UCI Reforms Approved

The UCI has approved its own reforms to men’s pro cycling. In a press release issued in the middle of the women’s time trial race yesterday it announced several changes to the World Tour regarding team licences, the calendar and the rankings.

As part of the changes, three year UCI WorldTour licences will be granted to a maximum of 18 UCI WorldTeams for the 2017-2019 seasons. It is hoped that this will encourage investment leading to increased stability in team structures. Licences will be granted based on ethical, financial, sporting, administrative and organisational criteria.

First up is a three year licence for World Tour teams. The idea is stability for teams as they’re not looking over their shoulder worried about relegation to Pro Conti status and losing sponsors who could flee should this happen. Nice but we need to see the detailed rules to really understand the mechanisms at work. For example being able to buy a start in the Tour de France and other top races for three consecutive years is valuable ticket so will the UCI charge more for this, or will it leave the value on the table for the teams to exploit? What happens if a team buys a three year licence but doesn’t have sponsorship for three years, would the team be expelled if it cannot pay wages? What happens if a team owns a three year licence but has a roster of turkeys, has-beens and losers – the Epedex scenario – that has no place in the big races but rides on knowing it’ll get publicity: is there a way to eject them?

In a sense we’ve seen long licences already, the current system promises serenity subject to the annual review of a team’s ethical, financial, sporting and and administrative criteria whereby the team knows if it meets the minimum requirements then it will ride on year after year. Even with longer licences it’s likely, desirable even, that a team with ethical or financial issues can have its licence shredded so the durability aspect is probably related to the sporting criteria meaning once a team gets a World Tour licence for 2017 it need not fear relegation for three years.

To further strengthen team integrity and anti-doping measures, the UCI has also developed the team’s internal operational requirements (known as the “Cahier des Charges”) which will be mandatory for all UCI WorldTeams from 2017.

The Team’s Cahier des Charges centres on ten main rules designed to ensure that all riders are properly supported and supervised. Already trialled in 2014, further testing of the system is taking place this season and next in advance of its mandatory application as a licence condition.

The integrity and anti-doping measures will be well-known to loyal readers as the ISSUL Audit, the socio-cultural analysis of team management, structures and practices. It’s a good idea in theory and the UCI sees it as working in practice after trials with several teams and is designed to ensure teams have minimum coaching and support: to ensure pro teams are professional. The UCI refers to the “cahier des charges” when this French label simply means “specification sheet”, “terms of reference” or “minimum standards”.

a limited number of new races will also be added to the UCI WorldTour from 2017, with an application process opening later in 2015. It is hoped that the addition of new high quality events will help the UCI WorldTour re-inforce its global profile as the elite series of the sport.

“Global profile” is the key phrase here. At times the UCI World Tour is like baseball’s “World Series”, a misnomer as it ignores most of the world. There’s nothing in the USA nor Asia as World Tour remains very European yet even within Europe it’s patchy: 2016 will see more racing in Andorra (population 80,000) than Germany (population 80,000,000) which deters large sponsors wanting pan-European marketing. We can expect monied events like the new Abu Dhabi race and the Dubai Tour to seek World Tour status. A paragraph mentions “current participation rules will be maintained for existing UCI WorldTour events but new rules will be set for new events” which should help the conumdrum faced by the likes of the Tour of California and Tour of Britain where they’re interested in joining the World Tour but this means they’d have to exclude many local teams that live for the TV publicity. Again we’ll have to see the detail.

New and existing UCI WordTour events and races which apply to join the series will be assessed against strict organisational standards by event organisers (the Organiser’s Cahier des Charges), ensuring the best events are included in the tour giving the calendar a more robust structure.

Some minimum standards for World Tour races would be good and we’ll have to see what these are, whether improved safety standards, better hotels or more fan-friendly things like functional websites. The test is whether existing events get pruned because they don’t meet the standards.

A reform of the rankings for men’s professional road cycling has also been taken forward with the Individual Rankings becoming universal across all events from the top to the third tier

A new rankings system is coming to replace the unloved and misunderstood systems in place at the moment with World Tour and various continental tour rankings. All this was supposed to happen for 2015 but the UCI sprung it on the teams – many read about it here first – and it was agreed to push this back. There will also be specialist rankings for the “top climber, top sprinter, top one-day rider and top stage racer”.

What’s missing?
Like many press releases it’s interesting to read the content to also to consider what’s not being said. We’re missing all the detail, we only have the press release to go on so seeing the detail is crucial. Even if the 200 page PDF rulebook has yet to be drafted it would be helpful to have some kind of presentation about what the sport is supposed to look like in 2020 rather than two sides of A4 as it’s hard to sell this vision of the future.

Some of the bolder plans seem to have vanished, at least from the press release. You’ll remember  the bigger and more controversial ideas which saw team sizes being shrunk from 30 to 22 and a first division of 16 A teams and 8 B teams, I’m reliably told all this has been binned. If teams are to get three year licences then presumably this will be on a stable basis rather than seeing the squad shrunk mid-term. Also the mooted calendar reform isn’t obvious, the plans to stop World Tour races overlapping meaning people don’t know which one to watch aren’t mentioned.

