ProTour to expand to Russia and China

With the announcement of a four-year ProTour license granted to the Tour Down Under , the first...

With the announcement of a four-year ProTour license granted to the Tour Down Under, the first non-European race to obtain the status of cycling's most important racing series, the calendar is planned to expand even more. UCI president Pat McQuaid is reportedly in negotiations to create ProTour races on the Asian continent, too, with Russia and China next in line to acquire licenses.

McQuaid's first meeting with Russian sports authorities dates back to last June, but a new gathering will take place soon to discuss the possible creation of a ProTour race in the Black Sea resort of Sochi and surrounding areas. Sochi being the host of the 2014 Winter Olympics, Russia aims to increase the region's notoriety, and the country's president Vladimir Putin is personally lobbying to realise the plan.

"The approach came from Vladimir Putin himself," McQuaid told AP. "The government is interested in organising a major cycling race in Russia, more specifically in the Sochi area. The region is not very well known, but they want it to be known. The government sees cycling as one of the best ways to promote the beauty of the Sochi area ahead of the Olympics."

The UCI president also revealed the China was interested in a major tour "as a legacy for the Olympic Games" taking place in Beijing next August. He has met with Chinese officials in April and will be returning to Beijing next week.

"We will create a global tour," said McQuaid, who wants to "take the sport outside of its traditional roots in Europe. It's important for our sponsors to go into these new markets. Cycling needs to offer those markets."

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