2016 Calendar Analysis

Monday, 26 October 2015

With the UCI calendar for 2016 out, a chance to look at the stats behind it. Which is the busiest month, which countries have the most race days and more.

The chart above shows the calendar month by month with a total of 578 race days, a long season. In fact it could be longer as currently October looks light as the UCI calendar is missing several races like the Abu Dhabi Tour, the Japan Cup and more as it seems the late running of the World Championships in Qatar is causing a big clash with Asia Tour races.

It’s counter-intuitive as we might often imagine April to be a bumper month given all the spring classics and stage races from the Three Days of De Panne to the Basque Country and the Tour of Romandie but it’s bordered by two busier months, March has Paris-Nice and Tirreno-Adriatico of course but also the eight day Tour of Langkawi and the Tour of Taiwan. May means the Giro d’Italia but this is just a quarter of the race days in cycling’s busiest month which has a series of short stage races from Yorkshire to Japan. Name some bike races in July. Of course there’s the Tour de France but there’s also the Tour of Austria, the 14 day Tour of Quinghai Lake and the Tour of Portugal starts late in July too. What’s new for 2016 is that July gets busier thanks to the Olympics with the Tour of Poland happening in July instead of August. It’s odd in a way that the Polish race will now clash with the Tour de France meaning many will ignore it, while in August the Olympics only have two days: the road race and the time trial.

Now to the various countries, the chart shows nations with ten or more race days in 2016. As you can see having a grand tour means plenty of race days and it also suggests a long standing culture of cycling which brings a big calendar which helps explains the number of race days in Belgium too. Only this assumption only goes so far, look at China and the USA next which have plenty of race days too and aren’t the same heartlands of the sport. You probably get the tours of California and Utah and other events on the US calendar but perhaps less so for China, think the Tour of China II or the lengthy Tour of Quinghai Lake.

The chart above shows the share of World Tour race days as a percentage of the total calendar per country. Switzerland, famed for its quality lives up to the bill with the Tour de Romandie and the Tour de Suisse, both World Tour races, making up the bulk of the country’s calendar. This is only a share of the calendar but the big 0% labels for China, USA and Britain and the small share for Germany once again illustrates just how the “World Tour” skips a lot of the World.

Il Lombardia Ghisallo

The Calendar and Race Status explained
Each race has a UCI status:

  • The World Tour includes all the prime races on the calendar, from the three grand tours (Giro d’Italia, Tour de France, Vuelta a Espana) to the one day classics like Paris-Roubaix, the Tour of Flanders and Il Lombardia, as well as others like the Tour of Poland or the Tour Down Under and can be anywhere in the world. All 17 UCI WorldTeams must ride and indeed they pay a premium for a licence and to meet higher standards from the UCI in order to secure a guaranteed start. Organisers may invite UCI Pro Continental Teams

After this come races in different races that are grouped by region, with the UCI Asia Tour, UCI America Tour, UCI Africa Tour and UCI Oceania Tour and UCI Europe Tour. The bulk of races on the calendar above are in Europe with races like the Het Nieuwsblad, the Criterium International or the Tour of Denmark but we also find races like the Tour of California and the Tour de Langkawi.

  • HC is the next level down and up to 70% of the teams may come from the UCI WorldTeams but UCI Pro Continental and UCI Continental teams can be invited
  • .1 is another step down where up to 50% of the teams can be UCI WorldTeams with the rest from Pro Continental, Continental and also national teams
  • 1.HC / 1.1 denote a one day race and 2.HC / 2.1 mean a stage race
  • There is also .2 but these races are excluded to keep the calendar concise and focus on the top pro races around the world

Crunching more numbers there are 148 days on the World Tour calendar, roughly a quarter of the pro calendar. The World Tour is split between 134 days of stage racing and 14 days of one day races which sounds more balanced when expressed as 13 stage races and 14 one day events.

