On Calendar Reform

Should the pro cycling calendar be changed? Sure, and events can move dates like the Vuelta a España going from April to August. New races can appear, think of the Tour Colombia or the upcoming Strade Bianche. Should the pro cycling calendar be reformed? Oh yes, after all who is against reform?

Pro cycling has a complicated calendar with more days of racing in a year than actual days. It’s complex in other ways, with confusing blocks of racing at times, the branding of different tiers of event and more. A lot of this is ripe for reform and it’s coming. But easier said than done and be careful what you wish for.

At a glance the season starts in Australia, migrates to the Middle-East and then starts a long journey around Europe, starting in the south before moving north for the spring classics and then literally touring entire countries before a peripatetic World championships, the end of season in Italy and a finale in China. Sort of.

One of the ideas behind calendar reform is to make these movements more coherent, both in terms of narrative and logistics. For the latter, there’s the aim to reducing the sport’s carbon tiretracks. Indeed when F1 looked at its emissions, forget the 20 cars roaring around the track, the big contributor was freighting the cars and support. Pro cycling is likely to be the same, as many cars as there might be in a race convoy, chances are getting everyone and the vehicles to the start and then going back at the finish could be more expensive. The sport isn’t a travelling circus either that moves around together, the February Middle-Eastern section isn’t much of a stopover from Australia to Europe either but a series of return shuttles from Europe. So trying to make the calendar more cohesive geographically requires more work to really cut into emissions.

The sport could well be travelling more in the future, not less. As Bora-hansgrohe team boss Ralph Denk told an audience in Austria the other day, the sport needs races in new places. A genuine World Tour would be more global with racing in the USA, Japan, Colombia, and why not India and Indonesia too? “Where” is easier than “how”. The sport has rushed into the Gulf countries because they pay lucrative hosting fees; it’s easy to imagine a big new stage race in Saudi Arabia than it is in the USA, Japan or Colombia despite the former having almost no cycling fans and the latter countries having plenty more. But going where hosting fees are rather than the audiences and consumer markers are different things, organisers might like one, sponsors another.

Also the “World Tour” might conjure up global travel but pro cycling has some gaps in its core of Western Europe. Germany, Europe’s most populous and richest country, has a slim calendar while races in Britain are vanishing rather than flourishing. Tennis or Formula 1 can establish new events much more easily than cycling. So for our World Tour, fixing geographic gaps is as much about visiting Berlin as it is Bangalore, London as well as Los Angeles.

Even if the sport can establish these new top down races to create a marketable portfolio of events likely to satisfy global consumer brands, this probably means scrapping existing races. A marketing consultant who looked at cycling for the first time would quickly identify saturation in some places. Are there not too many World Tour races in Italy (Strade Bianche, Tirreno-Adriatico, Milan-Sanremo, the Giro and Lombardia) but who wants to delete or downgrade these events, and would organisers RCS go along with it? Likewise Belgium is a small market but has with nine World Tour races, several of which are quasi-identical (to newcomers), are they left untouched? None of this means binning the Giro or Ronde, but other races could be “reviewed”. There will be winners and losers.

Another big issue is that of overlapping races. This can feel like oversupply of the product and scarcity will create value, our proverbial marketing consulant would spot this quickly too. The thinking is the audience doesn’t know where to turn to but that might be true for some, maybe you. But the biggest segment of the TV audience is in the home nation. When Paris-Nice and Tirreno-Adriatico clash there just isn’t a ready international audience hesitating which race to watch, the big numbers are in France and Italy respectively for each race. The rest, the global audience is great but fans like you and I can probably channel hop and enjoy two races, twice as much content. Still if things were less perplexing maybe a global audience could grow as the sport becomes less complex, but this fix doesn’t feel transformational. Plus we’re likely to see World Tour calendar clashes scrapped but probably not the WT get total exclusivity, maybe there will a .Pro or .1 rated race on.

Calendar clashes aren’t accidental. Take Tirreno-Adriatico and Paris-Nice, the whole point is they’re held at the same time. In the past Italian pros were jealous of their French peers who enjoyed a solid week-long stage race just before the spring classics and so Tirreno was created. Stop the overlap and only some riders get the racing block they crave. Similarly the Tour of the Basque Country coexists perfectly with the Ronde-Scheldeprijs-Roubaix week precisely because each path suits different body types in the sport (and yes Sean Kelly was an exception). Stop this and there’s the second order effect where if squads don’t have to compete on multiple fronts then they don’t need as many riders on their books. That could be good for team budgets but it’s more likely to see riders out of work while the surplus money bids up wages for the top talent… unless there’s some kind of budget/salary mechanism embedded but this alone is a big issue to resolve. In short: do one thing on the calendar and there’s a domino effect on employment, wages and so on and these need to be attended to as well.

Here’s a question worthy of a thesis: are men’s and women’s pro cycling complementary or competing products? It’s possible to be both, for example Strade Bianche or Flèche Wallonne can work on the same day, the men’s Tour de France and Giro d’Italia Women don’t work together in July. But this needs resolving too because if you want to reform the men’s World Tour calendar it ought to be done in the light of the women’s World Tour too. Again there’s a cascade effect here, start adjusting one thing and you impact other corners.

One thing to confront is altering the Tour de France’s July slot: it’s not happening. You can understand the concept of moving it in order to have the decisive, settle-the-argument contest at the end of the season. But it’s not something that gets moved so easily, it works so well because it happens in the height of summer when many in France and beyond are on holiday. Yes it was held in September once because of the pandemic but that’s the exception that proves the rule, it’s such a part of the French socio-cultural landscape that it won’t be moved unless plague or brimstone obliges it and when racing resumed in 2020 the calendar was built around the Tour’s resumption.

Staying with the grand tours, could they be reduced to two weeks? Movistar team boss Eusebio Unzue gently floated this idea the other day. Surely nobody would vote to reduce the Tour de France, it can be 80% of the sport’s media exposure so shrinking this is telling team and event sponsors alike they’ll lose close to 30% of their visibility. It doesn’t make sense, you’d have to have some event that the whole world was waiting to tune in for. Easier said than done. Similarly, what about the Giro and Vuelta, two weeks anyone? Again this would be asking organisers RCS and ASO to cut their product by one third, like telling a restaurateur that they have to stop three course meals and can only serve two courses and it’s on them if the takings are down. TV rights for three weeks of content are surely worth significantly more than two? Again there would both have to be a good reason for it, lucrative substitute events presumably underwritten by seven figure amounts of petrodollars. It could even get political backlash, the Italian government is moving closer to the Giro these days and won’t take well to seeing their event reduced.

One other issue to raise is on what authority are the changes made? The UCI sets the calendar but as everyone knows it’s not all powerful. As you’ve probably read here before, as a metaphor for power remember it’s based in small offices behind a retail park in in the Swiss countryside. It just rule by diktat. Instead changes tend to happen when all sides are on board, this creates a moral authority to proceed. Race organisers big and small would have to buy in to reform, the teams and broadcasters. Fans? Nobody seems to be asking for the time being, television producers are sort of the proxy.

Easier said than done. “Reform” sounds like something everyone wants but start to explore the things involved and it’s not so easy, adjust one thing with good intentions and it risks unintended downsides elsewhere, there can be winners and losers. It’s like a game of Mikado, only instead of sticks of wood are cherished events, jobs, marketing decisions and team budgets. The piece above isn’t meant to say don’t touch it, the calendar like the sport itself will always evolve and this can be gradual at times, then sudden. But good reform requires consideration and planning, and to get all sides on board. Which is why it’s probably taking so long.

