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The ProTour peloton will soon compete in Canada.
Non-ProTour wild cards invited to compete in Quebec
The International Cycling Union (UCI) has secured five years for the two Canadian ProTour races set to start in 2010 on September 10 in Quebec City and September 12 in Montreal. Race promoter Serge Arsenault confirmed that the pair of races will be eligible for a further extension after the completion of the second year, taking them through to 2018.
Discussions between Arsenault's organizing committee, Grand Prix Cyclists UCI ProTour, and the UCI about the possibility of the Canadian province of Quebec hosting two ProTour races began one year ago. The event location fell in line with the UCI's recent efforts to bring cycling to a world-wide platform. Arsenault admitted that the UCI granted him a five-year confirmation almost immediately, despite that fact that some promoters in Europe have been waiting for years to be eligible to organize a ProTour level event.
"We have the license for one reason," said Arsenault. "It was the UCI's decision a year ago to make it possible for people like me to obtain a ProTour license for internationally developing the sport. We got special recognition for complying with the new philosophy of the UCI to help develop cycling around the world. This is the main reason we bypassed so many people obtain in these two races. To have success in this big operation, to bring back cycling on a real world wide level, we have to have something outside of the Tour de France."
The UCI confirmed a five-year term for the pair of one-day races beginning in 2010 through to 2014. However, in 2012 the UCI will re-examine the progress of the races and determine their eligibility for an additional four-year extension into 2018. "We believe that we are bringing the best product of cycling to North America," said Arsenault. "We have been working in collaboration with the UCI and we are all very happy with our agreement."
All ProTour teams are obliged to send a seven-rider team to the races and there will be the addition of four wild card spots available. According to Arsenault the wild card teams will include one Canadian national team, Canadian-based Continental team Planet Energy, one US national team and one Continental or Pro Continental team based in the USA, to be decided at a later date.
"We wanted the best and if we want to succeed we have to bring the best product - the best courses and the best cyclists," said Arsenault. "We have an agreement that they [ProTour teams] have to bring seven riders. For us, from an international point, seven riders is enough for a one-day race. Then we will also have four wild card spots."
On August 31 the UCI will pay a visit to the two cities to examine and review the selected courses in Quebec City and Montreal. "The courses are 99 percent selected," said Arsenault. "We actually just switched the days of each race to make Quebec City the first race. It will cover 290 kilometres and go through old Quebec. The second race will be between 225 and 240 kilometres and we will use the Mont Royal in Montreal. We need to have the parcours certified by the UCI ProTour guys and it has to be done one year before the event date."
The ProTour events are receiving funding and full support from the Quebec government including Quebec city mayor, Regis Labeaume, and Montreal city mayor, Gerald Tremblay. According to Arsenault it cost upwards of four million dollars to run the high-caliber events and while there is no title sponsor at the moment the search has begun.
Arsenault is no stranger to promoting bike races. He is best known for organizing the men's Montreal World Cup and the Tour Trans-Canada in the 1990s. He believes that the sport is just now ready to handle high-level cycling outside of Europe. "The peloton, 10 to 15 years ago has changed a lot, it is a really international field now, guys are younger and they have no fear to travel," said Arsenault. "If cycling wants to survive and grow to be a major world-wide sport than it has to get out of Europe - France, Italy and Spain. Otherwise, it can only be called a Euro sport."
Arsenault is working toward the possibility of expanding the ProTour weekend to include a third event held in Boston and a future stage race is also a possibility. "I didn't want to jump into it with something bigger, I wanted to secure our date and maintain a long term relationship with the UCI," he said. "If you want to have the 20 best teams, you have to think of a calendar that suites everyone. We already have the Tour de France and Giro d'Italia that are 21 days long. September is the end of the season, just before the world championships."