Reduced teams, races, race days proposed
The UCI have released a prospective document outlining a streamlined WorldTour to be enacted by 2020. The regular update to its Sport and Technical bulletin released on Sunday featured a ground-breaking outline for reform of international cycling that was quietly nestled between pages on sustainability and the Tour de l'Avenir.
Titled ‘A decisive stage in the reform of professional cycling' the third page of the bulletin goes on to identify a number of key changes that "should lead to a profound and decisive change in the organisation
of professional cycling." The reforms are set to be submitted to the UCI Management committee and Professional Cycling Council for approval in January 2014. If approved the changes will be enacted by 2015 and fully in place by 2020.
A new WorldTour
Instead of the WorldTour, Professional Continental and Continental system employed at current, the UCI is proposing a system with the WorldTour split over two divisions that will still sit above the third division comprised of Professional Continental and Continental teams. Although there remain a number of issues in order to make this work properly, the broad arrangement is outlined as follows:
• 16 Division 1 teams with 120 days of racing [down from 19 teams and 154 days of racing in 2013].
• 8 Division 2 teams with 50 days of racing.
• Division 3 to feature the Europe Tour, America Tour, Asia Tour, Africa Tour and Oceania Tour.
• All results across three divisions to be compiled into a single ranking system to serve as the basis for the nations' ranking.
A new calendar
Common complaints about the current WorldTour system centre around a number of issues with the length of the season, the overlapping of events and the strain this puts on teams seen as major hurdles. The suggested reforms include a re-structuring of the international cycling calendar in order to tackle these problems. The proposed changes are:
• The season will now run from February to October.
• Competition on every weekend, especially Sundays.
• No overlapping of events.
• No competition amongst first and second division events.
• Six weeks of uninterrupted competition focused on the spring classics.
• Stage races cut to five or six days.
Modernisation or homogenisation?
Although only provisional, and certain to be debated, analysed and amended accordingly, the UCI's outline for reform of professional cycling is already being said to be taking the sport from a romanticised past-time steeped in heritage to something of a Formula One on bicycles. Whether this is intended and whether it is to the liking of current sponsors, riders and fans is yet to be seen.