126 thoughts on “On Calendar Reform”

  1. In long…

    ‘Coherent calendar’ – the supposed ‘incoherence’ is one of things that makes cycling so interesting – much more interesting than having some sort of league, etc., etc.
    Simplifying this is not some magic wand that will make cycling more popular.
    Cycling will never be very popular. It’s a slow sport. If that popularity was going to happen, it would have happened by now.
    This is why it’s pointless – and meritless – to try to force countries around the world to like cycling. They’re not interested. And that’s fine. There is no reason to make cycling a ‘global sport’ – the people who are constantly pushing this idea are the people who want to make money from this, and those who have been duped into believing ‘global is good’ without actually putting any thought into it.
    Calendar changes work well when they happen because the new race is popular: hence, Strade Bianche has been a huge success, whereas I still don’t know the name of the race in China.
    If Britons, Indians, Americans and Indonesians aren’t interested in cycling – and they aren’t – that’s fine.
    It’s not in any way bigoted to keep cycling in its countries of core interest.
    Indians aren’t trying to force the French to like cricket.
    It’s not down to largely white Europeans to spread their sport around the globe. If others are interested in cycling, let them grow their own races in their own time.
    The result of this would be losing races we love to have them replaced with races we don’t care about, in countries that don’t care about them.

    Personally, I’d move the Vuelta later – it would be less hot and if there was a larger gap between the TdF and the Vuelta, the Vuelta might seem like more of treat and less of a chore. But that could just be me. People might be more likely to go for the trifecta, though.

    A two-week grand tour is not a grand tour. Anyone who needs that explaining to them doesn’t understand the sport. (Or is only concerned with cash.) The difference in stamina required between two and three weeks is too obvious to even go into.

    Environmental – get rid of the races in the Middle East and China. It’s largely sports-washing, and almost nobody in those countries (or outside of them) is interested in the races.
    The reason for having these races is purely financial. And not much of that money goes into the sport, it seems. But the sport does not need more money – more money doesn’t make something better.
    I often read people saying that it is ‘disgraceful’ that top cyclists don’t earn as much as top footballers, etc. Really? Five million Euros a year isn’t enough?
    It says a lot about our society that ordinary people are so concerned about the financial state of the very wealthy – not to mention that they don’t question what those footballers earn.

    The driving force behind those who – incessantly, and for decades – demand change is money. Nothing but money.

    Ruin the calendar and people like me will stop watching. Will anyone replace us?

    • Worlds soon after the TdF (as in 2023), Vuelta later. This surely creates some issues (the Vuelta would no longer coincide with school holidays, I suppose) but perhaps brings more people to the worlds.
      The consultants’ mindset is a very real issue in so many sectors (writing this from a large public University that has very much been shaped/warped by these approaches…).

    • To add to this, and reiterate the point – we often see comments along the lines of Ralph Denk’s above (“cycling needs new races in new places”) but nobody who makes these comments ever seems to explain why! Other than perhaps some vague link to “economic stability”…why does cycling, a sport that has a series of established races, with rich history & cultural significance, and a loyal fanbase, need new races in new places?

      I get that running a team is difficult and more stable finances would be an all-round positive thing. But I don’t understand how the sport benefits in the long term from forcing itself into parts of the world that have no interest in it…

      I wonder does this happen in other sports? Do team managers in American Football pine for extra income from Europe and Asia? Do the Swiss & Norwegians have plans to expand alpine skiing into central Africa? Is there a One-Kibaddi project happening in India? I suspect not…

      • Take Denk, he’d love to see Bora advertised in new places, to have Hansgrohe staff in other places have VIP away days with the team at a race and so on. Cycling can do this in a way that other sports can’t.

        But I’d say there are places where there’s a big interest in the sport where it doesn’t go, and places where there’s little interest where it does go, as mentioned above the latter pay very big hosting fees.

      • American Football hops to London all the time. Even taking up the whole Regent’s street. Winter sport is very much booming in China and rest of the far east. So I guess the answer is yes.

    • +1
      Chapeu. Very well put Sir, and case closed.
      Petrodollars, football thinking and state and general sport washing will kill the soul of cycling that so many of us love.

    • +1 Amen
      no one needs races in places where the actual people who live there don’t want to see it. It makes no sense other than generate more money for already rich folks.

    • i think a key point to this argument in our modern time is that “[it’s] not down to largely white Europeans to spread their sport around the globe.” why are we so intent on expanding a very expensive sporting pastime to places that didn’t ask for it? obviously financial reasons, but with the walls of colonialism still standing around the world it would be morally wise to understand this ethical aspect of the argument and recognize the white-settler undertones intrinsically associated with words like “expansion into new markets” when those new markets appear predominantly in the global south.

      areas that ask for support should be supported, not brought to watch the spectacle of white europeans competing on expensive machinery.

      • I realise I stirred the pot here and my own posts for reform have pushed others to a more extreme view of keep cycling as it is and I think J Evans turning the notion of ‘sharing cycling’ to something akin to colonialism or at least missionary work is a smart and persuasive argument that I can understand why people agree with.

        I obviously disagree, and would, as others here have, cite the USA, Rwanda, Eritrea, Japan, Australia, Colombia, even the UK and many other places with fervent cycling fans who would like to enjoy in-person meaningful races where they got to see their heroes in action that meant something rather than warm up or secondary races – but the truth is, this is not likely the best time or place for this discussion and that’s clearly partly my own fault for not realising that a niche cycling blog will always attract the most passionate fans who are more likely to see any change as stealing the thing they love.

        My view is that change is always inevitable, especially in an era of giant social upheaval with today’s technological leaps, and if you aren’t part of the conversation for positive change then you are likely to get the worst of all outcomes.

        But that doesn’t mean it’s not right to reconsider or think over impassioned beliefs, as I will, as no-one can always be wholly right or wholly wrong and the One Cycling projects links to Saudi money has unfortunately muddied the waters as no fan, including me, wants to be part of a grand sports washing project.

        In truth it is likely that there is a middle ground between everyone’s views and it’s best to focus on what either side have in common rather than disagree on which I will when posting in future on this topic here.

        For me at least, all the arguments of greed, selfishness, misguided altruism that get thrown either way are nothing more than that, arguments – when if you drill down it’s likely to be a mix of a little of each for anyone’s motives and opinions, whether commenters here or current managers pushing for change – as I believe you can be both selfishly pushing for a bigger slice of the pie (even if the money in cycling will always be negligible) and caring for riders struggling on short term and precarious contracts…

        The idea of both is key and why it should be a pleasant conversation to find common ground between all sides – as I do believe it is possible to have a sport that gives long term European fans the races they know and love in their current forms and fans further afield, both men and women, a chance to truly take part while making it easier for new fans to adopt the sport.

        The growth in women’s cycling to me shows positive change and progress is always possible.

        Conversely I think we as fans should listen to those with a real working knowledge of professional cycling whether that’s Plugge and the case for One Cycling, or journalists noting the weakness of the overall package that last years most successful team would so struggle to find a sponsor that they felt the need to consider pinching a rival’s, or even Marc Madiot stating ‘cycling has to do better or be devoured by other sports’ in relation to last years transfer chaos – https://www.cyclingnews.com/news/marc-madiot-warns-cycling-has-to-do-better-or-it-will-be-devoured-by-other-sports/

        In short I think we can all listen to each others frustrations but more importantly enthusiasm for the sport to work out what the best version of a decade from now is which I hope those with the real power currently discussing the sports future are doing.

        As for carbon footprint and eco concern’s – I have no answer nor an idea of how any sport can vaguely begin to help before governments come to any kind of consensus which similar to a satisfactory outcome for all side to the above conversation feels like pie in the sky.

