The men behind the new World Series of Cycling spoke of their plans in further detail at a press conference in Brussels this week.
London-based Gifted Group’s Jonathan Price heads the proposed series and presented it along with business partner Thomas Kurth. The initial proposal is of 19 races – all three Grand Tours, Milan-San Remo, Tour of Flanders, Paris-Roubaix, Amstel Gold, Liège-Bastogne-Liège and Giro di Lombardia and ten new four-day Grand Prix style races.
Each Grand Prix would follow a single format, running from Thursday to Sunday in various countries, featuring a time trial, sprint stage, rolling stage and mountain stage.
Eight teams have so far given the proposals their backing: Cannondale, Garmin-Sharp, Movistar, Omega Pharma, RadioShack, Saxo-Tinkoff, Vacansoleil and Rabobank. The UCI will handle the anti-doping and the races would be run under their regulations.
Wealthy Czech businessman, Zdenek Bakala and Dutchman Bessel Kok first rolled out their plans a month ago. Bakala said that he had the backing from teams and investors and would invest €10-20m [£8-16m] of his own funds. He likened it to football’s Champions League.
The UCI has confirmed that it has been in discussions with Bakala and his business partner Kok since late 2011, but just how supportive they are remains unclear. The sport’s governing body has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with them and UCI president Pat McQuaid said yesterday; “Cycling is one of the world’s most popular sports and we are committed to take this to an even higher level. … We look forward to making a formal announcement on this as soon as possible next year.”
The UCI said that it wants to hear suggestions from all stakeholders on how to move cycling to the next level and invited them for a consultation meeting early next year. It invited the stakeholders – riders, teams, organisers, federations and sponsors – to submit their ideas, but gave them only six days, by December 10, to do so.
It stated yesterday that it will now enter into extensive dialogue with the teams and race organisers, and called this “A bright future for cycling.” Just how extensive this dialogue will be remains unclear. Teams are already on their pre-Christmas training camps and have just a few weeks before the 2013 season starts in Australia with the Tour Down Under. They have little time to consider a new series, essentially leaving it to Price, Kurth, Bakala and Kok.
The Gifted Group’s biggest challenge will be to persuade organisers Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO) and RCS Sport to come on board. Between the two companies they own and run the sport’s biggest events and so far have shown little enthusiasm for the proposals. “We will demonstrate it makes sense,” Price said Monday.
“It will encourage the different partners to work together.” Price claims the series will generate even greater TV revenues that the likes of ASO will then be happy to share with others.