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UCI postpones launch of new Classics Series

New UCI president David Lappartient with 2014 Worlds winner Michał Kwiatkowski on the start line
New UCI president David Lappartient with 2014 Worlds winner Michał Kwiatkowski on the start line (Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)

The Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) announced today it has postponed the launch of the UCI Classics Series that was due to start in 2020.

The announcement was made during the UCI Women’s WorldTour and UCI WorldTour seminar in Montreux, Switzerland.

The Classics Series was meant to bring together most of the current UCI WorldTour one-day races - the five Monuments and around 15 other events. But the teams organisation, the Association International des Groupes Cyclistes Professionels (AIGCP), rejected the Classics Series, and detailed a long list of complaints about the UCI reforms in an open letter in October.

The UCI says it came to the decision "in the absence of a consensus within the cycling family concerning this new series – comprising the UCI WorldTour’s one-day events despite having been unanimously agreed in principle by stakeholders in September 2018.

"Convinced of the merit of this new series, that would provide a source of additional revenues distributed between concerned parties thanks to improved exposure of one-day races, the UCI will continue discussions with representatives of professional road cycling with the aim of a launch in 2021.

"In a call for unity, the UCI President David Lappartient appealed to all stakeholders to work together to build the future of our sport."

Reform struggles

The UCI has been working on reforming the WorldTour for years, with the original plan to reduce the number of teams in the top division to 15 and promote the top five second-tier teams to the WorldTour races scuttled after teams vehemently objected to the scheme and the UCI faced risk of legal action over the limits.

Since 2009, when then-UCI president Pat McQuaid forged an agreement with Tour de France organiser ASO to create a way to promote and relegate teams from the WorldTour based on points, the entire concept of a WorldTour where the same top teams were in the same top races year to year has struggled to materialise despite three different UCI administrations' efforts.

Creating a cohesive race calendar that both makes sense to fans, pleases race organisers, teams and sponsors has proven to be a herculean task.

Teams want multi-year licences to ensure they can promise their sponsors they will be in the Tour de France and other major races. But the ASO holds a lion's share of the power in pro cycling and their demands for a promotion/demotion system and freedom to invite wildcard teams has put limits on the number of teams in the WorldTour. 

Several times the ASO have threatened to yank the Tour de France and their other races like Paris-Roubaix from the top calendar and in 2008 held the Tour outside of UCI sanctioning, running it under the French federation instead.

The races want assurances that they will attract the top teams and riders, but after the UCI expanded the WorldTour to include races like Tour of Turkey, the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race, and the now defunct Tours of California, Qatar, and Abu Dhabi, among other far-flung events, the teams fought against a full-on requirement to compete in the expanded calendar.

Under pressure, the UCI relented and required the top teams only to race the 'historic' events on the calendar and put the burden on new WorldTour event organisers to somehow attract the required minimum of 10 WorldTour teams despite the teams having no obligation to compete.

What remains of the WorldTour reforms is a date of 2023 to shrink the WorldTour to 18 teams, and a still-packed WorldTour calendar that to date includes 21 one-day races and 15 stage races including the three Grand Tours, with events mainly taking place in Europe with the exception of the Tour Down Under and Great Ocean Road Race, UAE Tour, GPs de Montréal and Québec and Tour of Guangxi in China.

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