The HC label has 166 days in total with 141 days of stage racing from 24 stage races which vary from the two day Criterium International to the 14 day Tour of Quinghai Lake. There are 25 one day races with the HC label. The .1 races make up 45% of the calendar with 195 days of stage racing and 69 days of one day racing.

Points per race? It’d be good to measure the calendar by points, eg where you can score the maximum points but we don’t know the UCI rankings system for 2016 yet. The UCI is bringing out a new system for 2016 but it’s not public yet. It should be similar if not identical to the one it tried to rush out for 2015 but aborted when team managers pushed back (points scale and more in this piece from January).

Conclusion
This is just a quick look at the calendar for 2016 and a take on quantity more than quality because even looking at the World Tour means treating all the races the same when obviously the Tour de France is a supreme prize given its audience and prestige. Still you can see how much of the calendar is located in a small geographic area: exactly half of the calendar is located in France or a country that shares a border with France.

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leonn October 26, 2015 at 1:08 pm

The stages on Bern and Andorra in TdF count for France or Switzerland and Andorra?

The Inner Ring October 26, 2015 at 1:14 pm

France. All races belong to their home country for the ease of addition but also because it relates to the domestic broadcast of the race, so the Giro is counted as Italian too, except for the Eneco Tour which is always a cross-border race and not listed as belonging to a particular country by the UCI.

Richard S October 26, 2015 at 1:24 pm

Inner Ring, when you say things like “Still you can see how much of the calendar is located in a small geographic area: exactly half of the calendar is located in France or a country that shares a border with France” are you merely pointing the fact out or are you saying that this is a bad thing and it needs to change? Thanks

The Inner Ring October 26, 2015 at 1:42 pm

Just an observation. Given the amount of races that have fallen off the calendar from Italy and Spain in recent years the proportion has been higher. There are not many new races appearing on the calendar, at best only a handful of days each year.

Richard S October 26, 2015 at 2:59 pm

Fair enough, I couldn’t quite judge your tone!

Anonymous October 26, 2015 at 1:43 pm

The Tour of Poland during the Tour de France was the first thing I noticed too and it looked very strange to me. I can understand, that you have the Cyclassics as a WT- one day race during the Tour, but another WT-stage race? That’s ridiculous. Poland has invested so much in their race, they do everything they can for the riders and the teams, have an excellent structure, plus they actually have people roadside watching and cheering on the race! And then they get downgraded this way? Come on. I would like to know, what they were told by the UCI? Is it only happening in 2016 due to the nonsensical idea of having worlds in the desert and through Rio or is it the first step to take away the WT-status to give it to a place the UCI and the teams actually want to have a WT-race?

Sam October 26, 2015 at 1:54 pm

If the Tour of Poland does everything you say for the riders, why would the teams want to race anywhere else?

denominator October 26, 2015 at 2:01 pm

I am pretty sure that this collision is only occasional, because of the summer Olympiad. Was the same 3 years ago. Nobody wants to be overshadowed by la Tour, but the regular August date brings this shift in 1 of 4 years. 7 years ago Pologne was still held in September, too close to Vuelta.

Nick November 2, 2015 at 6:18 pm

It’s an Olympic thing. Other August races were moved around in 2012.

Joe K. October 26, 2015 at 3:28 pm

Now that ASO is organizer for the Tour of California, I find it odd that there are 0% World Tour race days in the USA. Same goes for Norway–I thought the Tour of Norway And the Tour of the Arctic were UCI sanctioned, so shouldn’t these be World Tour races as well?

Anonymous October 26, 2015 at 4:43 pm

Don’t forget-being an UCI race doesn’t mean it is automatically a race of the World Tour. There are the continental Tours as well (European Tour, African Tour etc.). WT is supposed to be the pinnacle of everything, reserved for GTs, Monuments, Classics. In truth the category WT is a strategy used as a management and advertisement tool. Once it took over from the Pro Tour/historical calender, it started 2011 with 26 races and then switched between 28 and 29 races per season. Which is a lot of racing, if you consider that many of these races are stage races. I sometimes wonder, if we one day will see the first WT-team scaling back the teamsize and riding solely WT-races.

