If race organizers won’t share television rights, pro team group Velon and its partner Infront Sports and Media will just make their own races.
According to Dutch paper De Limburger, Infront will run a series of UCI-sanctioned races in 2017 in the Netherlands, Switzerland, and South Africa. The races will have unique formats, some borrowed from track racing, and part of the TV rights will go to participating teams. The races will be called the International Team Challenge, or ITC.
The first event will take place over three days in the Netherlands beginning June 2. The first day appears to be a sort of criterium around the Sports Zone, a massive sports complex in Sittard. The second day will take on Amstel Gold’s Cauberg climb 10 times but will be scored like a track points race, with points awarded to the first riders over the climb each lap. The final day will be structured like a team pursuit, again around the Sports Zone in Sittard.
Infront is a major sports marketing, events, and broadcasting company, initially created in 2002 to handle broadcast rights for the FIFA World Cup. It is owned by the Wanda group, which is bankrolling much of the UCI’s recently announced expansion into China, which includes a new Chinese WorldTour race.
The collaboration between team group Velon and Infront should help ensure the presence of star power on the start line of the new ITC races, as Velon teams have a vested interest in the success of the ITC events.
Velon’s stated goal is to improve the economic health of pro cycling, particularly its professional teams. The ITC race deal, which includes TV rights revenue for teams, skirts major race organizers ASO and RCS. Both have thus far balked at sharing their TV revenue. The ITC deal further strengthens Velon’s relationship with Wanda as it continues to work its way into the world of pro cycling.