Leaked UCI document shows plans of five-year reform for professional cycling
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Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Leaked UCI document shows plans of five-year reform for professional cycling

by Ben Atkins at 7:40 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Tour de France, Giro d'Italia, Vuelta a España, Spring Classics, Fall Classics
Radical changes to WorldTour teams and calendar proposed by stakeholders committee

uciRadical plans to reshape the upper echelon of professional cycling have been leaked to Italian website Cicloweb.it, with a presentation document showing the apparent International Cycling Union (UCI) intentions for the next five years. The document, in French, entitled “La Réforme du Cyclisme Professionnel” - the reform of professional cycling - appears to have been developed over a period of more than a year by a number of “stakeholders,” and would radically change the top level of the sport as it currently stands.

In the working group of stakeholders are representatives of the International Association of Cycle Race Organisers (AIOCC) and the UCI WorldTour, along with race organisers ASO (the Tour de France, much of the Vuelta a España, and several Classics), RCS Sport (the Giro d’Italia and several Classics), the GPs of Montreal and Québéc, Flanders Classics (organiser of the Ronde van Vlaanderen and several others), the Tour de Romandie, and Global Cycling Promotions (GCP) [the UCI’s own promotional arm, which organises the Tour of Beijing - ed].

Representing the riders have been the Association of Professional Cycling Teams (AIGCP), the Professional Riders Association (CPA) and the UCI Athletes Commission in the shape of Team Sky’s Bernhard Eisel.

With the current WorldTour not universally popular, the decision appears to have been taken to shake up its structure, introduce an element of promotion and relegation, and remove the requirement for teams to be racing in two places at once. The current team structure would be split into two divisions, with 16 at the top to ride all of the top races - much as the 18 current teams do - while another eight would rely on wild cards.

Where WorldTour teams are currently restricted to a maximum of 30 riders, under the new rules this would be cut to 22, but they may also have a development squad of between eight and ten riders, which keeps numbers relatively constant.

Below this level, the UCI appears to intend to leave the Professional Continental and Continental teams largely similar to the current situation, with the Continental calendars remaining.

Where the proposed reforms make radical changes though, is in the top level calendar, where several of the sport’s most historic races are slashed in size, some lose or gain status, while some appear to have disappeared altogether as it is restricted to just 120 days. For example, by 2017, the Vuelta al Pais Vasco, the Tour de Romandie, the Tour of Poland and the Eneco Tour all drop out of their current place in the top echelon, but the Tour of Beijing remains.

Beset with financial issues, and having been bailed out by the UCI this year, the Volta a Catalunya - currently part of the WorldTour - is not to be part of either the first or second division come 2017. The fact that the Tour of Beijing still reportedly makes a net loss does not seem to have affected its status.

Most of the current WorldTour races remain in either the first or second divisions, while some of the ‘HC’ ranked races of the Continental calendars are included, but others are not. The Bayern-Rundfahrt does find itself included in the new top level of the sport, while the Tour of California does not.

The three Grand Tours are to remain at three weeks long, but the two long stage races of the early spring - Paris-Nice and Tirreno-Adriatico - will be cut to six days each to avoid running concurrently with one another. While there is supposed to be no overlap in any of the races on the calendar, the Montreal and Québéc races - which both keep their top level status - will still clash with the Vuelta a España, while Paris-Tours also clashes with Beijing.

Two races in Canada - possibly thanks to the organiser’s presence on the stakeholders committee - but none in the United States or Great Britain, which are two of the current biggest growth markets in the sport. The Tour of Britain recently had its application to move from 2.1 status to 2.HC refused, which ultimately rules it out of becoming part of the new first and second division calendar.

The new Dubai Tour - organised by RCS Sport - will join the Tours of Qatar and Oman - both organised by ASO - in what would be 15 days of racing in the Middle East, compared to just seven in Belgium.

While it is not clear whether any definite decisions have been made on this document, it serves as a clear indicator of intent from cycling’s stakeholders. It should be noted, however, that it was produced under the presidency of Pat McQuaid, and so the future of cycling may follow a different path under new man Brian Cookson.

Read the complete document here


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