The Inner Ring October 26, 2015 at 4:58 pm

Not all races want to be World Tour because it means they have to invite all the WT teams and therefore exclude a lot of locals. California and the Tour of Britain stand out as races thinking of a leap to the World Tour but unwilling to exclude their domestic teams who partially/fully rely on these races for existence. The idea is coming UCI reforms will allow more flexibility for this.

XNight October 26, 2015 at 9:05 pm

The organisers of Three Days of De Panne wanted the race elevated to WT status didn’t they ?
Any luck with this for 2016 ?

Larry T. October 26, 2015 at 3:41 pm

“….the “World Tour” skips a lot of the World.” Switzerland’s a bit of an exception but perhaps it should be renamed “World Where There’s a Lot of Interest in Pro Cycling Tour”?
I think Heinie’s entire globalization concept is like trying to sell bikinis to polar bears.

Graham Martin October 26, 2015 at 5:27 pm

The sport IS globalising, though. Germany is seen as a massive market by bike manufacturers, yet gets very few race days. USA ditto. China ditto. One extra layer of stats-geekery that would be interesting would be comparing the physical size of a country to its race days – China and USA are both massive compared to Belgium, so their race days are (in theory) more diluted. The Tour of California is like a national tour for a nation with 40 million residents – middling to big for Europe.

Anonymous October 26, 2015 at 5:52 pm

I don’t think you can compare Germany to the other countries mentioned. With Germany it isn’t about development, more about getting back to how it was. That there are so few races in Germany now has a reason. If you look back 15-20 years, things looked and were different and there were lots of races that have vanished now.

Larry T. October 27, 2015 at 1:21 am

No argument about globalization happening, just that it’s like trying to sell….well, you read it already. Races in non-cycling countries where nobody turns up at the roadside or tunes in a TV to watch do what for the fans of the sport? Meanwhile races in countries where there’s a passion for cycling struggle due to continuing doping scandals and economic austerity.

Richard S October 27, 2015 at 11:12 am

Physical size is pointless. Mongolia’s massive but barely anyone lives there.

J Evans October 27, 2015 at 10:58 am

It certainly is.
New races should start at .2 level and then work their way up, depending on whether or not there is any local interest, rather than them being parachuted quickly into WT level for reasons of cash (Beijing; soon to be some races in the Arab states?)
The country that stands out as not having many races despite having a huge interest in cycling is the Netherlands – but I guess that’s due to the country’s topography.
If the UCI did want to introduce new WT races without greatly increasing the numbers of days raced, it seems somewhat obvious that Switzerland doesn’t need/deserve two WT stage races.

hoh October 28, 2015 at 1:04 pm

Very much agreed. Being a Chinese, I’d still say Tour of Beijing is a disaster.

In fact, I’d say new races needs to build up from even more ground level. Maybe a race organiser need to run a successful mass participation event on the course like the Ride-London first before progress to various level of racing. The mass participation events can also help them financially.

Richard October 26, 2015 at 6:25 pm

13 days of racing in Britain? 8 for the Tour of Britain, 3 for the Tour de Yorkshire, 1 for the RideLondon Classic and…..?

The Inner Ring October 26, 2015 at 7:02 pm

The 1.1 Velothon Wales on 22 May

Richard October 26, 2015 at 7:08 pm

Thanks. Didn’t realise that has 1.1 status.

Larrick October 27, 2015 at 5:06 am

Surely the compromise for those races like the ToC and ToB is to give them WT status but keep the team sizes at either 6 or 7 riders allowing more teams to participate?

28 teams @ 6 is 168 riders and 7 riders would still be a peleton 2 riders short of a GT field.

