The UCI have set out key areas of their reform plans after agreeing certain a number of proposals at a two-day seminar in Barcelona this week. Billed as a possible major turning point in the UCI’s plans for reforms, the seminar saw the sport’s governing body, as well as several other key stakeholders in the sport, thrash out plans revolving around WorldTour licences, the WorldTour race calendar and other aspects of professional cycling’s future.
The seminar saw representatives from 25 race organisations – including Tour de France organisers ASO – and the 18 WorldTour teams and riders. One of the major approvals was the format and plans for the future of the WorldTour, which currently comprises of some of the world’s largest and most important races. The structure used in 2015 will remain in place for 2016. However, this structure will act as a base for possible changes in 2017, with races from that date being awarded three-year WorldTour licences.
The UCI also confirmed that, “events from the tier below will be able to apply to join the UCI WorldTour. The first candidates will be assessed in 2016, and those selected will be incorporated from the 2017 season, also for an initial three-year period, with the possibility of events joining also in subsequent years.”
Races looking to step into the WorldTour will be assessed on a certain criteria - not yet announced – but the UCI added that selection would, “ensure the technical quality of those races as well as their role in the strategic development and promotion of the UCI WorldTour and the stories of the cycling season."
Another agreed development leading from the seminar is the formation of the Professional Calendar Working Group. This will be run by the UCI and hold two representatives each from the AIGCP (teams) and AIOCC (event organisers), plus one observer representing the riders. The plan for this new body is to advise the existing Professional Cycling Council (PCC) on the WorldTour calendar and provide greater collaboration between all the relevant stakeholders.
With regards to the structure of the WorldTour teams, from 2017 squads will be awarded three-year licences. Licences will still be reviewed on a yearly basis and under the current model of criteria based around ethical, financial, administrative and organisational standpoints. The UCI also states that “sporting performance [will be] assessed over the three year period."
“I am convinced that this reform will enable us to showcase the best of men’s professional road racing,” UCI President Brian Cookson said in a press release.
“Road cycling’s strengths lie in its variety, its season-long narrative, its accessibility to fans and its global nature. The UCI WorldTour needs to embrace these strengths and effectively promote them while celebrating the richness of the season and the performances of its actors.”
The UCI had faced stiff opposition to their plans for reform the WorldTour structure over the last two years with ASO the keenest of the race organisers to assert their authority over the future of the sport. Any reforms, however, needed the backing or the withdrawal of ASO’s opposition.
The ASO and the race organisers' association AIOCC (Association Internationale des Organisateurs de Courses Cyclistes) voted against the reforms at the decisive Professional Cycling Council meeting recently and have so far pushed back against the changes. Two weeks ago AIOCC said it was against the implementation of the reforms, calling on the UCI to return to an original project presented in 2014 and re-open talks over the future of professional cycling. Back in June ASO even threatened to remove their races from the UCI’s WorldTour if certain demands over a possible relegation system were not implemented.
Today’s announcement suggests that comprise between the ASO and the UCI has been met, at least at this initial phase of agreement. The major tests lie ahead when in 2016 the new reforms begin to take shape.
“This reform respects existing rights, ensures stability for organisers and teams and encourages stakeholders to work together, ultimately reinforcing the credibility and integrity of cycling,” Cookson added.
“We all need to feel responsible for the image of our sport. All of us need to realise that it is only by making our sport more sustainable, that we will create new opportunities for all. I am pleased with the level of collaboration that has been demonstrated over the past two years and I am now looking forward to the implementation of these changes in the same spirit.”