Even more complicated, unfairer system proposed
By Jeff Jones
The UCI, in conjunction with ASO, RCS Sport, Unipublic, the AIGCP and Dick Pound, has decided to put an end to the ProTour, world cycling's governing body announced on April 1. After nearly two years of wrangling between the UCI and the grand tour organisers, it was agreed at a meeting in Aigle that the ProTour and the road cycling reform was too much, too soon, and it was best to put it on the backburner.
"It's disappointing, yes, but there was no way forward," a UCI source told Cyclingnews. "Basically, no-one understood how it worked, and the big race organisers thought we were treading on their toes. That wasn't the intention, but you can only lead a horse to water."
The points system caused a fair degree of angst among the riders, who felt that some races were not given their full worth. Winning 20 stages of the Tour de France - no mean feat - was barely worth more than a classic. Combined with this was the system of five continental tour rankings, which had to be calculated each month and caused major problems if a rider was retrospectively docked 30 seconds in a race, which moved him three places down on GC (or worse).
Then there was the whole Oceania jersey disaster, which led to a bizarre situation whereby the first leader in that tour, i.e. the best placed Australian rider in the national championships in January, couldn't wear the jersey for eight months. If indeed he was still racing then.
"Yes, that wasn't one of our best laid plans," said the source, who went on to explain the new points system that will come into effect today.
"We're doing away with the ProTour and Continental Tour points systems completely. They're too unequal and they're too hard. Instead, we're introducing a more egalitarian system whereby each rider gets a point when they receive a licence. They keep that point throughout the season, unless sanctioned, and we tally everyone's points up at the end to see who really is the best cyclist in the world.
"To make it easier for us, and the cycling following public, we have placed a restriction on the number of points that a rider can score in races. It's still work in progress, but we decided that it was only fair that no points be awarded at all, because not all riders have access to the best races. I like this approach - it's simple and impartial."
The professional teams association (AIGCP) has applauded the move, saying that it will eliminate intra-team bickering about UCI points and allow the top riders to focus even more on winning races, which is what they are paid to do. The grand tour organisers are also happy, as there are now no restrictions on inviting teams. It is possible - theoretically, at least - that the Vuelta field will be entirely composed of Spanish teams of varying talents.
The last word went to WADA president Dick Pound, who in a rare moment of agreement with the UCI, said, "I think this is a positive step, and it will eliminate all doping in cycling by 2007."