Some incremental reforms and confirmation of what we knew was coming like ISSUL audit and new rankings. Teams look set to get three year licences but there’ll surely be mechanisms to strip a licence if a team slips up. Having more races on the World Tour around the world isn’t really reform but a perpetuation of the sport’s attempts to spread around the world. It’s all going in the right direction but we need to see the detail next.

81 thoughts on “UCI Reforms Approved”

  1. I’d like to see which races are allowed to join the World Tour being based on quality of the race, rather than location. For example, the parcours of the Tour of Oman is infinitely more challenging than that of the Dubai Tour. (Does anyone know what Abu Dhabi will be like?)
    Also based on number of riders/fans, surely the Americas deserve WT races more than the Middle East? (What could it be that makes the Middle East so attractive?)
    Most importantly, I’d like ethics to be a consideration: certain regimes should not be supported in any way. (This won’t happen, of course, but it would be nice to see cycling take a lead in this.)
    Also, history: Paris-Tours, for instance, should be a WT race.
    All of this, of course, is down to money: the UCI, Velon et al talk about making it a more global sport, but they’re not touting WT races in Africa are they?
    And it all goes on whilst old European races struggle to survive – but we’re told it’s ‘progress’ (and that we’re trying to exclude non-Europeans and are stuck in the past) – and not ‘grasping for cash’.
    On another note, it’ll be interesting to see if they can introduce a rider rankings system that doesn’t penalise domestiques, and lower their value and thus income.
    At least they had the sense to get rid of the ‘Divisions A and B’, etc. idea – that really showed how clueless the UCI is.

    • Agree entirely.

      No doubt we’ll see some traditional European races binned off on the basis that the organisation, safety and hotels aren’t up to scratch. These will be replaced with races around featureless, pan-flat roads in deserts where there won’t be a fan in sight. But of course the riders will be staying in wonderfully air conditioned 6 star hotels, and the organisation will be excellent. Much like there being F1 races in Bahrain and Abu Dhabi but soon not at Monza or Spa. And globaisation can only be a good thing of course. Naturally it has nothing to do with money laden crackpot leaders wanting to legitimise their regimes. Of course, no money will reach the pockets of any UCI suits during this process.

      Like you say, Paris-Tours should be a World Tour race, but it doesn’t have a cat in hells chance. I wouldn’t be surprised if Ghent-Wevelgem and E3 get bumped off on the basis that Belgium has enough races, and replaced with completely bland stage races like the Tour of Turkey or Tour of California. Or even worse, some contrived one day race such as ‘The Abu Dhabi Classic’, or Tour of Moscow.

      I feel genuinely angry that sports I love become play things for oil rich crackpots. I don’t want this to happen to cycling.

      • Lots of people say this but remember the Tour de France and almost every other race began as a publicity stunt. Paris-Roubaix was created by wealthy textile merchants to promote their velodrome etc, not much different from some Sheikhs wanting to sell their city. Of course these old races have become established cultural events now and have survived because they have geography to make the race interesting… which is not evident in the desert.

        • So you’d be ok with some of the non-monument classics and more traditional older one week stages races, like Paris-Nice or the Dauphine, going in favour of races in new locations? You know these new locations will be the same ones that have popped up hosting F1 races and the World Cup, i.e. the Middle East and Russia. They must love their sport over there…
          I suppose Novgorod-Moscow has a certain ring to it…

          I’ve got nothing against there being some newer races in places where there are a lot of fans like USA, UK and potentially Germany. It should be about fans though, not ‘markets’ for sponsors that will be gone as quickly as they came. Less still about money put up by locations for the right to have a race.

          • As I say a good race needs good geography. It’s clear with some races that the sport is simply chasing petrodollar appearance fees rather than trying to build a special event. But the “we can’t have new races funded by people with big money” calls does contrast with everything that’s happened with the sport so far.

          • Inner Ring, the money is not the problem. The people in these countries having no interest in cycling is the issue. As is – as you agree – the parcours. As is the fact that these races will potentially compete with better, but poorer, races. And then there’s the fact that no-one should be legitimising these sorts of regimes (China, Russia, many Middle Eastern states, etc.) by hosting sports events there.

          • “You know these new locations will be the same ones that have popped up hosting F1 races and the World Cup, i.e. the Middle East and Russia. They must love their sport over there…”

            The general public don’t, if we use F1 as an example. They either can’t afford tickets or don’t care about the sport, depending on the nation involved. Crowds are miniscule at some of the newer tracks.

            More pressingly for the future of the sport, Bernie rakes it in from certain regimes seeking legitimacy, and then pushes up the money required to host an F1 race for the other older host nations on the basis of “well, the Sheikhs / Former Eastern Bloc Proto-Despots can afford it so you can too”, which then pushes ticket prices up for the fans in the older host nations when they’re forced to cover the costs. Many of these fans are now struggling to afford or justify attendance – this is the case for me and people I know, so I’m not just generalising. So slowly but surely the calendar is diluted and some classic tracks are starting to disappear. In the past it’s not been such a problem but now Monza and SPa are involved, it’s strating to become more pressing. At least Silverstone, well loved by most of the drivers and fans, is intact for the short term.

