BOULDER, Colorado (VN) — The World Series of Cycling, a proposed overhaul to the current pro road racing calendar that was poised to commence as soon as 2014, will not happen, UCI president Pat McQuaid told VeloNews.
During an interview at the UCI Elite Cyclocross World Championships in Louisville, Kentucky, McQuaid said that the reform of the pro road calendar, which the UCI was discussing with Omega Pharma-Quick Step owner Zdenek Bakala and his business partner Bessel Kok, had been shelved.
Led by Jonathan Price, whose background is in selling sponsorship and bundling TV rights for European soccer and rugby, London-based Gifted Group had pitched a race calendar designed around 10 four-day stage races that include a sprint stage, a mountain stage, a rolling stage and a time trial. That calendar would have replaced the current UCI WorldTour.
In a December press release, the UCI stated that it had signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Bakala and Kok as the initial investors in the joint venture, and it was entering into extensive dialogue with teams and race organizers before any final agreement would be concluded.
Instead, McQuaid said, elements of the proposal would be incorporated into the current UCI WorldTour.
“The sport of cycling needs to be professionalized,” McQuaid said. “It needs to be much more professional. We’re in competition with other sports for television airtime. We need to look at our professional sport today and modernize it, so to speak, without losing its traditional values. What has been proposed, about 10 four-day races, a bit like Formula One, is not the way to do it.
“The UCI has been in discussion with the investors, who were going to invest in the World Series of Cycling, and have now decided not to invest in the World Series of Cycling, and to work with the UCI to develop this project with the UCI. The UCI retains the majority on the board of the company that is going to do this.”
The concept behind the World Series of Cycling was to increase value — to teams, sponsors and race organizers — through broadcast deals and expanding the sport into new global markets. McQuaid said Gifted Group might have a role, related to broadcast deals, but that would be all. “There’s a potential very good television contract, if it can be brought forward,” McQuaid said.
Price and the Gifted Group did not immediately return a request for comment.
McQuaid said that the UCI was not interested in creating a new series that might detract from the sport’s historic events, such as its grand tours and classics. He also expressed concern over the homogenized four-stage format.
“The 10 four-day races won’t happen, no. It won’t happen,” he said. “That’s not cycling. Cycling is not Formula One, and a Formula One model will not work in cycling. It doesn’t make sense. If you go into any new area with a race, you have to work with the landscape that’s there. You have to work with the background that’s there. Cycling is the best sport to go into any country and develop and promote the country, because it promotes landscapes. You work with what you’ve got.
“The UCI has always said that we want to globalize the WorldTour, we want to globalize the sport of cycling, and I think all of our stakeholders are in agreement that that should happen. But it should happen in a reasoned way, in a gradual way, without affecting the history or tradition of the sport, and also do so in a way that produces a better model of cycling for the new races that come on the calendar, without interfering with the existing grand tours and classics. They have an historical right, and let’s leave it at that. Let’s find a new model for the new races, so that the teams can get a portion of the revenues, the organizers can get a portion of the revenues, the UCI can get a portion of the revenue, the sport benefits, the stakeholders, the riders all get revenues. And it’s a model like that that we are looking at.”
As for the branding of this new model, McQuaid was clear that it would not be called the World Series of Cycling.
“No, it’s not the World Series of Cycling,” he said. “It’s the UCI WorldTour. The UCI wants to develop the WorldTour with new races, in new places, so to speak, in major commercial markets, and we want to work with people who can help us do that.”