Sam October 27, 2015 at 12:30 pm

Its not just team size, its also the make-up of the teams who have to/can be invited, and the number of teams.

WT status means all 17 WT teams, plus a limited number of other places for teams that end up as ProConti, with the national squad where relevant and requested getting an invite (Polish National team, GB etc)

Which from Mick Bennett’s POV means no longer the 5-6 top GB Conti teams – and who he doesnt want excluded for reasons including the aggressive racing they bring, the domestic roadside support that adds to the mix etc.

Plus WT means more sponsorship needed, as more prize money is on offer, and costs increase thanks to the more stringent UCI regs around race support, provisions etc.

Larrick October 27, 2015 at 1:56 pm

But that’s the point Sam. Allow races to add more teams whilst keeping the size of the field below 200 so you take the current WT set up of the 17 teams plus 5 wild cards and then allow the organiser a further 5 or 6 slots for local teams.

The extra costs are another matter and would obviously need to be found but this was about countering the issue around races like the ToB losing the ability to still invite a Nat team plus the other locals that they want there.

J Evans October 27, 2015 at 11:44 am

I’d say that the WT is too imbalanced: too many stage races. The smaller stage races – Suisse, TDU, Poland, etc. – are not that interesting: who wouldn’t prefer to watch a race like Strade Bianche?
I’d knock Suisse down a level (maybe giving Switzerland a one-day WT race to compensate) and add a few one-day races.
And let’s face it, we’d all be happier with races in Abu Dhabi, et al if they were one relatively interesting day as opposed to 4 or 5 tedious days of pootling through deserts.
The one-day riders don’t get enough outside of spring and even the WT stage races that we already have are often fairly uncompetitive, with a lot of riders only using them for training.
Of course, with the UCI being based in Switzerland, that’s never going to happen.

browny October 27, 2015 at 12:39 pm

Whatever you think of the TDU it’s great for Aussies to be able to watch some decent live cycling at a respectable time of the day.

Everything else happens in the middle of the night so it’s a pretty big commitment to sit up and hoping to catch something that’s a bit more exciting than the average bunch sprint or W/kg drag race in the last few k’s of a mountain. I just couldn’t do it this year so basically just followed the results and saw very little actual racing.

Sam October 27, 2015 at 12:53 pm

I’ve enjoyed the TDU a lot more since they introduced a bit more of the uphill stuff. Quite look forward to it – and god knows, its better than struggling to see more than the finish line a la Tour de San Luis

J Evans October 27, 2015 at 1:30 pm

Agree with both: it’s much improved (and TdSL is unwatchable) and I certainly wouldn’t get rid of the southern hemisphere’s only WT event. (It’s also at a great time of the year.)
For me, the Tour de Suisse is the obvious one to cut – as well as the reasons I give above, the TdS clashes with, and is inferior to, the Dauphiné. A few one day races would be much more exciting.

gabriele October 27, 2015 at 2:46 pm

I consider cutting the TdS a bit of a nonsense. It’s a race with huge historical value – remember it was sort of “the third GT”, despite its length, before the Vuelta’s long-lasting rise – which, on top of that, I suppose might be working pretty well from an economic POV (in Switzerland they don’t hesitate a second if they have to shut down anything related to cycling which is losing money, be it the spectacular Züri-Metzgete or the Women Programme of their Federation).
Besides, it has offered very fine editions in recent years, although some organisational setbacks and debatable decisions in course-drawing may have tarnished its lustre from time to time.

It’s difficult to compare it with the Dauphiné, because the latter is more of a training race, whereas in the TdS the athletes are usually competing hard, even if the field isn’t usually as deep.

It must be said, however, that in the last 5 or 6 years the TdS produced more often than not better racing than the Dauphiné, although most of us will be influenced by the most recent memories, like 2014 (very good TdS – but impressive Dauphiné), or this same year’s experience, when the Dauphiné was far from exceptional but still palatable, whereas the TdS was rather disappointing.
I agree that the Dauphiné had become generally superior in terms of winners, especially from the ’70s on, given that the TdS tended to produce occasional spells of less bright winners, but from the late ’90s on the level is absolutely comparable.

