The UCI has revealed that 21 candidates from four different continents have applied for places in the 2017 WorldTour race calendar.
Under new rules, races and teams can obtain three-year licences, with the hope that this gives the sport better financial stability. The UCI does not clarify if the 21 candidates are one-day or stage races.
The decision to award three-year licences is part of the UCI’s reform of men’s professional cycling. However with Tour de France organizer ASO refusing to accept the reforms, it is unclear if the WorldTour will be viable in 2017 and beyond.
ASO has so far refused to accept the democratically voted changes and is threatening to pull its major races from the WorldTour and register them in the lower Europe Tour. This would give ASO a much greater control on the teams it invites and possibly allow the French organiser to overlook teams who are against their dominant position in the sport, including the Velon business venture of 11 leading teams that has recently signed an agreement with the Infront sports marketing and broadcast company.
The UCI has not revealed the names of the races that have requested WorldTour status but Cyclingnews understands that possible candidates include the Tour of Qatar, Strade Bianche, the Presidential Tour of Turkey, Tre Valli Varesine, the end of season Abu Dhabi Tour and others.
“These events will now be assessed throughout the 2016 season based on a range of criteria including technical quality of the races, their role in the strategic development and promotion of the UCI WorldTour, and the narrative of the season,” the UCI’s press release reads.
“Expansion of the UCI WorldTour will help fans’ interest across the world and throughout the year, and bring more attention not only to events joining but just as importantly to existing UCI WorldTour events, which will also be given a three-year licence from 2017.”
UCI President Brian Cookson has staunchly defended the UCI’s reforms despite ASO’s opposition, with a power struggle ensuing and casting doubt on the long term future of professional cycling.
“We strongly believe that with the reform of men’s professional road cycling there is a great opportunity to grow the UCI WorldTour with a number of new events, and create an environment where new investment can come into the sport,” Cookson said in the UCI press release.
“We are delighted to welcome such strong interest from around the world for the 2017 UCI WorldTour and beyond and the fact that we have had so many applications spanning four continents is testament to the growing strength of the UCI WorldTour brand. I am convinced that the addition of new high quality events will help the UCI WorldTour reinforce its global profile as the elite series of cycling, and look forward to working with the current UCI WorldTour events, new entries and teams to develop our sport.”