            Meanwhile, Bernie then usually claims that shit racing is the main reason fans aren’t attending and attempts to manipulate the rules and FIA regs to suit his own ends. He’s rarely succeeded (Double Points for the last race last season was a notable success for him, if you can call it that) but has spoken of some daft ideas in the past (trackside water sprinklers that come on at random, anyone?). The racing being shit is neither here nor there if you ask me. There’s always a dominant team when the rules change, and it takes a while for the others to catch. Bernie’s other favourite trick is to occasionally play the “munificent tyrant” card by effectively showing “clemancy” to the older hosts by reducing their race hosting fees to help them out. A charade of course, but it’s all good PR. He sets the prices, after all.

            The lucky thing about cycling for the fan is that it’s mainly open roads which are hard to monetise. The downside is that when the missing money does rock up and the races head there, the fans don’t currently exist. It’s a tough line to walk between pleasing existing fans and gaining new ones, and monetisation.

          • FYI, cycling is a very minor sport outside those who ride a bike in the U.S.

            In my opinion, it helps to split professional cycling into two parts:
            Part 1:
            What media rights owners for races have done in the U.S. is sell their product into tertiary sports channels. Which is all very good, but does nothing going forward as consumers continue to “disconnect the cable” in the U.S. in larger numbers. It’s also about average. Cycling, triathlon, curling all have loyal audiences that minor sports channels pursue.

            Part 2:
            From the UCI’s perspective, things are pretty good. If you are the UCI though, they’ve got at least one billionaire hobbyist who owns Tour of California and seems content with it. I don’t know who owns the Colorado event, but, it seems like that is still viable too. Petro dollar despots, dictators, and more have the money to pay the UCI for WT status. All good.

            Actual viewers and athletes are really not that important to anyone with money in the sport.

      • I agree entirely.

        Although in fairness to the Arabic nations hosting F1 ; the local populace do seriously love their cars.
        As evidenced by their import into the UK to be driven noisily and aggressively around central London’s streets by some of their wealthy countrymen.
        Now if this could be replaced by bicycles, even of the McClaren Venge variety, I could see the sense.
        But I doubt not..

        • Hmm, it’s not necessarily loving cars for what they are, if you ask me. It’s conspicuous consumption, the desire to be seen to be wealthy. You see far more Ferraris and Lamborghinis around London than you do McLarens (certainly the MP4-12C anyway which looked a little dull. Things may change with the newer, more aggressive models.). I’ve seen more Rolls Royce Phantoms and Bugatti Veyrons in and around Mayfair than I have McLarens, now that I think about it.

          You can see it with many high performance vehicles. M3s and M4s will sell well, not necessarily because of what they are but because they’re the most expensive 3 series. Same with the Golf R / R32, and high-end Audis. It’s why convertibles sell well too over here (Britain being the biggest market in Europe, weirdly enough) – a certain class of poseur will buy them with the big wheels, when a perhaps more serious driver would buy the coupe version and the smaller wheels.

          • McxClaren Venge, the top-end Specialized bike.
            It would be nice to see WT races in the Middle East locations reflected in increased bicycle usage and ownership amongst their population.

          • Just drop into Wolfi’s bike shop in Dubai or Carbon Wheels in Doha and see how many Lightweights, Zipps and high end frames they have on their shelves. Or see the Royal family of Abu Dhabi riding around the F1 track on a Wednesday night. A lot of people like to jump to assumptions about other people in order to trumpet their own perspective. If you don’t understand something, don’t make assumptions. Or you could even celebrate the fact that Arab nations want to invest in cycling, particularly if they are investing in providing high quality race footage. I know I’d choose a race with a strong investment in providing high quality live feeds so I can watch the race versus a ‘traditional’ race with crap footage.

          • Yes, shops to largely cater for the ex-pat communities.
            I don’t suppose many Arabic females buy up too much of the stock either, although it was very enlightening of Saudi Arabia to legislate in 2013 so the girls can now ride round in circles, dressed in Muslim body covering and accompanied by a male chaperone.

      • Sadly, I agree as well. It does seem the F1 model is being used here, but whoever is behind it doesn’t seem to notice (or willfully ignores?) the rot beneath F1’s piles of money. A couple of teams folded up last year, the grid’s made up of a few A teams while B’s are also-rans propped up by the A teams. The king of the sport settles a massive bribery case…with another bribe. Petro-dollars dominate and races get ever more boring on featureless race circuits that you have to pay to watch on TV. Short-term results = everyone (well a few at the top anyway) gets filthy rich while long-term the sporting elements rot away. I’d hoped the new UCI regime would adopt some long-term thinking to replace the short-term brain farts brought to us by Verbruggen/McQuaid, but that hope is fading fast. Bike racing might well have been conceived as little more than a publicity stunt but it’s (for now anyway) become a SPORT and should be treated like one rather than WorldWrestlingEntertainment.