J Evans October 27, 2015 at 3:10 pm

I’m rarely very interested in the stage races.
One day races are more exciting and often harder fought.
Stage races lack the distance of the grand tours and so often fail to produce a truly meaningful difference between the competitors (often being decided by bonus seconds). They also lack the intrigue of the grand tours and a lot of the time the best riders in the race are either using it for training or not really racing it properly because if you’re a big rider do you really care about these races? Two random examples off the top of my head: Dennis winning this year’s TDU; Talansky winning last year’s Dauphiné. On both occasions, they were allowed to ride away whilst better riders sat and watched. Not their fault and not their problem, but doesn’t make for compelling sport.
I only pick on Switzerland because it seems slightly ridiculous that they have two WT stage races: I don’t find TdS any less exciting than Poland, for example. I wouldn’t kill off the race, just put it down to the next level and introduce more one-day races to give the calendar a better balance. And bring back Züri-Metzgete.

gabriele October 27, 2015 at 3:21 pm

I wouldn’t be sure to say so, not sure at all (“WT is imbalanced: too many stage races”).
We’ve got more racing days in stage races, but the sheer intensity of those days is quite different.

Have a look to the WT point classification: one-day racers are there on the top along with stage racers. Obviously – and that’s fair enough, I’d add – you’ll find on the top riders who’re good both at stage racing and in Classics, but great one-day racers who do *nothing at all* in GC of stage races can be found in the top three as often as pure stage racers like Froome. Kristoff, Van Avermaet, Sagan, Boonen, Cancellara, Gerrans, D. Martin have all seen their efforts in one-day races rewarded in terms of WT classification. A slight shift of the balance can be debated, but observing the last four or five years I’d say that we’re quite near to an equilibrium.

What’s maybe imbalanced is the distribution of one-day races vs. stage races along the calendar, with part of the season presenting a lot of one of the two kinds of racing in a row. I’m not so sure it’s a trouble, nor whether it make sense to “solve it”.

Also note that in the WT, we’ve already got a greater number of “lesser” one-day races than stage races: both back-load the calendar, for historical motives.
Plouay, Vattenfall Cyclassics, the two Canadian races, they’re probably on a lower step from any possible POV, and something might be said about San Sebastián, too.
Speaking of stage races, it’s essentially about Pologne and Eneco Tour (plus TDU, which I wouldn’t cut for the reasons well explained by many others here). Neither can be reasonably touched because of commercial and strategical reasons. Next would be Catalunya – whose elimination from the WT would make even less sense than TDU (besides being a little blaspheme). Or Romandie, which I don’t see as very viable, either.

As a side note, I’d add that in very recent years a lot of lesser stage races tended to be more interesting than the one-day races I listed above, and, more often than not, they were also better than the most renowned Classics, several of which are facing a not-so-shiny transition phase.
But this is just a side note, since I’m a big Classics lover and would never advocate for their removal or downgrade on the basis of phenomena lasting less than a decade. Cycling is a “slow food”, legacy sport – decisions should be taken according to its nature.

J Evans October 27, 2015 at 4:04 pm

I like Eneco because it offers something that other stage races don’t – it’s not just ‘flat stages, mountain stages and maybe time trial’. It’s a stage race for classics riders, which makes it unique.
I’d happily lose Poland – seems a bit harsh, but it’s a dull race.
This I think is a problem: ‘What’s maybe imbalanced is the distribution of one-day races vs. stage races along the calendar, with part of the season presenting a lot of one of the two kinds of racing in a row.’ I tend to get a bit tired of the same types of racing being all together.
I’m not a fan of circuit races, generally, although I find Plouay tends to produce good racing. Less so, Vattenfall, Montreal and Quebec, which need better parcours. I really like San Sebastián. I’d put all these races on a par with the ‘lesser’ stage races, but – if they have a good parcours – I find them a lot more interesting.