        • There’s a reason that only the people whose ancestors were colonisers have this ‘We just help them’ attitude. The, albeit well-intentioned, psychology of this is obvious, and backed up by a lot of research.

          • That is absolutely not what I am saying.

            I also think it is clearly not and there will be other readers who are aware how simplistic it is to equate the idea of sharing with like minded fans or growing a sport to colonialism but I understand why people agree and think it’s best to move on, I made my points and can see the idea has taken hold so will only be shouted down for pointing out anything contrary.

            I would prefer to concentrate on a shared love of cycling rather than anything else as this seems to be the most contentious topic there is on INRNG, so I was surprised to even see this post and held off commenting!

            Thank you as always for insightful and enjoyable writing INRNG.

          • oldDAVE, my – accidentally anonymous – post was 0% sarcastic.
            It is clearly a sub-conscious hangover of colonial superiority that so many white liberals still think that non-whites need or want their help.

        • I don’t think the views people have posted here are extreme.
          Nor do I see any reason that those people would have been pushed towards those views by whatever you have previously said on the subject.
          Isn’t it far more likely that these people have decades of experience of watching cycling and have come to similar conclusions because it’s fairly obvious that these changes have nothing to do with what is good for the sport?

          • It’s fine J Evans. We can agree to disagree. I guess in my mind labelling anyone who disagrees as a white liberal is a tiny bit of a giving away to the subtext of your opinion but I hope we can both enjoy this blog and season together here without dragging this out further.

          • oldDAVE, you’re still wrong. What I have actually said is not what you claim I’ve said. They’re not the same thing. In much the same way that people’s views here are not a reaction to what you have previously said.

            It’s not all about you.

          • You are right, I should have said you specifically rather than people as we have had this conversation before and given that it was was as unfortunately heated then as it is now, it seemed logical to assume it had some influence given how quickly you jumped into this debate with the same points you made then.

            I did too so this is no way said to cause offence.
            Really can we not find a way to end this conversation on a nice note?

            I’ve long read and enjoyed as well agreed with your posts and I find the tone of these conversations quite upsetting especially as we both like the same thing, would likely get along IRL and should find a way to find common ground?

          • Dave, nothing I think or say has anything to do with you, or what you have said. I form my own views, like you do.
            I don’t even remember this conversation your talking about, and haven’t checked back on it.
            You seem to misunderstand almost everything I write, so let’s just give up, with no hard feelings.

        • @oldDave, I just want to say I appreciate your long, thoughtful response here, and I wholeheartedly agree with the points you make. I also appreciate the gentle and conciliatory tone you’ve taken, which is all too rare in internet disagreements.

    • +1 though I probably wouldn’t stop watching unless the sport became as boring as F1 or they started making me pay to watch on a video screen at home on my couch.
      But it comes down to the same old question – what is WRONG that needs to be “fixed” and how will those fixes actually improve things…and for whom?

  2. I’m all for reducing the carbon footprint. But let’s be honest about where the emirates and others get their money from. Cycling loves money, so the riders will gladly sell their souls to ride for a country that violates basic human rights and drills for oil. Because money talks.

    So let’s get real. This is all about the money as well. Changing the calendar is talk coming from everyone except ASO – they all want a piece of the ever growing TV-rights cake, but it’s never going to happen.

    And all Unzue’s nonsense is laughable. We all know if you could swap in a rider in week three, teams would find a way to use it strategically and thus ruin the race with fresh riders. And to reduce the race to two weeks is even worse. It would mean we don’t have any grand tours left – because a two week race is not a grand tour.

    Oh man, I’m getting old and cranky! Sorry fellas

    • Most often things like this would lead to dumbing down our beautiful sport. “It’s too complicated. People don’t understand everything.” So teach them.
      All that stuff is part of the beauty of it.
      They already dumbed down track racing.
      No more taking a lap in the points race. “How can someone be winning a pts race w less points??”
      They took a lap, so they’re ahead no matter what.
      Too hard to understand?? Now you get points for taking a lap. Whatever
      And Keirin racing w no contact?? Keirin is all about contact.
      So now we want substitutes in stage racing?
      It’s sacrilege!!

    • just a small thing on Unzue, Watts – listening to the Cycling Podcast they noted that the way it was quoted in the media was not the way Unzue had spoken and it was more a mulling/friendly chat that had been taken out of context by the journalist than Unzue stating his vision for something he was passionate about, Daniel Friebe felt sorry for him that it had brought the backlash it had.

  3. Personally, my advice to anybody who was keen to listen be it only for one second to any “proverbial consultant” would be to start by reading Mariana Mazzucato if you’re inclined towards the academic approach or Walt Bogdanich if you prefer investigative journalism, just to name a couple of very-very-top-profile figures who might suggest a legitimate doubt about “the consultant’s” mindset and methods. But what do they know…? ^___^

    (Yes, I got that the piece above wasn’t about promoting those consultant-style ideas, rather comparing different angles)

    • The outsider, the “management consultant”, will want to simplify, streamline and commoditise things, it can apply to a factory floor, an office but also sport, one indoor tennis tournament is a lot like another and past attempts at breakaway leagues had plans for a series of long weekend stage races with one sprint stage, one time trial and one hilly stage but it sounded artificial like an airplane meal. One of the charms of cycling is its complications and subtlety, a mix of local ingredients.

      • admittedly also there are bad consultants and good consultants like any walk of life…

        self criticism and help from objective voices can be as important to individual athletes as it is to large business – as othersteve says below, you can’t throw the baby out with the bath water – there will be smart consultants who give healthy advice along with nightmare consulting monsters who ruin everything from the ground up.

          • Just to be clear, I wasn’t saying I’m a fan of consultants, every instinct in me agrees with you and INRNG in the above – I’m just sure there are good and bad like with all things and there’s likely some reading this blog so it’s a little mean to denigrate the whole industry. I’m sure there’s a long reply explaining it to me incoming, I was only saying there’s got to be a little balance as they can’t all be rotten to the core… but I guess I’m gonna have to read these bloody books now… googling dutifully now… slave to the comment section grind…

          • The problem here, I think, is that the word ‘consultant’ means a lot of different things. I’ve been a consultant many times to people or companies that aren’t nearly as experienced as I am in certain fields. I’ve gotten consultations myself, sometimes to great benefit. If one takes ‘consultant’ to mean McKinsey-style corporate profit-driven toxicity, then yes, it’s shitty and almost certainly not something that would be good for cycling. But that’s just one type of consulting. For example, Mariana Mazzucato is a consultant, among other things. Since she consults to and for governments and government agencies, she gets the title of ‘advisor’, but it amounts to the same thing (i.e., professionally giving expert advice to entities that one does not directly control).

  4. I really don’t see anything immutable about the Grand Tour format … 20 race days, two rest days and a parade/sprint day. The TdF has the plum spot in the calendar and it is unlikely to change.
    For the other two the three weekend idea appeals to me. You could have fewer but longer stages, only one rest day. Things like that could make for a bit of variety.

    • A bit of variety? o__O
      The three GTs never had that much in common, besides being 3 weeks long, so “variety” is not an issue you need to improve. Just check how few athletes *ever* won the three of them (in their whole career).

      (Even less so if you take Froome away as he really never won the Vuelta ^__^!)

      If anything, it’s true that in very recent years a mix of trends is making them more akin among them. But we’re speaking of 5-6 editions… and nevertheless nobody is yet so hugely close to get the three of them (Roglic needs a TDF, not an easy task, Bernal a Vuelta but he’d need to get back to before the accident, Pogi and Vinge might well make it but they’re still with TDF only, be it only until May, if…). Even if we’re speaking of excellent stage racers, top absolute level, no doubt, variety is granted by the magnitude and broad extension of the task.

