Takes from the peloton, February 23, 2006
UCI president Pat McQuaid arrived in Monterey on Thursday, February 23 morning to get a first-hand look at the latest addition to the UCI calendar, the Tour of California. McQuaid drove the first thirty kilometers of stage four and was impressed with the views and parcours. He commented to Cyclingnews before the start of the stage that the feedback from the teams, particularly the Pro Tour teams, has been quite positive. "My impressions are very good so far," said McQuaid. "And when I say that, my impressions are formed by having a walk among the teams this morning and talking to the European team managers."
One aspect in particular that McQuaid is looking at is the way in which the local police participate in making the roads safe for the riders. "They all say it is an excellent race with good organization and superb police cooperation, which is a very important element - in a new race in particular, they are always concerned about that."
There are a variety of oversight roles that the UCI plays in helping a race like this materialize, ranging from rules to publicity. "The UCI's main role is encouraging the race to take place in the first place," McQuaid said. "But then it is overseeing the organization of it and sticking by the rules. It is important that a race which has a 2.1 status in America is organized in the same way a 2.1 race in Europe is organized. In other words, all of the infrastructure is there for the riders to make it work. So we will be watching closely the technical elements of the race."
For the prolonged success of the race, McQuaid points to a secure television package that will bring the race to larger markets, like Europe. "Then it's media and publicity - how they invest in the event for international audiences and television, which they have plans to do. It's got the makings of a big event. It's the first year so it is going to take a little bit of time but give it a few years and chances are it will be a very big race."
One of McQuaid's goals for his term in office is to grow the sport beyond the traditional areas of popularity in the world - and a race like the Tour of California is one link in that chain for McQuaid. "I'm very keen on progressing the sport outside of Europe. It is important to have big, high-level races outside of Europe. I've been to Down Under this year, Qatar and here."
In his mind, there is even the possibility that far down the road, a race like this and others outside of Europe could be included in a Pro Tour calendar. "There is no reason why not if the race keeps growing. If the Pro Tour changes as it evolves, who knows which way it could go. Already I've been approached about Pro Tour by the prime minister of South Australia - who is very much behind his race, and is prepared to invest whatever it takes to make it Pro Tour. But at the moment, with the current Pro Tour regulations, that wouldn't be possible, nor a good thing. And the same applies to here. If you have to follow the regulations, you would have to have all twenty teams here, which is no good for American cycling. We have to take it in a pragmatic way as well as a emotional way."
Back to the actual racing, McQuaid picks Landis as the favourite to win the race. "It's difficult to say, but Landis will be hard to beat. The time trial is over and they have a good team that is highly motivated, and they have a sponsor that is here. But the way we are going now, up and down, it leaves itself open to quite a bit of good racing. But Landis would be my bet."