It took me a while but now I've realized: they're right - the cycling calendar needs reforming. Above all it needs lengthening. If, say, we could string it out with a fourth Grand Tour in December, let's call it the Yuletide Tour, maybe we'd have a bit more cycling season and a bit less silly season. And maybe we wouldn't have to put up with some of the nonsense we've heard spouted over the last couple of weeks.
At least Change Cycling Now's cause was good, even if some of the execution wasn't terribly. And at least there was some serious grey matter in the room when they assembled in London a fortnight ago, as well as a regrettable amount of grey area. Say what you like about Paul Kimmage, David Walsh, Greg LeMond et al; they do care - about cycling and its real values, we mean, and not this chimerical notion of "growing the sport", which is marketing men's speak for getting rich quick and sodding the consequences.
Which of course brings us to the Gifted Group and World Series Cycling. Now let's just ignore the disastrous precedents for a moment (although, frankly, if they knew anything about what happened in cricket at the end of the 1970s, they would have chosen a different name), and ask ourselves at what juncture in the last decade did we decide that what was really holding cycling back was its calendar. That what it needed was a globe-spanning series of 10 four-day "Grand Prix" to sit alongside the Grand Tours. Anyone? Anyone at all? Nah, as I thought.
There are other issues with the proposal. Many of them. But they all lead back to the same point: that the men behind the project are missing the point about what cycling needs and what cycling currently is.
Yes, the cycling calendar has always evolved, but while you can lead a horse to water, you can't always make it drink. In other words, what evidence is there for these mines of untapped interest in so-called "new markets" such as the Emirates or China? Certainly not fans at the roadside. You have to start somewhere, we know, but why not start by investing in what makes cycling different from so many other sports - its profound association with its own history and sense of place. What the French call its 'terroir'.
Cycling News HD
The full version of this column appears in issue 33 of our digital magazine Cycling News HD, out now, and is just one example of what you can find inside. Elsewhere in the issue we conclude our review of the year with a look back at the autumn classics with stunning unseen images from Lombardia and an exclusive interview with Paris-Tours winner Marco Marcato.
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