  5. It gets ever more expensive and difficult to organise a race. More government regulations, more police, more traffic management. Over time the weaker funded races will fold just like in places like the tour of California and Britain. Even races which seem a better funded are on a razors edge. Middle east races, tour down under are one new governments decision away from folding. And governments nearly always eventually decide on different priorities.
    This is probably required to some degree. There are probably to many races for modern costs in some places if you include the lower races. There are no lucrative TV rights to pay for the race. A lot of races will be lucky if they could get live coverage without having to pay for it. Allowing the weak ones to fall over means there will be better funding opportunities for the remaining.

  6. I have literally zero interest in watching races outside of Europe. I’ve never even started my Europsport or GCN subscription until Omloop. In fact, the only race I’ve ever watched from outside of Europe was the start of the Giro in Israel. Europe IS cycling.

    • You’re missing out. Europe has plenty of great races – and its share of events that don’t set the pulse racing – but the Tour Colombia looks amazing, if it could have better TV production it’d be even better. An enhanced Tour of Japan could have some stunning scenery and a way for the country to show off its rural scenery to the world. The Rwanda Worlds should be lively etc etc

  7. My list if the cuts are needed in WT:
    Tour Down Under, Cadel Evans Race, UAE Tour, Brugge-De Panne, Eschborn-Frankfurt, Tour de Pologne, Benelux Tour, BEMER Cyclassics, GP Québec, GP Montréal, Guangxi

    I’m not saying these are bad, but cutting any Italian WT race before these, c’mon.

    • The irony is that reform probably means existing races in Belgium and Italy are first to be chopped while many of the races you don’t like are ones in places where the sport wants to put down roots: Australia, Germany, Poland, Canada, China etc.

    • Burgge – De Panne is one of the prime, if not *the* echelon race (thanks to the unique geography of De Panne), a much loved aspect of the sport where there are just a few races that almost guarantee them. Italy has no specific races known for echelons at all. Even in flat stages in the Giro there never seem to be echelons.

      • Oh, the Giro has had some great echelon stages, think 2010… in the Netherlands ^___^

        Italy has very few specific area with strong winds and they aren’t easy to insert in a route (think Puglia).

  8. “that it won’t be moved unless plague or brimstone obliges it”

    That plague is already there: climate change. Southern France could well become just too hot to race safely in July and northern France lacks high mountains. And it is just not the riders safety, but also think of the spectators who stand outside for hours, sometimes foolishly cooling themselves by drinking cold beers. One or two major accidents or stages that have to be cancelled in a short time and those seemingly set in stone dates might shift.

    • In the interview with Tour boss Prudhomme mentioned in this week’s “Shorts”, he mentions this and how they’re already looking for climbs that might have more woodland shade, but he said that Northern France isn’t necessarily much cooler. It can reach >40°C in Dunkerque as well although obviously the average temperature north vs. south is different. But I think we’d have to see holidays change before the Tour changes, the audience moving so the sport follows them.

    • Lockdowns of sort due to extreme temperatures have already become reality last year in some Southern USA State or in the Canary Islands last Autumn (normally not that hot irrespective of the season). As with the protests in Andalucía these days, the problem might be impossibility to grant support by police forces and ambulances.

    • I distinctly remember the Australian tennis open being regularly so hot that it was an embarrassment that it was held in January (Ivan Lendl was always very displeased with it). It seems like the distant past now.
      It does seem that there is a difference between northern and southern hemispheres but all of the climate disaster predictions of decades ago have simply evaporated. Margaret Thatcher promoted it because she wanted to shut down the coal industry in the UK but now it is simply the visible signs of the western world having a nervous breakdown.

      • Margaret thatcher did not close the UK coal industry to combat global warming but to shrink the state and break the power of the trade unions.

      • You are either sadly misinformed or deliberately avoiding every credible report on global warming, which unfortunately is trending along the top end of the range of predictions.

        • Read what I said which was concerns about global warming were not thatchers reasons for closing the UK coal industry. That may be what is bandied about by her tory apologists now, but it was not her argument at the time which was UK coal is not price competitive on the world market.

          • The Thatcher remark was flippant (a bit like Boris Johnson’s I suppose) but the fact remains that she endorsed the establishment of the IPCC and spoke on support of the climate change mantra to both the Royal Society and the UN.
            It was only in 2002 that she did a U-turn on allof this.

  9. Seems more likely the races will change rather than the calendar. The proliferation of street furniture, increasing housing, residents not prepared to accept the disruption, and the cost of hosting is all likely to have an increasing effect on the shape of the races.

  10. Having got onto cycling off the back of the 2012 TdF and Olympics one of the things I enjoyed the most was discovering the complexity and history of the sport. The calender and model is built on years to history. This was a fascinating area that dew me in further.

    Sometimes people think new audiences are stupid and can’t follow the sport due to it’s complex model and calender. This is not true.

    • I sadly think it does not boil down to being this simple and as above – both can be true.

      I, like you, love cycling and understand the calendar and enjoy some of the madness in it.
      But I did not watch women’s cycling until it became easier for me to do so and now I enjoy it immensely and see it (as INRNG notes above) as a great addition to what cycling can offer new fans.

      So there can be times when it is good for a sport like cycling to have a barrier to entry and there can be times where it is bad. I don’t think anyone is calling new audiences stupid or congratulating those who understand the calendar as clever, as really it’s not that difficult.

      The blunt truth though is that cycling audiences are getting older and not being replaced in many countries, as INRNG has noted many times when talking about the Giro, so you and me found cycling but we are swimming against the current. We have also just lost the greatest innovation in pro-cycling watching (GCN+) in years as it apparently wasn’t viable in the eyes of Discovery. We’ve seen countless teams struggle for sponsorship and last year a women’s team even failing to pay it’s riders. Riders put their lives on the line for our entertainment and many of them live in a precarious financial situation with no hope of anything like a parachute payment should they fall out of favour or have a career ending crash.

      This to me does not paint a picture of healthy sport, and I think as fans we have a responsibility to those we watch not to become to dogmatic about tradition when there might be changes that benefit their lives and careers if not or as well as our viewing experience.

      There are so many things I feel that cycling could do better, and I would be interesting to know what improvements you would like to see if any.

      • It’s just that a good part of your picture above is incorrect or biased. Discovery decided to monetise on GCN+ rather than thinking it wasn’t viable. The Giro audience has been regularly replaced by other people getting retired and the likes. Of course when the pension system will become “viable” we won’t retire anymore, so… just joking. The TDF as inrng reported got younger audience jumping in. Spain has had a variable situation, from a senior public they went to a younger one, now mostly middle-aged.
        Clubs do have financial issues in football, but in Europe it’s still a huge machine to move money around.
        In France, in Spain (only if they decide so) and in Italy riders are covered by social security in case their job is lost or they suffer an accident. That’s why it’s more expensive to keep a team there, a thing some people regularly complain about.

        All that said, I agree with you that there are a lot of different situations when the growth of cycling around the globe is concerned, and several different possible answers. Surely trying to force things into the frame of a supposedly rational grand scheme is not one of them, IMHO. Cycling grows on races and races are very situated, each with their peculiarity. Rwanda, Langkawi, Tachira, great races with good cycling for their local public in Africa, Asia or South America, going back 20, 30… 60 years! Are you sure they need a consultant to explain them how to organise a long-lasting cycling event? Many creation by the UCI masterminds or by the contingent corporate sponsors have lasted way less despite supposedly sitting on gold mines in China or the USA.
        Of course, one could try to further promote them, channeling money and interest, but it’s to be seen if that would bring an organic growth. Curiously, the people on top never really tried *that*. Who knows why…
        (The Rwanda Worlds in Kigali next year will be a very interesting test. The Worlds are the specific tool which the UCI can use for this sort of purposes… but it’s also one of their main source of money, so there will always be a balance)

        • Biased from the commenter who jokes Froome never won the Vuelta… ^___^
          We all know Gabriele’s biases!

