UCI World Tour by Adam Williams
The UCI World Tour is the latest edition of the sanctioned circuit for professional cyclists. The UCI has had a long history of chopping and changing the competitions and awards for riders and teams, and originally maintained both the UCI Road World Rankings and the UCI Road World Cup as two separate competitions up until 2004, before replacing them with the UCI ProTour and UCI Continental Circuits the following year. The Road World Rankings was based on points awarded for all of its sanctioned races, while the Road World Cup was awarded based on the performance in ten selected one day events.
The creation of the ProTour and Continental Circuits was in part designed to increase the international popularity of cycling and promote it outside of Europe, however individual race organisers, and particularly those from the three Grand Tours were unhappy with the rules placed upon them by the UCI and did not want to be a part of the ProTour. This devalued the ProTour as a ranking system, and the World Ranking was instead introduced by merging results from the ProTour and other prestigious races.
Races holders and the UCI finally agreed upon a set of rules and regulations which could be applied across all races and formed the UCI World Tour for 2011 and beyond. The previous systems were merged and the UCI World Tour now consists of 27 races spread across the year. Points are given to individuals, nations, and teams, with the leaders in each category at the end of the year receiving awards for their performances.
The 27 races can be divided into 4 main categories of events. The first are the three Grand Tours of France, Italy and Spain (Tour de France, Giro d'Italia, and Vuelta a Espana). Points are awarded to the Top 5 placegetters in each stage, and the Top 20 riders in the overall standings. The points available in the Grand Tours are a lot higher than other events, and the Tour de France carries a slightly higher value than the other two tours due to its status as the world's premier cycling event.
The second category of events are the major tours. These consist of 11 of the main international cycling tours, and like the Grand Tours they also award the riders with points for stage winners (Top 5) and the overall standings (Top 10). Nine of these tours are held in Europe, with two events in France, Spain and Switzerland, and single events in Italy, Poland, and a Belgium/Netherlands combo. Te remaining two events are the aforementioned Tour of Beijing, and the Tour Down Under in Australia.
The Monuments are considered to be the oldest and most prestigious one-day races in cycling, and their participation naturally offers points for the UCI World Tour, with the first 10 riders in each event receiving points. Two of the events are held in Belgium and Italy, and the fifth is in France. It is not surprising to find that Belgians and Italians have dominated the Monuments througout history, and in particular riders from Belgium for whom three of them stand alone today as the only cyclists to have won all five Monuments in their careers.
The final category of events are also one-day races, but ones slightly below the prestige of the Monuments. For this reason the points given are slightly reduced for these eight one day races in comparison to the five monuments. Most of the races are held in Europe, with two in Belgium, and one each in France, Germany, Spain, and the Netherlands. There are a further two races held in Canada, at Quebec and Montreal, where the North Americans love to bring out their retro cycling jerseys.
Given the UCI's history of altering its ranking and awards structures, and combining that with their intention to promote cycling internationally, we can expect the UCI World Tour to undergo more changes over the coming years. With only 4 of the 27 events being held outside Europe, we can expect both the number of events to increase, and potentially some of the less popular European events to drop off the racing calendar. One potential change could be in regards to US cycling events, as there are none currently on the UCI calendar. If the UCI can show some stablity and professional management, cycling is sure to grow under the new World Tour.
About the Author
Adam Williams is a cycling enthusiast from Australia.
Tour de France (Rémi GAILLARD)