    • Ethics…. ok, so apart from those nasty despots in the ME, no WT races in the US then, oh what about the UK… etc etc. Where JE do you draw the line? that’s the question…

      • It’s a grey area and I’m no fan of the UK or US governments, but there’s a world of difference between them and Dubai, China, Russia, etc. – and I think that’s fairly clear to most.

      • This ‘ethics’ thing is a sop to a certain type of politics, and with respect to certain posters here, is more due to pandering to their own prejudices than actually understanding what people in China, say, think about their own regimes. And the day you pay to watch a bike race on the road is the day that you can realistically ask sponsors to care about fans at the roadside.

        • Ethics and politics are separate.
          It might mean nothing to you, but were you one of the thousands of political prisoners in China, you might think differently.

        • It’s notable that Chinese people outside of China are far more critical of the regime – odd that.
          But I see your attitude is that money is the only thing that matters – if people aren’t paying for something then they have no say.

  2. The 3 year license is a joke and only benefits, and therefore encourages mediocrity; is Etixx worried about their status in three years? How about Sky, BMC, Katusha, or Tinkov? No, they’re not.

    Should teams like Garmin, Jumbo, FDJ, etc. be given a 3 year license? No, they shouldn’t. Great managers with great plans like Lefevere or Brailsford have nothing to worry about; Vaughters should be sweating about his future and looking for a career equipment sales.

    I believe that what is most important is what is not being addressed; if you take the Stelvio fiasco, the Roubaix level crossing fiasco, Nibali’s (legitimate) ejection when every GT sprinter takes a tow, Cookson’s handling of the Astana license fiasco and then the Vuelta moto incidents alone, it is pretty clear that a rule enforcement/commissaire overhaul is what is most needed.

  3. I like the idea of separate rankings for climber/sprinter/one-day rider, though time-trialist (Martin, Malori, Dowsett, Brandle, Dennis, etc) are neglected here.
    I was thinking about “challenges” for climber/sprinters/classic specialists/time trialist, where potential challengers (like for sprinters: Greipel, Cav, Modolo) have specified number of stages/races, where they collect points (for sprinters: each GT 5 stages, flat one-day races , some nominated stages in smaller races like Tirreno or Tour de Pologne, then we could find a meaning for Dubai Tour apart from $$$).
    As far as stage-race specialists, I think that stage races differ to much (like Eneco Tour vs Volta Catalunya).
    Last thing, team competitions should be more highlighted. Finally, this is team sport, isn’t it?

    • It’s always going to be a bit arbitrary, though, isn’t it?
      You can’t have a truly objective ‘best sprinter’, for instance: do three sprint victories in the Romandie beat one in the Tour?
      Fine as a bit of fun, but I can come up with my own opinion on who has been the best sprinter this year.
      Team competitions are not as meaningful as helping your leader to win the race – who had the better Vuelta, Movistar or Astana?
      How do you have a team competition that is actually meaningful? Under the present system (times of first three riders in each stage), teams (Movistar, for instance) can win many team classifications by putting riders in breakaways – doesn’t make them the strongest team.

      • I think within the World Tour (maybe incorporating some HC continental races as well) there should be seperate one day and stage race ‘cups’ or ‘champions’ or whatever you want to call them. John Degenkolb has won Milan-Sanremo and Paris-Roubaix and yet is ranked below Bertie Contador who has effectively only really turned up to two races, and never looked like winning one of them. There is such a big difference between classic specialists and ‘GC men’ in terms of their physiology and the training required it seems a bit daft to lump them in the same competition. I suppose you could still have the overall award for the consistent riders such as Valverde. For the sprinters, how about a points competition where points are awarded to every single race considered flat, and totted up at the end of the year. Like a year long Green Jersey, incorporating flat GC stages, flat stage race stages and flat classics like Schelderprijs, Gent-Wevelgem and Paris-Tours. Maybe that would be a step to far?

        • I think the news from the Tennis world today is of note. Andy Murray has said that he may miss the ATP World Tour Finals so that he can prepare for the Davis Cup final.
          He stands to lose a lot of money if he does this but I think it’s a commendable decision to favour tradition over the money. He probably realises there is a lot more prestige in a Davis Cup win than the ATP Final. That is what people would talk about at the end of his career.
          I hope it would be the same for riders. I’m sure they would prioritise a Grand Tour or Monument (and training for them) over ranking points or a end of year show piece.
          On a related note I was concerned to see a Tweet from Velon saying Cav would still ‘attend’ the Abu Dhabi Tour. Hope it is only attend and he’s not being forced back from surgery early to please sponsors.