          Joking aside – I am aware of everything above, some of which I agree on and some of which I don’t, but in truth there’s probably more nuance to all than either of us have time to post so let’s concentrate on the agreements – I would be overjoyed if the pro peloton and schedule capitalised on the long running races and fan bases in all those you listed and likewise am extremely excited for the Rwanda worlds. It feels seminal in the way the Yorkshire grand depart did a decade ago, and the women’s TDF did more recently – hopefully more so in the long run. But… obviously nothing will likely change overall, so as always all the conversations are completely pointless, and heartbreakingly if changes were made to push races like these they’d invariably be shoehorned in so they were immediately forgettable and added fuel to the fire of the no change brigade. For me at least, any changes unfortunately would need a complete overhaul of the system to work which makes them infinitely less likely.

          But still Rwandan Worlds are extremely exciting and something to really get behind.

          • It’s not about not having any bias, it’s more about having them well-identified and clearly marked as such by yourself… and the rest ^___^

            Froomey should have refused himself those Vueltas for the sake of his own good image: as it is now, the situation is just too grotesque to be true 😛

            Joking themes aside, I’m not sure change *needs* to happen as an overall thing. Maybe it just needs more time than we tend to consider acceptable in terms of current human-life measures. Besides, it goes by cycles of ups and downs. The general trend of African and American cycling through the last 5 decades is one of growth. Same for Oceania, and I can’t say about Asia because I have less information. Just as when cycling became an European international thing after having been a national one, then when more European nations got more weight etc.

      • There is cirtanlty room for change and imorovements, i am not adverse to this. Provided the core histroy of the sport it retained. Allowing space for new history to be written.

        I would like to see promotion of regional events and their teams more. TDU has worked really well, Tour of California was good but i think there is space in the US for a better route. And Tour of Rewanda is growing.

        Could the UCI seed this growth by linking World Championships with establishing new events, stage reace of one day race in the same location, then building on this. There could then be more of an evolution to racing in regions as the years progesses. This does happen a bit at Inner Ring points out. But I think there is opportunioty to grow this.

  11. I don’t really believe that cycling has problems attracting a larger global fanbase due to the complexity of the calendar. Since growing this global base is important for attracting sponsors, the UCI would be better served by investing more in rider development around the world. Viewership and fandom in a country grows when local racers start winning at the highest levels. With the emergence of high-profile local racer’s, races in those countries also get more local support and can grow to WT (with the UCI’s support). This is more sustainable than top down race creation.

    • A good point, having a race is one thing but a role model another and for good or bad, people often tune into a sport when one of their compatriots is winning.

      The UCI does this a bit, it has its World Cycling Center team and the satellite bases around the world but it could be good to expand this further.

      • I think this is a good point.

        Surges in cycling fandom somewhere new seem to only be possible in general with a star cyclist from that country, like most sports. I do think there are other ways the sport could build on/activate interest when it comes so it sustains or even target larger nations, but helping younger riders from less privileged backgrounds or cycling heartland is probably as you say the best use of the UCI’s or others limited funds to get repeated short term, new audience bounces.

        It’s hard to know exactly how to do this but Zwift seems like a hell of a good place to start!

        a complete aside but I often wonder if the new generation of younger riders is in large part down to the growth of home cycling kit along with the data.

  12. Let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater. “no WT races outside of Europe”
    You can hardly go into an American independent bike shop that will not have a picture of Kuss,Sheffield, Jorgenson, Powless etc. Okay, you will still the old yellowing pictures of Lemond and Hamstend. There is large pent up cycling fan/sponsorship audience waiting to be tapped in the US.
    One WT race in the US would bring a lot more American talent and money to all WT races.

    • “There is large pent up cycling fan/sponsorship audience waiting to be tapped in the US.”
      I never saw it in the 60+ years I lived there. Your claim reminds me of what the promoters must have told Donald Trump back-in-the-day. USA gets excited watching huge, helmeted men bash into each other on a stadium surface that’s rarely even grass. Those stadiums are surrounded by fields of….parked automobiles. No matter what LeMond, BigTex, Kuss, etc. can/will do pro cycling will never get any real sponsorship $$. The creators of the Tour of California thought they’d start a race then sell it off for big profits once it was well-established. Just like Coors Classic, Trump, DuPont, etc. it was short-lived at best.

      • I actually think Larry is wrong on this, the USA is a big place, having lived there also and regularly cycled in multiple cities with large groups of riding fanatics from cycle shops/cafes which just like Europe serve as a hub for riders, there is of course enough of a fanbase to sustain races. It’s a shame but for complicated set of reasons beyond American’s not liking cycling that one is yet to gain sustained momentum – and as much to do with the sport being so Euro-centric as it is America’s unique set of hurdles that one hasn’t.

        Also – we already have real US sponsorship in cycling? Specialized, Trek, Cannondale, Giro are all US companies funding pro teams? Happy to be corrected if wrong on this but as Shawn says above if a new star emerges the money and fans will follow, even if the cloud of Lance will take more time to truly pass.

        • Is the problem with bike racing in the USA, perhaps not the lack of overall cycling interest, but the fact that the cycling audience is dispersed across a huge country? And so no matter where you locate the race, the local audience will always be too small to sustain it?

          • Yes, I agree – also dominance of cars and difficult of shutting roads is likely an issue, plus long straight roads between interesting ones and costs, where to insert in calendar, how to make it meaningful etc etc it’s a tough nut to crack.

            It would seem to make sense to locate in cycling hubs like Richmond, Durango etc etc but then there’s a problem that they’re also far apart and travel times etc etc.

            As nothing is likely to change in the short term it feels like pushing a gravel race that edges toward a Strade Bianchi-type race is the best option and see if it gains momentum – although it’s a shame it couldn’t be more.

  13. You mention F1 and it’s interesting because the calendar has been controversial in that sport also for years. Not just in terms of travel, but also the need to balance the workloads of team personnel with the desire to visit new and important markets. After extended infighting it was the takeover by Liberty Media which finally brought the connection to create multiple credible US races.

    It’s frankly unacceptable for a global sport to have no top level race in the US or India and token appearances in Africa and China. There clearly needs to be an off season but something like a Netflix Tour of California (with occasional forays into neighbouring states) has to be a priority; yet from the Swiss industrial estate do they have the ability to make it happen?

    • Who mentioned F1?

      …mentioning F1 here is like a red rag to many bulls – it’s the quiet point of the season so you’ll likely not get everyone piling on but if it were TDF time you be impressed by how one mention of four wheels can turn and entire comment section into grudge match!

      I agree with many of your points – although I also think it is fair for INRNG to point out races in China where there is little support have been an issue or J Evans to say we’re imposing something on India (for example) that they’re not exactly clamouring for. All have a level of truth.

      To me the has to be a way to build on grassroots interest in cycling in countries beyond Europe (as you mention) so the cycling calendar more representative of its fans while keeping the European calendar as vibrant as always.

      I also agree with you there is a way to learn from other sports, but knowing the hate many have for F1 specifically, the important thing for cycling is to do it without becoming those other sports and keeping what is great about racing on two wheels at it’s core.

      But I have long thought tv audiences could and should have access to all radio communication and all the data that the riders have on their mounts – these seem like obvious and relatively simple leaps that could enhance the viewing experience for thousands of stat nerds out there as well as allowing us to see and feel more riders personalities which has become so much more difficult since helmets came in.

