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.
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).
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.