        • Just splitting the current WT rankings between points won in Stage races and One days gives you the following rankings:

          “Classics” ranking:
          KRISTOFF Alexander 420
          VALVERDE Alejandro 290
          DEGENKOLB John 230
          VAN AVERMAET Greg 202
          MATTHEWS Michael 180
          ALAPHILIPPE Julian 164
          COSTA Rui 150
          STYBAR Zdenek 150
          RODRíGUEZ Joaquim 140
          YATES Adam 140

          “Stage race” rankings:
          QUINTANA Nairo 457
          ARU Fabio 448
          FROOME Christopher 430
          CONTADOR Alberto 407
          RODRíGUEZ Joaquim 334
          VALVERDE Alejandro 325
          PORTE Richie 314
          DUMOULIN Tom 271
          ŠPILAK Simon 269
          PINOT Thibaut 249

          It doesn’t take too much more to strip out the points for GC from the stage race rankings to get the winners of individual stages which presumably gives them something to work with for Sprinter and Climber rankings.

  4. Three year licenses are the way forward. Yes not all the teams will be superpowers, but every league needs its Aston Villas and Fiorentinas as well as the Manchester Uniteds of the world. We need more than the well financed half a dozen teams in the top tier for the sport to work, and they do not have to all be financial equals. This is a better model for the smaller teams to find sponsors and recruit quality staff and riders, gives more stability for existing riders, and saves having to waste more already scarce time and money going through a whole ratification exercise so often. This in turn should free up more room for the UCI to make sure all the minimum specifications are properly adhered to, and can police this ongoingly not just at license time.

  5. Given that the UCI can’t find 18 teams to make up the WT this year, or in 2016, i do have some doubts about 2017-2019. What’s really that different? We havn’t seen genuine relegation/promotion in the ProTour/WorldTour era at all and nigh on every team just gets its license renewed each season anyway.

    The only team that was “relegated” as such as Europcar because they ran out of top level money, which was no surprise. As it stands all the WT teams seem pretty set financially (LottoNL possibly in some trouble) and most are ethically sound (as far as the UCI is concerned anyway). It just sounds like a reform that doesn’t actually do anything or change anything.

    New/More WT level races i’m good with. We know Dubai and Dhabi are gonna step up and that is no bad thing. Ok there isn’t a big market for team sponsors here but these are financially sound races and right now that is what the sport needs. Wether it’s a lack of money or just some really bad organization, there are several older European WT races that are having various isses and perhaps they need a kick up the ass from more competition.
    Adding a race in the USA is key, and that sounds like it will happen from Cali presuming the “new rules” means they can invite the national level teams over PCT squads. Same for a race in the UK and Germany if possible. All three are large markets and those involved in the sport sponsor wise could really do with that exposure.
    There’s a lot of talk that South America needs a WT race, i just can’t think of one that can step up. Perhaps we’ll see a brand new race but unlikely. Personally i don’t even get the need. It’s not a massive market to the same extent as USA/GB/GER and whilst they’ve got several good riders their own team in Colombia seems to be going backwards right now.
    Asia needs a race purely because there is such a huge market there. Really it should be China based but that didn’t work last time. I think it should begin in Japan with something like the Japan Cup just to set-up a base in the region.

    Before this gets too long: I think the reforms sound like a good base to begin re-building the top level from. It’s not a 100% fix of issues, not even close, but it is a start in the right direction. Now we just need some detailing, for them to come into action and for ASO to have the expected freak-out.

    • South America “not a massive market”?
      Japan as a base to “set-up […] in the region [*Asia*]”?
      Most analysts would disagree. Or is it that we’re speaking about “Risk” and not about economy?
      Another little hint: it’s not enough to have racing in a country, not even with any sort of UCI WT label, to get an exposure which might be significant sponsor-wise. Not in the middle-term (“soccer” anyone?), nor probably in the short term.

      • ‘South America “not a massive market”?’ – presumably in terms of cash, seeing as Hammarling thinks Dubai and Abu Dhabi being WT races is no bad thing.

          • Not in terms of fanbase? Maybe not everywhere. But you’ve got countries with huge grassroots and movements, superior to most European countries, which haven’t needed constant triumphs in elite world cycling to live on with an impressive level of participation through decades and decades (Venezuela, Colombia), plus countries with significant activity – and their good share of elite riders who didn’t “make it just out of sponsorship” – like Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, Costa Rica. They’ve got races and, for example, world level track events. I don’t know if you could find any regional fanbase which could match Latin America’s, outside of Europe.

          • I meant the Middle East has lots of money, but very little fanbase. Sorry if it wasn’t clear.
            In my opinion, South America is the opposite – they have the interest, but they’re not throwing buckets of cash around like some Arab states are.

        • I guess i should have meant that South America is not a massive new market. It’s big yes, certainly when viewed as a region. But Brazil is a smaller market than Britain or USA or China or Japan, and per capita it comes in way behind the Middle East countries. So i’d expect sponsors to be slightly more keen on other areas ahead of South America.
          Not saying a WT race in South America would be bad, it would be very good if scheduled properly, just that races in other places should be more of a focus for the UCI.

