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Photo ©: Sirotti

News Special for October 11, 2003

Edited by John Stevenson

Sea Change Coming For Pro Cycling With New UCI ProTour

By Tim Maloney, European Editor in Hamilton, Ontario

"I think that the decisions we've taken today for professional cycling are logical steps from all the work we've done to restructure cycling", said Union Cycliste Internationale President Hein Verbruggen. He was referring to the UCI Professional Cycling Council's now more definitive plans for a major re-structuring of professional cycling that was unveiled at a press conference at today's World Championship in Hamilton, Canada.

Alain Rumpf, the professional cycling manager at the UCI explained, "the new UCI ProTour will consist of 20 teams that will be licensed to compete in a series of 30 races consisting of approximately 180 days of racing." To decide which events will be part of this elite group of ProTour races, the PCC will look at the quality and history of the race, the level of financial security and safety of the parcours and extent of TV coverage.

The UCI's ProTour will likely include 20 teams of 9 riders in Grand Tours, plus two other teams that the race organizers will have the right to invite themselves. In the other ProTour races, there can be a total of 20 teams of 8 riders, plus 5 other invited teams. Not only will these ProTour teams have the right to compete in these major races, they will also be obliged to do so, thus guaranteeing the best possible field for major races. This will be determined going forward, but may be based on a minimum number of points per team for participation in the ProTour races, with at least two of their top five riders present. "It's not definitive yet," said Rumpf, "but these are our ideas at this point. We still have a lot of work to do to make this definitive." Another element of the license for the 20 ProTour teams may be to develop young riders; either via a U23 team or a certain number of young riders on their roster.

Rumph further explained that "the 20 teams of about 25 riders each will be eligible to participate in the UCI ProTour races licensed for maximum of 4 years and will gain their licenses according the UCI's Professional Cycling Council and based on ethical, judicial and financial parameters. However, the teams in the UCI's ProTour will not be fixed, but can change from year to year." The PCC is also developing a new classification system that will replace the current UCI team ranking system.

"We wanted the most simple system possible, as there are so many different rankings now," explained Rumpf, "so the UCI ProTour will have a rider ranking, a team ranking and every ranking will start again from zero at the beginning of the year."

The rider and team classification will only come from ProTour races, but the PCC is still under discussion. "We want the leader of the ProTour to be distinguished by a leaders jersey but that's still under discussion", said Rumpf.

Besides the ProTour, there will be 5 continental calendars of smaller races; in Europe, North and South America, Asia and Africa, where the ProTour teams can participate, but won't gain points. "There is still a lot of work to do to finalize these complex questions, but we hope to work all the points out." Although the UCI still has not made the final determination on many points regarding the final structure of the ProTour, most of the key elements are already in place for this sea change for professional road cycling to happen for the 2005 season.

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