UCI ready to enter into ‘extensive dialogue’ with World Series Cycling group over new calendar
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Wednesday, December 12, 2012

UCI ready to enter into ‘extensive dialogue’ with World Series Cycling group over new calendar

by VeloNation Press at 10:10 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling
 
Could revenue-generating reform of cycling damn events such as Paris-Nice and Tour de Suisse?

UCIAfter a new presentation to the media in recent days has led to another upsurge in attention for those behind the World Series Cycling proposal, a project which would take the place of the previously-planned breakaway league, the governing body has confirmed it is prepared to enter into ‘extensive dialogue’ on the issue.

The WSC evolved out of the so-called breakaway league which cropped up during the race radio dispute between the UCI and the teams, and saw some of those teams threaten to walk away from the UCI and its calendar of races and instead set up their own series.

At that point in time, the UCI was dismissive of the idea. One of the goals of the league was to generate revenue for teams, who currently rely on a sponsorship model which has been described by them as outdated, unfair and unsustainable.

Although teams are a vital part of the profits generated by race organisers and others, they currently receive no share of TV revenue.

However the UCI said that no such series could succeed without its support. More recently, it emerged in October that those behind the WSC plans had been in discussions with the UCI and that the latter could potentially also come on board as part of the project, receiving a undisclosed share of the profits.

The governing body has again confirmed that, saying that it has been in discussions with Omega Pharma-QuickStep owner Zdenek Bakala and his business partner Bessel Kok since late 2011 about the possible development of the professional road cycling calendar.

“These discussions have included their potential financial investment in a new joint venture company with the UCI and other cycling stakeholders that would promote and organise elements of this new calendar,” it stated. “The UCI has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with them as the initial investors in the joint venture and will now enter into extensive dialogue with the teams and race organisers before any final agreement is concluded.”

It added that the possible development of the calendar would draw on the consultation currently being established by the UCI, entitled ‘A bright future for cycling’. Plans for this were announced after the conclusion of the Lance Armstrong/US Postal Service investigation, and is said to involve all the stakeholders in the sport. The UCI states that the consultation will have ‘considerable bearing’ on the WSC proposal plus the future path of the racing calendar.

More details emerge of World Series Cycling:

This week, further details were given by Jonathan Price of the Gifted Group, which is involved in pushing for the WSC. He held a press conference in Brussels and according to Het Nieuwsblad, the current proposal is that nineteen races would form part of the season-long competition. These would be the Tour de France, Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a España, the Milan-San Remo, Tour of Flanders, Paris-Roubaix, Amstel Gold, Liège-Bastogne-Liège and Giro di Lombardia Classics plus ten new four day races.

The latter would follow a set format, incorporating an individual or team time trial, a sprint stage, an undulating stage and a mountain stage. They would run from Thursday to Sunday and be held in different locations around the world.

The series has already been backed by the Czech billionaire Zdenek Bakala, who has pledged up to €20 million as an investment. He and business partner Bessel Kok are the main backer of the Omega Pharma Quick Step team, which is one of eight to have already signed up for the new series.

They have been joined by Team Cannondale, Movistar, Garmin – Sharp, RadioShack Nissan, Team Saxo Tinkoff, Vacansoleil DCM and the team formerly known as Rabobank. “The rest will probably follow,” said Price, according to Het Nieuwsblad. “We want the best riders in the best races. People want to see Gilbert against Boonen, Cavendish against Greipel, Andy Schleck and Contador against Wiggins.”

It is envisaged that fourteen teams would take part in the series, with the total number being 280 riders. It is not clear if the series itself would be limited to twenty riders from each team, or if its establishment would require participating teams to cut their annual rosters to this number.

However the plans to have all of the best riders in those events could in theory have a devastating effect on the racing calendar. Established events such as Paris-Nice, Tirreno Adriatico, the Tour de Suisse, Critérium du Dauphiné and more would either be forced to be cut to four days, or would be outside the project altogether. If so, and if there is a clash with the calendar dates of the WSC, it would mean those historical events would lack the big names and would either have to try to endure with other teams and riders, or could collapse altogether.

This prospect and other concerns has led to questions being raised by those who are cautious about such a widespread reform. They ask how such a series would affect other events which are currently boosted by the participation of WorldTour teams and riders, such as the early-season Santos Tour Down Under and the Tour de Langkawi.

In addition to that, there are also questions about the effects this would have on the peloton itself, with many Pro Continental teams being locked out of membership of the WSC.

These and other issues will presumably be discussed by the stakeholders who participate in the UCI’s ‘A bright future for cycling’. Price has admitted that Tour de France organiser ASO and others have not yet said that they would commit to the WSC. He plays this down, but their agreement would be crucial to any project involving the Grand Tours.

For its part, the UCI states that media announcements about the series are premature. “No agreement has been reached on the reforms that will take place to the calendar and as such any media reports about the future of the calendar are pure speculation at this stage,” it stated.

However its signing of the Memorandum of Understanding may raise concerns from those opposed to the proposal, and so too its use of the future rather than conditional tense in the statement it released.

“The UCI will retain full control over the calendar, including sporting and technical elements,” it said. “The UCI and the investors are also committed to ensuring that the final structure of the joint venture will avoid conflicts of interest.”

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