Tour de Langkawi aiming to go WorldTour within three years
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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Tour de Langkawi aiming to go WorldTour within three years

by Shane Stokes at 12:24 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling
 
Big plans for Malaysia’s top cycling race

Tour de LangkawiLong regarded as one of the top cycling events in Asia, the Tour de Langkawi organisers have confirmed that they hope to push for UCI WorldTour status within the next three years.

Currently ranked as a 2.HC event, one step below the top level, the race’s Chief Operating Officer Emir Abdul Jalal told VeloNation this week that a medium-term goal is to become part of the top tier of world cycling. If that is achieved, it would join the Tour of Beijing in holding that status in Asia.

“The Ministry of Youth and Sports of Malaysia, which is currently the organiser of LTDL [Le Tour De Langkawi – ed.] has put a lot of effort in upgrading the status of this race. Being part of the UCI World Tour has been one of the major topics of discussions,” he said.

The race was first held back in 1996 and at one time, it was said to be the world’s fourth-richest event, sitting just behind the three Grand Tours in terms of budget. It went through a tight financial patch several years ago but has recovered from that, rebuilding gradually and consolidating its reputation.

Garmin-Cervélo and Astana have already confirmed for next year, and more big-name teams are due to be announced between now and the February 24 start date.

Emir Abdul Jalal stated that the upgrade would not be attempted right away due to the financial aspect plus also the desire to gradually raise the standard of Malaysian cycling.

“Looking at the current economy, when Tour of Beijing and Tour Down Under are spending more than USD 50 million for such event, and we are running LTDL at USD 5 million…the plan was given a second thought.

“Furthermore, looking at the performance of Malaysian road riders, they are still far from the World Tour competition level. We are looking at least having our riders in pro continental outfits, then such thoughts should be reconsidered. Having a national team competing in a World Tour event is still a big risk, even if the regulation says that you can.”

However he stated that stepping up in the medium-term was a realistic goal, and recognised that once done, it would achieve even more in promoting Malaysian tourism through cycling.

“It should be in less than three years [to aim for a UCI upgrade],” he said. “Organizing a World Tour event should not be a big issue for us, as Le Tour De Langkawi received two years’ recognition of “excellent level of organization” from the UCI.

“We are looking at the financial aspects of such race organization. The extra funding should come from both the government and private sponsors.”

Additional organisational requirements:

Tour de LangkawiThe intention is a very interesting one, and would require careful planning. Seeking WorldTour status requires more than putting the funding and organization together and proving to the UCI that the upgrade was warranted. Emir Abdul Jalal said that one issue to be addressed is the fact that a void would be created; stepping up would mean a major Asian event becomes inaccessible for many of the teams which have tended to take part.

Under UCI WorldTour rules, Continental teams cannot take part in the events. That would eliminate virtually all of the current Asian teams, although the new Champion System setup will be ProContinental in 2012 and would thus be liable for invites. It will feature 2010 Tour de Langkawi points winner Anuar Manan in its ranks next year, as well as several other strong Asian riders.

In order to address this void for Continental teams, Emir Abdul Jalal believes that another race would need to take its place. Malaysia currently has two other UCI-ranked races, namely the 2.2-classed Jelajah Malaysia and the new Tour of Borneo, which will be held for the first time in 2012.

“If LTDL is upgraded into a World Tour, another event should be upgraded to a Hors Class, while the rest would maintain a 2.2 status,” he said. “That’s the whole upgrading process the ministry should look into.

“Of course all the Asian’s top continental teams would be disappointed, because LTDL meant so much to them. Historically, it’s the first event in Asia that given them the chance to ride with world’s best riders.” However by upgrading one of the others, the effects of this should be minimised.

One further challenge is to find the best date for the race on the UCI calendar. Chinese New Year is a significant holiday period in Malaysia and organisers have traditionally shifted the race dates to avoid clashing with it, both for practical and also logistical reasons. For example, the traditional finish on Genting Highlands would not be possible during Chinese New Year.

As the date of the festival changes each year, the race dates would have to be carefully chosen not to cause a clash.

“There’s never been much difficulty in planning the dates of the race due to the Chinese New Year,” Emir Abdul Jalal said. “But if we are going for a World Tour slot, where the date is usually “fixed” by UCI, then we would maybe change the usual race period of February to another month.”

The UCI would of course have a big say in deciding if a WorldTour Tour de Langkawi would go ahead. It would need to assess the proposed dates and their practicality, plus determine how the race would fit in with the rest of the calendar. But one factor in its favour is that WorldTour status would further the UCI’s aim of globalisation.

What’s reassuring at this point in time is that the organisers appear intent on pushing for an upgrade. The race’s future was uncertain several years ago, but now with this talk of growth, it seems that the intention is there to make the Tour de Langkawi bigger and better again. That in itself is very encouraging for what is one of the sport's most unique events.

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