      • The interesting thing about India is it has historically not been bothered about most Western sports, with cricket the obvious exception. However, there are very solid followings for endurance events such as audax cycling and car rallies, and something in the Indian culture really seems to love team sports.

        And with 1.4bn people and a rapidly evolving “middle class”, that’s an immense potential market.

          • I assume at a different price point though?
            Although I assume it also goes far deeper than this once you get down to road quality, free time, types of bike sold etc

          • Very likely – and if we take some stereotypes (while acknowledging their limitations) – the rural poor Italian who rode to work was seduced into buying ever more high tech by the exploits of the early heroes. Half a billion people in India could be reached in similar ways if only the heroes could be found (how many young kids don’t “make it” as cricketers..?).

  14. Changes I would make:
    – rotate races which currently overlap so there is only ever one WT race on any one day, to prevent dilution of the brand. In off years they would have 1.Pro or 2.Pro ranking.
    – give the Vuelta a more defined place in the sport by removing it from the WorldTour and making it a grand tour for ProTeams and composite teams of U25 Continental riders from each of the Continental Confederations outside of Europe.
    – protected spaces for future non-European races, it only once they have clocked up some years at 1.1/2.1 and 1.Pro/2.Pro to gain some ‘bottom up’ support where they are located.

    • I’m sure ASO will love your Vuelta idea! Expect it to become reality soon … o not (the Vuelta is theirs).
      Men road cycling’s got like 9 (nine) *big* races, the 3 GTs, 5 Monuments and the Worlds RR (I say “men” because women calendar is still taking shape in a momenti of big change). The rest, including Strade Bianche or Itzulia (the best week-long stage race) or Paris-Nice and Tirreno or Ghent-Wevelgem or Fleche and Amstel or Suisse, which is the stuff which comes closer, is miles below and often barely relevant once the season is over, they often become meaningful essentially in relation to other races or other seasons. Seriously, 9 events is not such a huge mass of information to manage.

    • I’ve also never considered your point two Vuelta suggestion.

      Don’t know whether I agree or not yet but glad you took the time to make as it did make me stop and think.

      As for Gabriele’s reply, I kind of think having tens/hundreds of race days where as you say only nine of them are *big* events is what DaveRides (not me) might think is the issue? It seems like a fair point but I won’t say more as I don’t want to put words in his mouth as I’m sure he can reply for himself if he chooses.

      • Heck, cycling is *really* hard to understand! A “race” (in the sense of a big event) is different from “race days”… For example, some races can last 21 race days, imagine that. The range of race days for an athlete is normally 50 to 80. Think tennis, lots of matches but only one athlete wins a single tournament, and the very top events are just four…

        • No, I and (I assume DaveRides) get this Gabriele – apologies for any confusion that we misunderstand.

          It’s just a difference of opinion of thinking it could be better.
          I fully respect anyone who likes the intricacy of the calendar, I simply disagree and am happy to listen to anyone who has ideas I’ve not heard before.

          • If you really had listened and respected those different “opinions”, you wouldn’t have written “I fully respect anyone who likes the intricacy of the calendar” as an answer to me, unless it was a way to imply that you don’t respect my views specifically. In fact, my point is that there’s no exaggerate intricacy in cycling calendar.
            I’m not sure where’s the misunderstanding which comes from a sentence like this: “I kind of think having tens/hundreds of race days where as you say only nine of them are *big* events”. Obviously 3 of those 9 suppose 63 days of racing… second-line yet still important events include 7 shorter stage races which account with nearly as many.
            Note how you write “only nine of them [race days]” -> “are big events”.
            Hummm, I can’t see the necessary clarity of thought or intention here which might lead to actual mutual understanding and eventual agreement or disagreement.
            But I’ll leave it here.

            (I don’t agree that the fans have no influence at all on the development of cycling, either, as you wrote to Larry below, but that was at least a nice turn of phrase about sport and politics)

          • Oh no, I really wasn’t looking to get into another one here Gabriele.
            I genuinely think you might be over thinking this:

            I do respect your opinions, and have changed my mind on numerous things because you or others have written them – for example the last time this came up my mind was in favour of two week Grand Tours for the Giro and Vuelta having heard that the organisers themselves were once close to this reform from a INRNG post – then seeing the arguments against this here, and remembering how much I enjoy three week races I changed my mind.

            I was also once in favour of a more dramatic overhaul of the calendar till INRNG, you and others highlighted that removing too many races from the largest fanbases will likely have the opposite effect to what’s intended and this made me realise that there’s always a third way which is often best, and there’s likely other options to try and get the best of all worlds.

            If you thought there was a subtext of aggression in what I wrote, it was not intentional. I do find you occasionally explain, then re-explain, then re-re-explain your points which can be a touch frustrating as it ends up sounding condescending, as if those reading a niche cycling blog have never seen a race before – but you’d be entitled to say I throw out points without properly explaining or thinking over from time to time, or a have opinions when only semi-aware of the full facts, biases, overly long replies, generally annoying happy-clappy tone.

            All of which are fine, but I always read your posts with interest and after the above Giro-audience comment went back to read yours and INRNG’s comments about last year viewership on a post here.

            Also I guess the truth is we don’t have to respect each others views, it doesn’t make any difference, we can just disagree and leave it at that, we will never meet anyway?

            So have a great and hopefully sunny day, whoever and wherever you are.

      • My suggestion is exactly what it says on the tin – avoid having multiple WT races (or stages of races) on the same day. It dilutes the brand and adds unnecessary confusion to the structure of the sport. Dealing with the calendar clashes will remove one of the barriers to progress on packaging of TV rights, building a season-long story of the sport and simplify the task of marketing the sport.

        For example, this year Paris-Nice runs 3-10 March and Tirreno-Adriatico runs 4-10 March. A reform to eliminate duplication would result in P-N having 2.UWT and T-A 2.Pro in odd numbered years, and swapping over in even numbered years – until the two organisers sit down and work out a plan to separate them on the calendar.

        It won’t be the hardest problem to resolve as the only overlapping races this year (despite are:
        – Paris-Nice and Tirreno-Adriatico as referred to above
        – Volta a Catalunya and 3 of the second-tier Belgian one day races (De Panne, E3, Gent-Wevelgem)
        – Criterium du Dauphine (final day) and Tour de Suisse (first day)
        – Tour de Pologne (last two days) and Vuelta a Espana (opening weekend)
        – Vuelta a Espana and 3 more Northern European races (Bretagne, “Renewi Tour” which I guess is The Race Formerly Known As The Eneco Tour, Hamburg)

        • In short, it makes no sense. The first paragraph is the perfect example of why the “consultant mentality” is harmful. Implying what you’d need to demonstrate. “Diluting the brand” ROTFL… “a season-long story”… cycling *needs* some parallel races for a number of robust reasons.

          It’s a sport, with real bodies of real people, although most sport try to forget about it (have you read something about the increasing figures of injures across several top pro sports?). It’s based precisely on the possibility of things happening *or not*, if you want to make things happen as in a script… well, bad movies and TV series are what was selling well (for a time, then…).

          Just create suitable conditions and take into account that what you have now is the product of a social collective cultural work which spans through more than a century, millions of people, different generation and continents.

        • In football, there are parallel games in numerous countries everyday, and still people are watching without getting confused. Is this an American thing, that you only can follow one thing at a time?

  15. The problem is not enough locations, but the problem is that the best riders are not competing against each other very often and sometimes not at all during a whole year. That is a shame to not have the best riding against each other at least a few times a year. What needs to happen is like what Tennis and Golf have, that is, the majors are a few events a year that all the best of the best will not miss. Cycling should have this for the grand tours. We need the best of the best going to both the Giro and the Tour. This year sees Pogacar coming off the Giro while Jonas is not, so the one time these two do meet in the Tour, the playing field is not even level between them.

