UCI World Tour Reforms v2.0

The UCI has announced a fresh set of reforms to the World Tour. Last September saw cycling’s governing body announce plans for 2017 but these prompted rebellion from race organisers with ASO, the largest of them, saying it would pull all of its races out of the 2017 World Tour and register them as HC-status events in 2017. The result is that last September’s plans have been abandoned and a press release issued today announces a new start.

Last September’s plan was to have 18 World Tour teams issued with fixed licences for three years from 2017 to 2019. This angered ASO and others because it appeared to grant – the technical details never saw the light of day – teams the right to ride events regardless of their rosters or results. For example a team owner could stop sponsorship but the ghost team could sail on for two more years with a guaranteed start in the top races even if it had lost its sponsor and, presumably because the money had gone, its marquee riders. The flipside was that a team confronted with the lost of a sponsor could stay in the game and remain a draw to potential sponsors because it retained the golden ticket of a start in the Tour de France.

All the above has been dropped. It seemed inevitable – predictable even – as no details had been published and teams were left wondering what was happening all while needing to plan rosters.

Now let’s go through the press release bit by bit:

The calendar will comprise all existing UCI WorldTour races – including those in the Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO) portfolio.

This is the big deal, ASO brings its events back into the World Tour and the stand off with the UCI ends. It would have been a farce to have a World Tour without the Tour de France, yet alone the Vuelta, Paris-Roubaix and other prize events. Yes the “World Tour” is a misnomer but it represents the prime calendar in the sport teams would question the utility of a licence if it didn’t deliver a start in the biggest races.

the UCI WorldTour will welcome a number of other events in 2017 which will be awarded initial three-year licences. The full 2017 UCI WorldTour calendar, which will be announced shortly, features a wide range of top-level races that will further globalise the UCI WorldTour and strengthen the season-long narrative.

News emerged today that the Dwars door Vlaanderen race will join the World Tour next year but another race in Belgium is not expanding the World Tour in the way we might imagine above. It’s likely instead that the Abu Dhabi Tour gets promoted and the Surrey Classic race in the UK too. Perhaps the Tour of California and the new Deutschland Tour will join in as the sport tries to plug missing gaps in the market too.

The number of UCI WorldTeams will be set at 17 for 2017, with the objective to reach 16 a year later

Normally there are 18 teams but IAM Cycling have confirmed they’re going (and any faint embers of hope seemed to get extinguished during the Tour of Switzerland) and it seems very likely that Tinkoff will not find a replacement, if so this reduces the World Tour down to 16 teams. Bora-Argon 18 are said to be lined up to take the spot and there’s even talk of Specialized replacing Argon 18 and Peter Sagan coming across. If so here is our 17 for 2017. 16 for 2018 is an objective, not a certainty.

From the end of the 2018 season onwards, there will be an annual challenge system, based on an overall annual sporting classification, between the last ranked UCI WorldTeam and the top Pro Continental Team to enter as a UCI WorldTeam in the following season

This “annual challenge system” sounds like a promotion relegation system as seen in many European sports, eg football leagues. “Sporting classification” means the UCI rankings and so the worst World Tour team will be ejected from the World Tour team and replaced by the best Pro Conti team. Makes sense, no? Only the best Pro Conti team right now is Direct Energie and while the French team is having a great time with Bryan Coquard they’d be incapable of coping with promotion and having to compete in three grand tours, simultaneous stage races and all other demands, they’d have to find a new sponsor. In other words promotion comes with known costs as well as certain benefits.

In the event that a UCI WorldTeam drops out of the top tier, that team will have the right to participate in all the following season’s UCI WorldTour events

If the “annual challenge system” does put relegate a World Tour team they still have the right to do all the big races, just not the obligation. This is a form of soft-landing, they may be ejected from the World Tour but can still remain a fixture and of course hold that golden ticket for the Tour de France in July.

for new UCI WorldTour events, participation rules which will ensure that a minimum of 10 UCI WorldTeams take part

This is interesting as it means the new World Tour events are elective. Hopefully all the teams want to ride but if the opposite is true it’ll be curious to see how the UCI forces ten teams to start.

No wonder Prudhomme is smiling

There’s only a press release to go on for now but it’s confirmation that 2017 will look a lot like recent years. The contentious part of the previous set of UCI reforms haven’t just been dropped or cropped out, they’ve been reversed. Instead of fixed year licences the talk is of promotion and relegation.

