Thomas Voeckler’s got over 15,000km of racing in his legs this year. But other riders have more miles… air miles. 2010 has seen the sport start with the Tour Down Under, then go to the middle-east, travelling to California and last weekend saw two races in Canada. That’s before the Worlds in Australia. And don’t forget the Japan Cup.
For me it’s been a success. As usual Qatar wasn’t too exciting but serves its purpose and the new Tour of Oman revealed some stunning landscapes. The Tour of California is growing in stature and its slot on the calendar should be revisited to avoid a clash with the Giro.
More recently the weekend in Canada seems to have been a success, with even cynical sections of the local press admiring the spectacle with the harshest voices criticising the excessive promotion of the race, not the sport itself. Some of this was luck, the sport can sometimes throw up a freak result but this time big names won thanks to big attacks.
Next up comes the Worlds, a lengthy trip to Australia that starts with a warm-up race to test the legs before the actual Championships begin.
Plus ça change…
Let’s remember though that this isn’t the first time the sport has tried to venture abroad. We’ve seen racing in Canada at the end of the 80s and the Tour DuPont was a big race in America in the early 1990s. Closer to Europe Britain hosted a one day race as part of the World Cup. Races outside of Europe seem hard to get traction, they come but usually go. Time will tell if all this travel pays off but I have a feeling it will, the world as a whole is more integrated and the sport is wealthier, able to travel.
One final thought on the spread of the race abroad: it needs to be co-ordinated. I’ve said already that the Tour of California should not have to go up against the Giro d’Italia and maintain this. Similarly, other new events need to be nurtured. But how far do we go? Should existing races in Europe be moved about, or even shortened? One solution would be to shrink the Tour of Switzerland from 10 days to a week. More radically, what about chopping five days off the Vuelta and Giro in order to free up 10 days on a crowded calendar. This would also allow riders to be less tired during the increasingly long season. I’m thinking aloud but it makes sense, no?