          And with Japan, i just meant that the previous UCI attempts to WT races in China went pretty badly, so why not promote an .HC race that does well in Japan first. Or they could promote a Chinese .HC race like Quinghai that seems to do well.

          • But with the Middle East, there’s only money. The people aren’t interested – it’s just a competition of egos between the leaders of the respective countries. Add largely inferior parcours and there are a lot of (sporting) reasons not to have WT races there.
            Let’s not run cycling for the money – let’s run it for the fans, i.e. a South American race would be far better (and a lot of SA countries have enough money to put on a bike race).
            Can’t see how China can have a race with the food and pollution issues to name but two.
            And in both the ME and China, you end up with races with no-one at the side of the road.

          • I watched two very good mid-week races in Belgium last week, Grand Prix de Wallonie and the Primus Classic, and there was very very few spectators about.
            Albeit the weather was quite poor and there was a slightly better turn out at the finish line.

          • Fine correction, country by country it makes more sense.

            In fact, I wasn’t convinced at all by your previous board-game-like approach. For example, it’s not like what you’re doing in Japan has some relevant impact in China, in terms of sport diffusion.
            However, curiously enough, precisely Latin America is perhaps a market where some regional, wider effects would be more easily created and perceived.

            I still don’t get a very *partial* point like “per capita it comes in way behind…”. That is: yeah, indeed, and know what? Per capita… China comes in way behind Brazil or Argentina. And a bit behind Colombia, too. Switching indicator according to the needs of the phrase isn’t very fair.

            Big markets (if Brazil isn’t to be included) with high per capita income are no more than… five in the World? And you couldn’t have more cycling in France. Hence, without that vast a choice, I wouldn’t discard at all a country with both a big market (like, number 8 in the world) *and* a decent per capita value, *plus* the chance to involve a macroarea which sees another couple of countries in the G-20 and which is way more interconnected than, say, Japan, India, China and Indonesia.

            Add two other factors: the growth rate of the per capita income in the last ten years, way higher than USA or Germany, not to speak of Japan or UK. Which could be related to a greater propension towards *new* kind of investments or commodities.

            Secondly, it’s not like the sport didn’t try to involve those four *big & rich* countries. I’d say they tried pretty hard – and *by any possible means*, too, with two or three of them. In the USA you probably have what you can, at least in a middle-term perspective. Would having a race labelled “WT” matter that much? I don’t think so, but USA-based readers will surely tell us more. UK is indeed growing steadily at its own rhythm. Germany is an hope and Japan a big question mark. All this countries have already *tasted* cycling and it’s not like they don’t have the money: hence, it’s not about just bringing a race there. Whereas in Latin America cycling has a huge dimension in some countries and raises interest in others – they just didn’t have much money. Maybe if things get on nearly as well from an economic POV from now on as in the last decade (that is a doubt I’ve got, indeed), it’s time for the sport to stretch a serious hand over there instead of dreaming to have some Prince Charming fall in love – when those Princes have shown they don’t have much love to share.

          • @gabriele… to answer your question, it wouldn’t matter to me one bit if the california and colorado races had “wt” attached to them… in the grand scheme of things, i don’t care whether a race is a “wt” event or not… for example, if they decided tomorrrow that paris-roubaix was no longer a wt event, it would not change the fact that it is still my favorite race of the year…

            many wt-level races could learn a lot from the way the 2 usa races are run and promoted, especially from a multimedia standpoint…

          • Why does everyone exclude mention of “Americas Toughest Stage Race.” ?

            It to is financed by a multi million dollar corporate entity that owns sports franchises (Utah Jazz), movie theaters, auto dealerships, and many other entertainment based enterprises. It is well financed and the only way it will go away, is if UCI pulls the plug on American based events.

          • @TourDeUtah – because it’s rubbish.

            The race is rubbish; the parcours is boring and rubbish; the timing in August is rubbish; the local teams and riders are rubbish; the altitude is rubbish; and it’s rubbish as Vuelta-prep.

            European teams and riders don’t want to go anywhere near it. It’s a two-bit race in a two-bit state. Though, to be honest, it somehow managed to be better this year than the race in Colorado. Which should worry the people in Colorado.

    • I think the World Tour A and B levels idea would have helped other races join the ‘world tour’.
      If you have say 18 WT teams that are all guaranteed entrance to the Grand Tours and Monuments but the other races have greater flexibility.
      For example races such as Cali or Britain would be WT B level and only have to invite the top 8 teams. This probably suits the smaller world tour teams (who are likely to be outside the top 8) as well as they don’t have to attend as many races.
      Combine that with maybe a couple of occasions where a top team could skip a race (Movistar and Paris-Roubaix for example) I think you would have a system where sponsors get the guarantees they want, organisers have some flexibility on who to invite, and teams are stretched on rider resources.

      • are *not* stretched.
        As an example I’m thinking also Movistar (or another Spanish WT team) wouldn’t have to do something like Tour of Poland (WT race) but could then do Volta Portugal and or Vuelta Burgos which are at the same time and more in their target markets. This might also help save the Volta Portugal which I believe was a big race in the past.

