Hidden Motivations

The default reaction to hearing that a grand tour will starting outside its home country is a firm “no”. As said here before to see the Giro starting in the Netherlands was to imagine a pizza topped with Gouda and herring: it’s just wrong. Then it happened, you see the crowds and everyone enjoying themselves and it began to look worthwhile.

Israel? The crowds didn’t look that big and often the race was riding past barren landscapes but if this looked boring, maybe this was what they wanted, a chance to show alternative images of Israel to the ones you see in the news. The last three days seemed more of a grande bonanza than a grande partenza with talk of large hosting fees and the usually hidden aspect of appearance fees briefly going public.

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Shrinking The Peloton

Less is more. Yesterday ASO, RCS and Flanders Classics announced in concert that they would shrink the team size for their events down by one. The grand tours go from nine riders per team to eight and the major classics from eight to seven riders. The race owners say it is to improve safety and enhance the sporting spectacle.

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The Classic Ingredients

Strade Bianche

Liège-Bastogne-Liège was first run in 1892, Paris-Roubaix in 1896, the Tour of Flanders in 1913. These races have become legendary thanks to their rich history. The Strade Bianche race can trace its history back to 2007, a time when Jay-Z and Rihanna topped the charts. This weekend marks the tenth edition of the race. It has become an instant classic.

With new races springing up and 21 new applicants for the World Tour calendar what can the instant success of this race tell us?

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Beneath The Sands

The Abu Dhabi Tour is over and it’s been an event with as much politics and money as sand. This makes it all the more interesting, a poor race to watch but a rich one to ride. There are lessons to be learned, including some for established European races to take on board.

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Pompeiana: RCS Need to Decide

Milan-Sanremo is famous for its tension, the longest race of the year is often decided in the final moments, a long wait that gets more and more nervous as the finish approaches. Now there’s a long wait to find out what’s happening to the course and whether the crucial new climb of Pompeiana is in or out.

A rough road and a wet winter mean the road might not be viable and as you’ll read below, municipal bickering is part of the problem too. Velonews reports there will be a meeting next Wednesday but what if this isn’t conclusive? Weather damage is understandable but the uncertainty is becoming inexcusable.

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The Problem with Revenue Sharing

The Tour de France is cycling’s ultimate prize, the biggest, best and wealthiest race in the world. The sport revolves around July and the publicity available is usually a prime factor behind team sponsorship. But for all the Tour’s success and wealth, teams struggle for stability, many come and go while the Tour has celebrated one hundred editions. Some team owners are becoming increasingly envious of the Tour and other succesful events and want to tap into the revenue streams generated by these races, notably the TV rights money.

But what if there’s no money to share?

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Giro Wildcards: The Luxury of an Impossible Choice

Michele Acquarone Giro

It’s easy to see the pick of three teams for the Giro as afterthought because the biggest and best names are automatically invited. But it’s not so, the wildcard picks are vital for the race, a chance to shape the Giro and take it to new audiences.

As well as the choice, the process and event itself is cleverly becoming a story and this is something other races should think about.

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The Brave New World Series Cycling

The Gifted Group’s Jonathan Price has been briefing sections of the cycling media about the plans for the “World Series Cycling” formerly known as the Breakaway League but now a scheme that the UCI has granted with an exclusive agreement to negotiate. The grand tours and the big one day races will remain on the calendar but will be joined by a series of 10 new events, each a four day stage race.

Cycling is rooted in history, a conservative sport where change is slow. So there’s bound to be some concern and resistance about these brave new plans for the sport. Even if they were a master-plan with the Midas touch, they’re radically different to anything we know so they’re bound to disturb us.

But based on the information we’ve been given it’s hard not to be sceptical about these plans as they seem to offer a bland product that’s packaged for sponsors and TV with formulaic format that worries me. Clearly it’s all about design and implementation but fans have every right to be cautious here. Especially since these plans are no longer theory but actively under consideration by the UCI with the idea of launch in 2014.

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