Cycling enters a new Era with the World Calendar
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Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Cycling enters a new Era with the World Calendar

by Steve Jones at 12:34 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling
For far too long the powers that be in the cycling world have been at odds, but as we enter a new year it seems the dust has settled and peace has prevailed. This is certainly a much needed New Year's resolution the International Cycling Union (UCI) and Amaury Sports Organization (ASO) will be held to.

In a dispute that has taken it's toll on an already battle-scarred sport, the casualties along the way will hopefully remain as lessons on what shall never happen again. The bottom line is that compromise is the way of the world, and whomever's side you had taken, it's nice to have a sense of calm back in the air.

The new World Calendar consists of 24 races including the three Grand Tours in France, Italy and Spain; 10 stage races; and 11 one-day classics in Europe.

"Cycling has now regained its unity and harmony," UCI president Pat McQuaid said. "Cycling has experienced a very severe conflict over past recent years and it has caused the sport considerable harm."

A team led by the UCI included race organizers, professional teams, and the professional riders' union (CPA) worked together to create what is now the World Calendar.

"It represents the successful outcome of a genuinely collective effort," McQuaid said. "It takes into account the heritage of our sport as well as the legitimate ambitions of the global development of our sport."

Jean-Francois Pescheux, who represented ASO on the working group, said it was a perfect outcome for cycling.

"It was not possible while there was a war between (the UCI) and the organizers," said ASOs workgroup member Jean-Francois Pescheux. "I think we have found the best solution now."

The implementation offers more stability to the sport by giving guarantees to race organizers, sponsors and broadcasters that the 16 best teams will race at all the top events. In order to battle the remaining "war" in cycling, the rankings will be restricted to teams and riders participating in, and helping to fund, the biological passport anti-doping program.

The biological passport system was created by the UCI and World Anti-Doping Agency after the sport was rocked by doping scandals. Over 850 professional cyclists 850 riders submitted blood and urine samples at specific intervals during the year to create a "baseline" or "profile" for several of their body's key readings. With this profile, doping offences could be uncovered by deviations from the cyclist's known key biological levels. With this tool it would narrow down the possibilites for cheaters to beat testing protocol with a combination of timing and masking agents.

UCI President Pat McQuaid said the first cases using the new passport system will be introduced "in the coming days and weeks." "There won't be many," he said. "We would hope that with the improvements coming with the biological passport that doping is something the fans will be reading a lot less about."

One of the key features of the World Calendar will be that it is not set in stone. The working group will continue to meet throughout the season, and tweak the schedule as needed to optimize its impact to the sport.

They will publicize the new scoring system much like tennis. That means publishing the rankings each Monday to help create more interest in the competition.

CPA president Cedric Vasseur said, "If we want cycling to come back we have to have the big stars again. We need that everybody is waiting for the classification every Monday." He insists that a competition without prize money is hollow, and that must change in 2010.

The only race that will be phased into the program is the Tour de France, cycling's marquee event. In 2011, the ASO intends to use the World Calendar rankings to decide which teams will race in their event.

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