    • Sanremo 2023, Ronde 2023, Roubaix 2023, Worlds 2023.
      Lombardia 2023 wasn’t that bad either.

      How many matches do the best tennis player play against each other in those few (4? 5? 6? Probably really 4) very major events? The tournament formula implies it doesn’t happen normally that often. In a single GT stage several of the best are in the mix at the same time, then come another stage and here we go again.
      But the two sports are so hugely different that, frankly… how many times a year all the very best football teams face each other? All… together… (?). Nonsense.

      However, yes, GTs work a bit differently, although when you have a broader breed of excellent GT riders, you got that more often all the same. In 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018 at least 2 GTs each year had three or four of the very top GT figures battling. 2011 and 2012 were on a lesser level (speaking of mere quantity), but still quite much up there.
      Quite evidently, it’s not about the calendar or any organisational aspect of the sport, given that OTOH it didn’t change that much under that respect since 5 years ago, and OTOH look how things are different in Classics, whereas in the latter field you might have had some issues in previous years.

      Admittedly, it’s hard with Pogi and Vinge, not only because they’re too superior to the rest (for now at least), like, several steps above, which means that we don’t have many combinations to play with… but also because they’re so different. Vinge is racing less and less Classics each season, whereas if Pogi did the same it would be a tragedy for cycling, and, well, he wouldn’t be Pogi. In each and every great race with the very top competitors I named opening the post, barring Roubaix, you had Pogacar in the mix (and he actually had started Liège, too).

      *Even so* (!) , since 2020 (when Vinge still… wasn’t close to being Vinge) they faced each other different times each year: 2020 = 1 major + 1 important // 2021 = 3 major + 3 important + 2 minor // 2022 = 2 major + 2 important // 2023 = 1 major + 1 important (no more Classics for Vinge, not a single one-day race). Plus, in stage racing they obviously cross swords in more than one single relevant stage each time.
      Even in a very adverse context because all the reasons I’ve named above, things aren’t that tragic at the end of the day, if one looks at the general perspective. As I said, we’d just need more top competitors in GTs, actually. That’s it.

    • this is not a problem. different programs targeting different races. and if you get 3 of the top 5, what’s wrong with that? allowing other riders their opportunity to lead a team and develop is all part of it too. and they just might surprise you. if the stars align in a race the way you deem ideal, all the more exciting for you.

      • I actually agree with Anonymous on this and do feel like it’s one of cycling great problems.

        Even if we can point to multiple races days where some of the big riders face off you can also feel the collective disappointment in many cycling fans when Pog choose to go to the Giro and we realised we weren’t going to get a possible full fitness, no tiredness, no injuries head to head between the big two many were dreaming of. Similar to when Pog’s LBL injury last year completely took the fun out of the race before it began.

        Pog is unique and has changed the game, or at least turned the clock back to a different era, but in doing so he has highlighted to for me at least how rarely in a year you get the heavyweight contests some fans would like to see – even if currently we’re extremely lucky with this generation of riders to be getting them more often than I can remember in recent decades of watching cycling.

        Admittedly though I watch a stupid amount of cycling and can get into a Giro with great second tier riders, or even a warm up race but I do understand why people would get frustrated by waiting for particular riders to battle in a top level road race maybe one of three or four times a year only to see it dashed by an injury, puncture, lack of form etc and be forced to wait months, maybe years for a rematch.

        • So, don’t you get that the mentality your 2nd paragraph is an example of may actually be a big part of the problem? The “collective disappointment” should have been because Vinge didn’t announce for now he’d be at the Giro. It’s him, not Pogi, the one who already knows that he can be fit for two GTs in a row, albeit at a different level, and it’s him who’s scrapping one-day racing from his calendar to go hard for stage races only. To get “more clashes in the top races” we’d actually need both riders to start the Giro… but what do *some* fans do? Feel disappointed… because of Pogi’s decision. Total facepalm.

          • It’s the same thing no? I totally agree with you Vin going to the Giro would be heaven and we should set off the fireworks in that case!

            It’s just we knew Vin wasn’t already, which made the highest probability of a full strength face-off the TDF – so when Pog made his announcement it was just the particular sequence of how we got the news that made it a tiny bit disappointing – but you are right both doing both is the best scenario and what should be aimed for. I was only commenting on an instinctive reaction I and many others felt which was due to these specific order of the news as it came, obviously seeing these two face-off at full gas more often is the holy grail. I’m surprised this wasn’t clear but hopefully so now.

  16. Since most of us commenting are a bunch of hopeless cycling romantics a quote from the country with plenty of races: “ If we want everything to remain as it is, it will be necessary for everything to change.” (Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa).

  17. Here’s a different view: what if the UCI became subdivided into regional federations like football? With responsibility for running and organising calendars on a regional basis? I can see pros and cons. But one benefit is that regional organisers might create races which are genuinely interesting because they work hard to generate an event worthy of sponsors and fans alike. The most obvious con is that old divides based on history and wealth is likely to skew things (not much change then).
    Though I guess part of my reasoning is that actually road cycling grew organically from Europe and that foundation is the keystone to cycling. I don’t see how removing beloved races and events from the calendar helps and so should be preserved. If others can create events to rival and beat them for interest so be it. But as we see with the Middle Eastern tours, they are very much a side show – if the money goes, so does the interest. Those Tours are not for the fans and fans are the life blood of any sport.
    As Larry says, only fix what is broken. I don’t have any problems with tinkering with the calendar, but it should serve a purpose.

    • It already is this way. The “U” in UCI stands for “Union”. Each country has its own federation, and each of those can and do organise their own national level events. British Cycling sanctions events in the UK, and organises some of them, Cycling Ireland, KNWB, etc., the same.

      I have to agree with other comments, on how running races depends on local support. Races will be run in countries that want cycling races to be run. That will fall into 2 categories:

      1. A strong local cycling scene, such that there is strong local grassroots support. Both in terms of pool of people willing to do the work of organising and marshalling, and in watching the races so that there is a commercial opportunity that makes local race-organisation companies a viable business AND draws in the sponsors.

      2. A weak local cycling scene, but high-level government desire to bring in races. So they will pay an organising company to come in, and they will provide local manpower for marshalling (e.g. via local government or manpower companies like ATOS, whatever – not manpower that is intrinsically interested in cycling).

      The strongest cycling scenes will be 1. This is your Belgian cycling scene, Tour de France, and your lower-profile national level races in places like Britain and Ireland, etc. This is the “base” and you really must not harm it – because it’s already difficult for some of them as inrng has laid out (UK and Ireland).

      If you want the #2 types to succeed, and gain a toe-hold to – PERHAPS – blossom in to type-1, you _need_ the existing type-1s to keep succeeding. Because where do you think the organisations able to organise type-2 events come from? They are the ASOs, RCSes and FCSes of the world.

      FCS organises races /across/ the world, using the expertise it develops in Belgium. The only reason – at present – Ireland sees some top, world-level cycle races is cause Sports Ireland have funded FCS to host a cyclocross W.Cup round here.

      Don’t kill the goose that lays the eggs that you need to seed the rest of the world, when you consider changing everything.

    • I enjoyed reading the RQS and had not considered this option before.
      I’m not sure if I’m persuaded but thank you for taking the time to write it’s food for thought.

