The International Cycling Union (UCI) presented the regulations for its new ‘World Calendar’ at a meeting in Geneva, Switzerland on Thursday. The calendar, which allows the UCI’s ProTour events to co-exist with the other major European races, was conceived as a solution to the political battle between the organisers of the three Grand Tours and the UCI over the ProTour series.
Cycling’s governing body also revealed the formula it will use for calculating the ‘world ranking’ for individuals, teams and nations under the new scheme.
The new calendar smoothes over years of conflict between the Grand Tour organisers, which also promote some of the sport’s most prestigious events like Paris-Roubaix and Milan-San Remo, and the UCI. The organisers had waged a bitter war with the UCI over ProTour regulations, specifically those requiring all ProTour teams to be invited to their events.
The situation came to a head last year when Tour de France organiser, Amaury Sport Organisation, decided to hold Paris-Nice and the Tour under the French Cycling Federation rather than under the command of the UCI.
“The tensions that affected cycling peaked during the 2008 Tour de France and we found ourselves in a rather sad situation for our sport,” UCI president Pat McQuaid said in an address. “Fortunately, these difficulties were the catalyst for us all to realise that it was no longer possible to continue in this way.
McQuaid indicated that, while the calendar had been agreed upon, there is still some work to be done. “There are still points of disagreement, that is clear, but these are of a completely different nature to those that were tearing cycling apart just a few months ago.”
The regulations were drawn up by a ‘working group’ which included Jean-Francois Pescheux of the Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO), Cedric Vasseur, the Association of Professional Cyclists (CPA) president, Tour of Romandie director Richard Chassot, International Professional Cycling Teams (IPCT) president Patrick Lefevere, UCI road coordinator Philippe Chevallier and ProTour manager Alain Rumpf.
Grand Tours not required
The UCI envisioned its ProTour in the same vein as Formula 1, where one calendar of major events would see all of the same top teams competing for the overall title. But that met with resistance from organisers who wanted to maintain control over the list of invited teams.
In 2007, the ASO refused to invite the Unibet.com team despite its having a ProTour license – a move which crippled the ProTour. Under the new world calendar, teams are neither required to take part in the Grand Tours, nor are organisers required to accept all ProTour squads.
The quality of the field in the Grand Tours will be maintained by restrictions allowing only ProTour teams and Professional Continental squads which have been granted “wild card” status into the events. Participation in the biological passport anti-doping programme is one of the requirements for all ProTour and wild card teams.
The Professional Continental teams are still invited at the discretion of the organisers, but will be awarded with their own teams classification – something which had not existed since the creation of the ProTour. Teams which have not agreed to participate in the biological passport programme will not be eligible for this classification.
Races on the World Calendar include the Tour de France, which carries the maximum points, the Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a España which are the next most heavily weighted events, and a mix of Classics and major stage races in a third class: Tour Down Under, Paris-Nice, Tirreno-Adriatico, Milano-San Remo, Tour of Flanders, Vuelta Ciclista al Pais Vasco.
Also included in the third class are Paris-Roubaix, Liège-Bastogne-Liège, Tour de Romandie, Volta Ciclista a Catalunya, Critérium du Dauphiné Libéré, Tour de Suisse, Tour de Pologne, Eneco Tour, the newest ProTour event, the Tour of Sochi and the Giro di Lombardia.
A fourth class with the least points includes Gent – Wevelgem, Amstel Gold Race La Flèche Wallonne, San Sebastian, Vattenfall Cyclassics and the GP Ouest France – Plouay.
“Neither component of the World Calendar will dominate the other,” McQuaid said. “The UCI ProTour is not in competition with the Monuments Calendar. The UCI ProTour is rather a vision that has won over the teams and organisers because they realise that it is good for cycling. “