flow” that the “quantity of the cash flow”.

Andrew March 26, 2014 at 3:46 pm

If the teams were actively involved in the creation of this new world, I’m surprised they didn’t lobby harder for a proportion of points won to belong to the team rather than the rider. Bidding wars for the small number of top riders can surely only get worse when there are fewer of them to go around; and it becomes harder to assess the worth of domestiques whose own points become meaningless even though they may have contributed hugely to the success of others.

Also, how will a promotion/relegation system work in a world where teams fold or are dramatically changed each year?

Darren March 26, 2014 at 9:27 pm

Difference between making it simple and making it simplistic!
Streamlining the calendar puts more pressure on the riders to perform and
accumulate points, especially when points advantage for a team will be reduced/squeezed
to the top 5 riders! As Han once said, “I have a bad feeling about this!”

Vanilla_Thrilla March 27, 2014 at 12:47 am

Forgive me for asking but why doesn’t the UCI simply create a bunch (16 + 8 = 24?) permanent but tradable 1st Division team licenses and auction these off to the highest bidders?

UCI gets money, teams get stability (none of this ridiculous European promotion/relegation nonsense), and there’s a clear entry/exit mechanism – prospective team owners can buy a license off an existing team owner.

I don’t understand why there’s all this confusing rider points malarky. Teams and riders just wanna race, fans wanna watch, and sponsors just want a return on their investment. Why make it more complicated?

The Inner Ring March 27, 2014 at 8:48 am

The risk with a permanent licence is that someone buys it and then hires a bunch of cheap riders and still gets to ride the Tour de France every July, free publicity for low spend… at least until all the riders abandon. But you see my point, a team that cannot compete is still allowed in the top flight while a better team is blocked. A closed franchise system a few years ago would have blocked the likes of Slipstream/Garmin, Sky, Skil/Argos/Giant etc from entering the sport.

As for points, I can see the use for internal measurement to assess teams… but the rest? Like I say above it’s just arithmetic and depends on how we allocate points between Roubaix and the Tour, the Giro or Flanders etc. The beauty of the sport is that it allows different types of riders to do different things and trying to find “the best” is to miss the diversity within.

Paulo Rocha March 27, 2014 at 11:53 am

The points atribution should be 100% for the team and 0% for the cyclist. Atributing points to cyclists only makes for inflationary salaries and what was already mentioned in this blog as “prune juice”. There will always exist a Phillipe Gilbert, a Rui Costa and a Alberto Contador, but it is far more difficult to exist a Bjärne Riis and a Jonathan Vaughters.
Ask for anyone related to teams at smaller divisions and you see the difficulty a manager has to recruit staff, especially when he/she has to say to them that stability comes on a yearly basis…

Vanilla_Thrilla March 28, 2014 at 2:23 am

As for teams being blocked, they wouldn’t necessarily be, they’d just have to buy a license off another team if they want to enter – kinda like the NFL, or Tinkoff-Saxo for that matter. Everyone has a price, these are all commercial operations after all.

But that’s certainly a valid point about hiring a team of no names just for publicity (although arguably you’ve just described those French pro-conti teams that get wild cards). I hadn’t thought of that. That possibility doesn’t apply for other sports where ticket and jersey sales are an important revenue component, and would indeed call for some threat of relegation.

If points are necessary then I kinda like Paulo’s suggestion that these be held by the team. As you say, too much arbitrary arithmetic could reduce the variety within the sport.

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