  18. I also wanted to add that while growing the world tours in different locations sounds great, practically speaking, with limited time to watch these events seeing races on my own time zone is far better than watching one which is running in the middle of the night. Highlight shows sure work, but I’m always going to work backwards from what’s on live and is convenient to me. So a tour of the Andes/Argentina may be an awesome prospect, but hard for me to watch. I find the lack of cold reality on how cycling can be less colonial/white/eurocentric/male spits in the eye of how the sport/fan base developed. There was no grand evil scheme to marginalise women and black people. Developed European countries with money for bicycles and good roads has lead to its dominance. Men have historically had the leisure time away (or even with their kids) to develop and sustain interest. There is nothing maniacal about it. In fact sports is a keen way for men to bond with their children. To deny all this and their role in it is harmful and you’ll find men demonised for showing and interest and participating if you see that as a bad thing. I’m not saying that money should only go to men’s European cycling. But if you start to dilute and remove focus you’ll start to kill the life blood and you might as well be cutting off your own arm. Just don’t lose sight of that in your lurch towards virtuosity.

    • No grand evil “scheme” but academically well-known and proven grand evil social and symbolic devices which have kept and are keeping huge parts of the population in a condition of systematic disadvantage from, well, essentially *any* POV.
      (“disadvantage” to say the least, i.e. not to speak of several forms of explicit and implicit violence).

      If “virtuosity” is changing *this*, which doesn’t affect “little minorities” of sort (which would be a huge and unforgivable shame anyway), but half of the population (gender) or more (class), and variable but always huge numbers in the case of racism (often the more virulent and devious)… may I say, I’d throw the whole pro cycling into the bin if it was useful to change such conditions, give me virtuosity any day over any… hobby.

      (Obviously, throwing pro cycling into the bin wouldn’t be that useful anyway, but the above was to suggest we’d perhaps need to keep some proportion when looking at things)

  19. Ha. Bumpkin. Socialist ideals which, at best seek to use giant data sets across many different things and apply it to specifics with no real accuracy.
    I’m so tired of virtue signalling where there is little to back it up. Especially when there is little care as to how it affects people at the sharp end of society.
    I dislike the dishonesty with which people paint these prosaic pictures of how it will be better for everyone and affects no one. It’s rubbish. It’s the antithesis of nature and sport. If I am to watch one cycling event or show I will choose that which has the best at the sport. I will choose something which has heritage and meaning over that which does not. I will choose something which is live over that which is not. That is honesty – if, as it happens, the women’s tour of Kiribati is timed at the exact point I tune into Eurosport I might watch it – if I can’t stream anything else. If I want to see a cycle race (and I get very few chances) it will be the men’s race that I stand out in the cold and wet for. I have no problem with anyone doing sport but I have a finite life and finite choices. Seeking to manufacture time and interest where I have none seems like a waste – especially since I have bikes to clean, children to look after, a house to upkeep, a job to keep and precious little time to myself. It’s laudable to dream. But it’s tyranny to hold people to these ideals. It’s a tyranny of thought and I think people should be free and have a mind to think for their own

        • Ha – I love you Larry! Made me spit out my cereal!
          Easily the most argumentative poster on here, admittedly I may be running you close recently, but as you say looking forward to them being about cycling that we have no influence on, rather than politics that we have no influence on.

          Especially as I have been wondering a lot recently why my love of watching all cycling, even the smallest races, has waned after multiple decades despite it being so clearly a golden age – there’s something about the excitement levels of races like last years Flanders being so enormous that I have found it hard to go back and not ask why we don’t get that more often. It’s the Pogacar effect I guess, he’s shown Nirvana and I can’t unsee it.

          • “… being about cycling that we have no influence on,”
            Thanks for writing that! Too many seem to think comments on social media have some sort of influence on the sport, whether it’s on the organizers, riders or directors. They fool themselves into believing anyone with real clout/influence: a) reads this crap b) gives a s__t what people like us think. March 16 can’t come fast enough!

  20. Late comment…

    Reduce the number or reshuffle WT one day races. No need for all the Belgian semi-classics to be on the same level as RVV and Liege; they function fine as “warm-up” races which mostly die-hard fans will follow anyways, although hardly the average viewer. Same in Italy, where autumn races WT status or not there for building excitement for Lombardia. Then create or promote some top quality WT races with unique qualities in countries that is lacking them (happy that Denmark is getting one), but primarily in Europe as cycling is and will always be a primarily European sport, like it or not.

    Portugal should have a WT classic, maybe Norway as well. Revive Meisterschaft von Zurich and Roma Maxima (names are important!), maybe Otztal Classic, promote Zagreb-Ljublana, GP Schwarzwald, Leeds Classic and make Fleche Brabanconne replace Fleche Wallone. More gravel/dirt road combi races like Antwerp Classic and Clasica Jaen should be promoted/focused as that is what the kids nowadays want. Tradition can’t be all although never touch the Monuments.

    One week races are frankly quite underwhelming and a hard sell for the casual viewer however. Too easy for a dominating team/rider by todays standards – most they are decided on one key stage. They do not need WT status, but are obviously fine for the riders to get some milage in. I would watch more if they were reduced to one-day races, though. Only one-week race which has some redeeming qualities is Pais Vasco (sometimes).

    • Catalunya is in a good moment in terms of racing quality and entertainment, too, as was Tirreno a few seasons ago.
      What a pity one never knows in advance ^___^… part of it in all the sports and perhaps human activities.
      Things need some tuning only if a bad spell is long enough to make you suspect it’s structural.

  21. Will stop commenting any further here.
    Have clearly gone far on what is probably my passion subject in cycling in the last year.
    I hope everyone enjoys Omloop het Nieuwsblad. Apologies for the extensive posting and replies.

  22. This very succinctly comes down to money. The Achilles heel to expansion being that professional sport is a comedic ‘industry’. Nobody is making money outside of the deathly-dull franchise-owner US sports closed-economy/ (somewhat) controlled-outcome model, and top-tier participants (cf. football)

  23. A fundamental issue is that professional cycling is completely unlike F1 or athletics. Its diversity of body types mean it’s essentially as if you had drag race cars and endurance cars in the same competition. Or marathon runners and sprinters forced to compete against each other. That specialisation leads to things like grand tours – happy compromises between different species – but also separate racing calendars. It won’t change, and much-needed reform needs to somehow embrace that chaos, not try to erase it.

  24. I’ll clamber out of my winter cave to add my tuppence to this one. Probably a bit late.
    The cycling calendar, or some aspects of it, could be changed without it bothering me. A few years ago, maybe 10 or so, much of it did make sense. There was a World Tour with the big races and teams and tiers below of less importance. There were a couple of overlaps, most obviously Paris-Nice and Tirreno, but nothing major. As discussed cycling squads are big and can handle races in different places on the same day. The problem came when certain organisors, and I’m going to say mainly the Belgians, wanted all of their races to be World Tour – presumably so they could get more sponsorship. So there are way too many very similar one day races in Belgium. And probably in Italy too. There needed to be some discipline but greed took over. As always.

    I am fundamentally opposed to inventing bike races in places with no cycling culture just for the sake of having a more rounded looking calendar or to appease sponsors. Or lunatic Dutchmen who run cycling teams. But a World Tour that better reflects where cycling interest lies and the make up of the peloton wouldn’t be the end of the world. To that end, I can get on board with races in Australia, definitely support a tour of Colombia, maybe even Ecuador too, and wouldn’t turn my nose up at races in the US (though enough people have already tried) or Africa. All at the expense of the pointless samdbox races of course.

    If all we’re bothered about is cutting carbon footprints then my suggestion for a calendar would be:
    Vuelta a Tenerife
    Giro di Livigno
    Vuelta a Andorra
    Vuelta a Granada
    Veulta a Calpe…

    You get the idea

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