  6. Inrng – I really appreciate all the articles and thoughts you create.

    Reform – Is that it?

    From a sustainability point of view cycling needs to reformed. We have read about big ideas and subsequent disagreements between the different fractions. What do we end up with? A two page press release saying the approved principles for reform?

    As Inrng has pointed the principle areas of reform including three main items
    – 3 year licenses for teams requiring minimum standards of care
    – some modification of the events classified as World Tour with the inclusion of a few more
    – new point system

    Sure the details mater, and they clearly haven’t agreed to more than principles yet.

    Where are all the real changes that need to happen?

    It sounds like the management challenges have been solved by kicking the can down the road.

    I hope that the likes of Tinkoff, Velon, BMC, RCS release some heavy opinions next week after the World Championships are over.

    Inrng – maybe, at some time in the future you can reveal more of what is going on inside the UCI, ASO, RCS… who are the major power players? How strong are the national associations from Netherlands, Belgium, UK versus France, Italy, Spain etc. Why can’t anyone step up and take control (ala Tennis, Golf, Football, NFL, NBA). Is there a good old boys greasing issue? Is this a fight about building equity values so that the a ASO, or teams can be sold off like the Ironman series to newly rich investors. Why is there so little focus on safety and Women’s cycling.

      • “Considerable”? Like “The Course by Tour de France”? That was fine enough, but quite far from “considerable”.
        As the half-botched attempt to have the parallel women Classics on air. And I think that’s the “support” part, but what about the “made by”?
        The salary situation is awful, the race situation shows a worrying dropping trend; all in all, thing may be *very slightly* better than a couple of years ago, yet they’re worse under different POVs than say some 20 years ago.
        What’s even more unsettling is that the *improving rate* is now worse than some five years ago or so. I strongly doubt that the *whole* panorama is currently one of “progress”, but even if it could be argued that “it is”, still it’s a weaker progress than what we saw in the 2000s (and that was really nothing special…). We should be seeing acceleration, not hesitation and backwards steps.

          • I may also register my views about gender equality in Italy with the Italian women who’ve been appointed as ministers (I mean, now, not with Berlusconi – which would be extremely unfair towards the UCI); yet, if I ask the women I know (or if I give a look to numbers), the situations looks quite different.
            Direct access to power is paramount for women’s right (besides being something which should be absolutely normal), but then need institutional full support and investments to take action.
            I won’t say it’s easy to change things, but to see in the current situation “considerable progress” is a bit insulting. I’m not pointing my finger on Cookson for this, and I’m ready to acknwoledge he may have slightly better intentions than the former President: yet, things are in such a tight spot compared with the potential of the sport, that “little focus” looks like a more appropriate definition than “considerable progress”.
            If neither a PFP can make a serious living directly from the sport, there’s a huge problem to be tackled.

          • May I add, on a different note, that this morning’s news (I hadn’t read it yet) is good news, albeit someway lacking depth and showing some inconsistency here and there. Nevertheless, at first sight essentially good news for women cycling. Hope it’s a first step and not something they feel content with for this year. The first would be encouraging, the latter depressing
            (a draw game with the bad news about radios – and probably weather protocol, too).

  7. It’s disappointing that calendar reform is still (apparently) off the table.

    A thought experiment that might be useful here – first, set aside the grand tours and the monuments; they’re sacrosanct, as are the Worlds.

    Now, take every other race and make them 1.HC or 2.HC.

    Then, imagine you have to create an entertaining calendar of racing, appealing to a worldwide audience, without any overlap. You have the whole run of existing HC races, plus those we’ve just relegated.

    You might surprise yourself. Strade Bianchi but no Harelbeke? Paris-Nice or Tirreno-Adriatico? Tickhill Grand Prix over Montreal? And so on.

    Of course, you’d still likely have big Latin American and African shaped holes. How great would a hilly classic in Colombia be? Or a Cape Argus style one-dayer in South Africa?

    I’m a bit more relaxed about the desert races than some. They’re actually quite absorbing at a time of year when I’m starved of cycling and a bit sick of football.

    • ‘Strade Bianchi but no Harelbeke? Paris-Nice or Tirreno-Adriatico?’ – in both cases, I’d rather have both and have an overlap (not that the first two do overlap). Don’t see the overlap as a huge problem – watch both (the technology to do this is available even to a luddite like me).

  8. Salary cap. A subject worthy of serious discussion and the UCI need to address it. All the sports that have one, have problems but none of their problems is the salary cap.

    • besides the fact that salary caps DO cause issues (artificially depress salaries, force the “breakup” of carefully assembled teams, etc.)…

      the salary caps you refer to are collectively bargained between a “league” and a “union”, they are not unilaterally imposed…

      since either a “league” nor “union” exist in cycling, any “salary cap” imposed would likely be quickly swept away by labor laws in several countries…

  9. Idle idea: Would it be feasible to ask a few extra hundred thousand from the newer, richer races (small change really) to help struggling older races (after reduction of e.g. government subsidies) to reestablish/upgrade themselves so they can all be on the WT with suitable infrastructure?