Not everything announced last September has been binned, the pledge to incorporate new races in the World Tour continues and hopefully the “Cahier des Charges” element remains, this is a charter of standards for teams and their operational requirements covering support and supervision.

To repeat a familiar refrain the UCI has to govern by consensus and can only embark on reforms if all parties sign up. Without ASO the proposed World Tour was doomed and once again it seems everyone is now onboard with the new system. Today’s press release contained attributed quotes but none from the teams or their association but they’re all part of the Professional Cycling Council, the joint committee between the teams and the UCI that issued the statement.

34 thoughts on “UCI World Tour Reforms v2.0”

  1. Great summary again… if only the UCI would use such skills to try and fix what isn’t broken. Relegation means the ability to compete without paying the top dollar fees. Promotion means being forced to pay more…
    The whOle point of being a WT classes race is it forces the top teand to participate…except the new races. What a load of crap UCI

  2. Will the promotion/relegation system be based on the new world rankings or the worldtour (and whatever the pro conti one’s called) rankings?
    Thanks for a concise round up.

    • There’s no more detail for now other than the press release. Worth noting last September’s announced reforms had similar headline suggestions but the actual details never saw the light of day in the UCI rulebook/guidelines etc. Hopefully the UCI can offer some more details on this sooner rather than later.

    • It’s not clear. There’s talk they take over Lampre-Merida, or they start on a lower level and count on Nibali and other recruits to guarantee wildcard invites. More will become clear when the team makes its presentation on the Tour de France rest day. Formally the team has yet to apply to the UCI to race next year.

  3. This is a form of soft-landing, they may be ejected from the World Tour but can still remain a fixture and of course hold that golden ticket for the Tour de France in July.
    It seems like it’s a recipe to crush the average WT rider salary. (Average, not consistent WT podium)

    So, there are 16 teams for 201$X.
    201$X starts with 16 and let’s imagine one falls out save for their “golden ticket.”
    201$X+1 and now there are 16 + 1 soft landing. Let’s imagine another team falls out for whatever reason.
    201$X+2 and 16 + 2 soft landing for the TdF. The field is getting pretty big, no?

    • As it is phrased above, the Soft landing only ensures participation rights for the season right after relegation. So 201$X+2 again has only 16+1 teams, right?

    • You’re right but it’s the principle, no longer can a team get a spot for three years, now it can get relegated, have the right to ride next year and then in the third they’re potentially out of the Tour for good.

      • There seems to be a conflict between the ASO (and other race owners perhaps) and team sponsors. As I read these comments and rumors, it might seem that investing in races just got safer but investing in teams just got riskier.

  4. Last September’s plan to have 3 year fixed licences have not been reversed totally:
    “UCI WorldTeams will be given a two-year licence for the 2017 and 2018 seasons” and with the right to enter the World Tour races for one more year even for the relegated team: “UCI WorldTeams will have stability for the three seasons 2017 to 2019”

    • I read that to mean that the soft landing wasn’t permanent but just for the 1st round of relegation. This is how it has been reported elsewhere. Are these dates mere examples or the limit of this part of the agreement?

  5. You have to wonder what goes on in the offices in Aigle. Stuff like – “OK, how many teams might pony up to join the new version of Heinie’s Folly? 17 instead of 18? OK, then the World Tour will consist of…..17 teams. We don’t want that 17 teams fighing over 18 spots fiasco again, do we boys? And if you do badly enough as a team to end up at the bottom of the heap, your punishment will be the right to do all the events like the big teams (if you like) but you’ll get to spend less money doing it. Take THAT you slackers!
    We’re really taking the sport to the next level here aren’t we? Get Prudhoome on the horn so we can ask if this is OK with ASO. It is? Great! Champagne all around!”

    • It’s embarrassing to do the U-turn but the real embarrassment was surely the stalemate before this, to launch a big reform without support of one of key players looked, to put it kindly, risky. As mentioned above it shows the UCI isn’t that powerful, it can only coordinate and work with others to find consensus.