Rik VII October 27, 2015 at 12:57 pm

@The Inner Ring: From whre did you get the Information, that the UCI rankings system is going to change 2016 ?

The Inner Ring October 27, 2015 at 1:36 pm

It’s been announced now, see http://www.uci.ch/pressreleases/the-uci-approves-key-principles-for-the-reform-men-professional-road-cycling/ for the press release although it’s about wider reforms and no detail on the new system.

Rik VII October 27, 2015 at 1:44 pm

Thankx!

Huh: “… climber, top sprinter, top one-day rider and top stage racer …” I wonder how the´ll make it. Way easier would be a time trialist ranking counting the Points won in TT´s. But: “sprinter”? Did Cancellara win Milan-Sanremo in a sprint or was it an attack? Only bunch sprints? Or group sprints? Or are the stages defined a sprint-stages and the result Counts for the sprint-ranking even if the winner anticipates the sprint by 5 minutes?

J Evans October 27, 2015 at 1:55 pm

Arbitrary, over-simplifying and nonsensical, as you intimate.
Cavendish probably has more points than Degenkolb from this season, but we all know who had a better season. We don’t need this and neither do new fans of cycling – the assumption that they lack the ability to figure out the ‘complexities’ of bike racing is patronising. (Not only is it not difficult, it makes it more interesting when one is first learning these things; rather than having a – false – ‘league system’.)

Anonymous October 27, 2015 at 4:10 pm

There is a huge misunderstanding, that you will never get out of the heads of the UCI and the teams: They think people riding bikes are automatically interested in their professional product that is based on people riding their bikes. Of course they know that theoretically you can ride a bike and never watch one second of a race, but in reality they can’t really believe it, because it is just too good! Just think of all this untapped potential!!! All these people riding to work on their bikes or that try to stay healthy through riding – there simply must be a way to get their money, if they just try hard enough! And so they hustle behind this imaginary fan out there, who just waits to get touched and hooked by the UCI, if they only would find the right trick… Must be so frustrating! Bikes, cars, motos and feet are mostly tools to move us from one place to another, it doesn’t mean everybody with feet watches the Golden League Meetings, just as not everybody driving a car loves the F1 and, dear UCI and Teams, the vast majority of people riding bikes will never, never, never be interested in professional cycling, no matter how much you try to dumb it down, make it fit in and twist it. I got a crazy idea: Maybe you try to find out why professional cycling could survive till now and why there indeed still are people who are interested? Because if cycling is really so difficult to understand and love, why do people actually love it? How could we fall in love with it without having a competition for the best sprinter or radios in every race? And if we could, maybe others can too, if you just would let professional cycling grow naturally and stop to revamp it every year anew into something without character and meaning. And if you please would not use it as your toy in the struggle for power, that would be really, really appreciated btw.. Oh, and one tipp: Trying to make fools out of us, in telling us how crazycool, special and exciting that race in Abu Dhabi was-not working so good. Maybe you all found it crazycool in the pool or the hotel – then say so and don’t hype that “race”-and all is fine. Sorry, (slightly) off topic, but had to get it off my chest.

J Evans October 27, 2015 at 4:16 pm

Well said, Anonymous.

Nick November 2, 2015 at 6:34 pm

Well, the PR says those specialist rankings will be “considered”, so they may yet confront that problem. But I suspect it will be points from sprint stages of stage races and, possibly, particular sprinter-friendly one days (Vattenfall?).

knightof1 November 4, 2015 at 8:58 am

Notice other races rather than Tour of China or Tour of Qinghai Lake. Tour of Hainan is no doubt the best race in China, and there’s possibility to be included in the WT calendar. But I don’t think a WT race can help better promote the sport in China, as in the case of the aborted Tour of Beijing.

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