      • I don’t think that Middle East races per se are bad for the sport, but those owners are right now taking the petromoney while actively favouring the starving and death of *struggling older races*.
        Even not struggling ones, sometimes – especially when they don’t own them, thanks to their rather short-sighted view of competition (as opposed to economic ecosystem – love the Greek echo).
        And they happen to be doing no good to some of those they even own, imagine that, partly because of the effort to go Arab.

        What GB suggests would be healthy and normal – even *spontaneous* – business management, if private business worked, or healthy and normal institutional regulation, if the relation between institutions and companies worked.
        Though, if only one of the two axes generally worked, we’d live in a less troubled world.
        Since they apparently don’t, I suspect that it’s *the public* who needs to express a strong request in that direction – whether the public matters anything anymore is another interesting question.

      • Yeah, those people! 😀

        It wouldn’t have to be a gigantic amount of money, just enough to help with things like website rebuilds, paying for moto training, full safety checks before races, etc. Still a considerable amount, but small change for the very rich.

        If the sole motivation for the owners of these races (* I don’t know much about them and don’t have time to research atm) is, as commenters claim, solely to show off how rich they are, at the very least, they would get an extra ego-boost out of supporting the full gamut of races in the WT, wouldn’t they? And smaller races get money to get back on their feet after much of their funding went up in smoke after the GFC. Win-win situation!?!?

        • But it won’t happen. The rich only take care of themselves.
          No way in the world are these people going to give money to smaller races – races that will suffer further because teams will take the coin and go to the races on offer that give them more money.

          • It’d be unlikely and difficult to arrange but I wouldn’t term it impossible, with the right incentives and advocacy.

            Also, I’d add that in light of all these comments, the amount of vitriol directed at the Middle Eastern parties seems disproportionate, considering a lot of the actual issues seems to be what the European institutions do (or aren’t doing) with that money…

    • It happens in a way because RCS are making a lot of money from these new races and this is helping the company stay afloat and making the Giro and all the other races in turn more valuable, like, say the Giro del Piemonte. Same for ASO, for example it can use the Saitama Criterium in Japan to promote the Tour to a new audience all while turning a profit. However it’s not helping a small race without this support.

      • But what about the Giro dell’Emilia? It’s not RCS, hence they don’t care if they’re harming one of the most important Italian/European semiclassics. They don’t care if they’re damaging an asset of another national organiser which provides the necessary racing in Italy they don’t want to because it’s not profitable.
        Or what about the shameful delay presenting the Lombardia course, which was available less than a month before the race? Being quite a different course when compared with previous years, it might have influenced the race programme of the teams, whereas like this…
        Should we compare the Lombardia website (it doesn’t even a proper, specific website, just like Sanremo) and Abu Dhabi’s?
        They didn’t update it in a year, more or less, and the English “News” section hasn’t been updated for *three years* now. The U23 “Piccolo Giro di Lombardia”, a race organised by a small town club, has got its own website and it’s being updated way more than Lombardia’s. A Monument.
        They didn’t behave very well with Milano-Torino, either, going in and out from the race only after the Arona organisers had revitalised it with their own effort – RCS had it dead and buried, luckily an agreement was reached for three years. Arona could bring in the likes of Contador, Nibali, Valverde, Purito, Ulissi and now RCS is taking over again. But it wasn’t their effort (nor the Arab’s money) what put the race back on track.
        Much could be said about “Gran Piemonte” o__O too. Switching on and off the races out of pure short-term opportunism isn’t making them “more valuable”, feel assured.

  10. Just a correction, INRNG… the Tour of Britain’s Mick Bennett has said over and over again that they have no desire to go to WT, primarily for 2 reasons: they wouldn’t be able to have the current blend of domestic teams but also because he wants to keep the squads at 6 riders – he believes that both factors are massive contributors towards aggressive racing.

  11. I reckon the Abu Dhabi Tour will be one of the least watched (on TV, I mean) races in cycling history.
    We might watch these races in February, when we’ve been largely starved of road cycling for a few months, but when jaded in October? No chance.
    (Don’t know if they’re even showing it on TV – haven’t even bothered to check.)

  12. Reforms are essential for the reform and long term survival of the sport. Especially in the financial arena.

    We can argue until we are blue in the face about which races should or should not be included. But, unless there is financial reform, (reduced team rosters, salary caps, more equalized financial footing, and most importantly a reduced WT structure down to 12 teams with some flexibility as to how many WT events a team must participate in) then cycling will continue on its’ current chaotic path.

  13. “Like the US baseball world series”…..
    At the end of the day, the discrimination is becoming legalised. Those with deeper pockets get to ride away laughing while the rest with with potentials but not necessarily endowed with the dosh are pushed out. Since the UCI has enough scandals in the past, such a blatant discrimination in the sport is the last thing we want to see cooked under the new regime of Brian Cookson.

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