In awarding the 2012 World Road Championships to the Dutch province of Limburg, Pat McQuaid, the International Cycling Union (UCI) president, announced radical changes to the Championship format.
The programme is to be nearly doubled in length, from five to nine days, and span two weekends. A team time trial is to be re-introduced and junior events are to be incorporated. Each change is, in its own way, significant, but it is the re-introduction of a team time trial, albeit in a vastly different form, that is the headline-grabber.
Previously contested by national teams of four, it will now feature trade teams of a yet-to-be-determined number. Speaking in Mendrisio on Wednesday evening, McQuaid said that teams could be "could be six, seven or eight"-strong. As for qualification, teams will be selected according to a "system based on results," though McQuaid added that, in line with the UCI’s "policy of globalising cycling, there will be a global aspect to [selection], so that it’s not just European teams."
With the new-look world championships to get underway on the Saturday with an opening ceremony, the team time trial will be the first event, on Sunday. As the UCI calendar stands, it could create a clash with the final day of the Vuelta a España.
"We will study a new calendar to avoid clashes," said Philippe Chevaliar, the UCI road coordinator. "Teams should be able to compete in the Vuelta and the team time trial, but we will do what we can to avoid [a conflict]."
McQuaid added that the team time trial, until it was dropped in 1993 and replaced by the individual time trial, "became an event dominated by equipment and run on a highway, out-and-back. What we’re hoping to do is introduce a team time trial for trade teams run on normal roads or a circuit, to be a more spectacular televisual event, similar to what you’d see on one of the stages of the major tours."
McQuaid denied that trade teams had exerted pressure on the UCI or tried to muscle in on the World Championships. The decision to open the team time trial to trade teams has been taken, he said, solely by the UCI and "to improve the spectacle" of the event.
"From a visual point of view it was boring," continued McQuaid of the old four-man team time trials. "Let’s be honest, the trade teams are the ones who can invest in the material to put together a team time trial team. With national teams, a lot of them don’t have the ability to invest. Trade teams can, and are willing. It’s more spectacular. The public, the fans, can have more affinity with it, because they’re the guys they see all year round.
"The reaction of the trade teams has been very positive," added the UCI president. "I should say that this initiative has come from the UCI. We approached the trade teams with it; they didn’t approach us. It’s not part of an evolution [away from national teams towards professional teams]. It suits the team time trial, but the world championships will always be the realm of the national federations."
As part of the inclusion of juniors into the ten-day championships, competitors will be required to attend a UCI junior riders' conference on Thursday afternoon. Another innovation is the introduction of a ‘cyclo-sportive’ event on a day that is yet to be decided.
McQuaid said that the changes are intended to make the championships "more dynamic and televisually spectacular." He added: "We want to make it an annual rendezvous that becomes a very important part of the cycling family’s year."
The provisional programme for the 2012 world road championships is as follows:
Saturday: Opening Ceremony
Morning: Women’s Team Time Trial
Afternoon: Men’s Team Time Trial
Morning: Junior Women’s Time Trial
Afternoon: Under-23 Men’s Time Trial
Morning: Junior Men’s Time Trial
Afternoon: Elite Women’s Time Trial
Wednesday: Elite Men’s Time Trial
Morning: UCI Congress
Afternoon: UCI Junior Conference
Morning: Women’s Road Race
Afternoon: Under-23 Men’s Road Race
Morning: Junior Men’s Road Race
Afternoon: Elite Women’s Road Race
Sunday: Elite Men’s Road Race
The week will also feature a mass participation ‘sportive’ ride, on a day to be confirmed.
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