  6. Tour of germany? Walking on water wasnt made in a day. There are still strong political forces against depart in Duesseldorf. Aso and Thomas Geisel need to be very creative. The municipal parties CDU and FDP basicly try to destroy sponsorships to force new eclections in town. So the “Aso takes Deutschland plan” will take time. Deutschland Tour will probably not take place before 2018

    • The Düsseldorf start is set, the contracts are signed, it’s hard to see this stopping. The Deutschland Tour could be blocked but what is the (political) interest in stopping the revival of a bike race?

    • “To force new elections in town”? This is simply impossible. In Nordrhein-Westfalen – the state of Düsseldorf – town elections are held every 5 years. Full stop. Nobody can force an anticipated vote. The town council is no parliament of a state or the federation.

  7. I would have liked to have seen what professional cycling would have looked like with ASO races at HC status.

    I’m not impressed with the “soft landing”. With the impending, seemingly inevitable, global economic slump, this option will be exercised and create more problems than it solve. I don’t understand what’s wrong with “if you can’t pay, you can’t play”.

    In the end though, there’s going to be some bike racing. There is going to be some great riders retiring and some younger riders winning great races. And, maybe, a little bit of soap opera silliness as well.

  8. My head hurts… between this and Brexit and I have no idea what Europe is doing.

    The relegation system is too complicated. You’re relegated but yet you’re not relegated…

    • I think the UCI are trying to keep everyone happy. They know that teams often signed three year deals to provide at least some stability to their organisation. My belief is ASO are the pantomime villains here. ASO seem intent on ensuring their own events and not growing cycling as a whole , they are also resolute in denying teams any type of regular income via profit sharing agreements , though I do concede that there may not be that much profit to be shared around when you consider ASO has to support other loss making races.

      • What makes you think that cycling should grow? And, how is ASO not helping? They are bigger and stronger and better than ever; reviving the Deutschland Tour and growing the Vuelta a Columbia.

        What has the UCI done lately? Besides a lot of fruitless fanfare over searching for electric bikes.

  9. One minor and side issue: didn’t Argon 18 announce a three-year sponsorship starting from 2015?
    But well anyway, there could be a get-out clause in the contract or both parties could choose to mutually agree, especially if Specialized bring more (and better) dollars, or Specialized could simply buy Argon 18 out, especially if the latter has deemed that it has already got what it wanted from the sponsorship, or, perhaps more likely, that the sponsorship hasn’t given them what they expected.

    • Might end up like when the Big-S outbid TIME to supply bikes to Patrick Lefevere’s squad, meaning Boonen, Bettini, etc. all got new bikes. some of which were the wrong size or simply didn’t fit…causing some scrambling around while new molds were created.

  10. I find it odd that Dwars Door Vlaanderen has been upgraded to world tour, it’s probably the least interesting of the cobbled semi classics. I’d have promoted Omloop if any, or even better dropped E3 and promoted Strade Bianche. They should have got rid of GP Ouest France in favour of Paris-Tours too.

    • Totally agree, both Omloop and Strade Bianche are miles better than DDV. I’d like to have seen SB promoted as it’s a little different from the others. I find DDV a bit dull, if it hadn’t been for Coquard’s mistake this year I doubt I would’ve even remembered who won.

      • I expect Omloop and Strade didn’t want to. Even with a 16 team WT these races would be limited others they could invite. Both these races obviously want to maintain local teams.
        I think WT needs to adopt the 2 tier level. Only the GT and monuments for all 16. Others maybe top 8/10 teams plus choice of organisers.
        This would also help attract pro-conti teams to step up. They get the big invites but don’t have to fund all the other races

    • Just before any more people waste thoughts on this subject: Strade Bianchi and OHN both applied to WT-starus and have been added to WT two days ago.

  11. Great summary. Kind of bugs me that to dig to the truth behind the reform, sponsors and team directors have to read between the lines of all the UCI redtape.

  12. UCI just needs a new administration. Plain and simple. They have shown year after year that they are incapable of unifying a great sport and simplifying and refining rules, telecast rights, licencing, etc. And as a result a sport loved globally is constantly in the poor house. I can’t even pay to watch a lot of races legally.

    I know people don’t like the format of the TDU much in such that it is hardly a ‘tour’ but if you look at how it is marketed and packaged as a holiday event and tied in with the food and wine regions, fondo type events. Has a people”s classic criterium to kick off. You can see how viable cycling is. Same way in that SBS bundles up it’s TDF coverage with highlights, cooking segments and facts about france and you see so many people in Australia that don’t follow cycling love watching the TDF.

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