The Big Opinion: Fixing the WorldTour calendar – your views

Last Sunday we asked you what (if anything) should be done to address the six-week gap between the season’s first two WorldTour races, the Tour Down Under and Paris-Nice. Here’s how you voted and some of your preferred solutions,

The results

Our poll suggested six specific options and asked you to vote for your favourite. Here are the results:

  1. An African WorldTour race in February – 25%
  2. Promote Tour of Oman to WorldTour – 22%
  3. Move Tour Down Under back – 14%
  4. Promote Tour de San Luis to WorldTour and move to February – 13%
  5. Bring Paris-Nice or Tirreno-Adriatico forward – 12%
  6. Do nothing – 11%
  7. Other – 4%

An overwhelming majority of you agreed something should be done, with just one in nine happy to leave things as they are. Of course, televised coverage of the Tours of Dubai, Qatar and Oman helps to fill the gap, with many of the top division teams present at these. The inaugural Dubai Tour, for instance, boasts a start list which includes both reigning world champions, grand tour winners in Nibali, Valverde and Hesjedal, and several other top stars such as Cavendish, Kittel, Sagan and Cancellara

This highlights another issue, though. For many fans the WorldTour doesn’t have a strong enough identity to differentiate itself from ‘lesser’ races on the calendar. Indeed in some cases, lower-status races such as Oman are regarded by many more highly than WorldTour counterparts such as Beijing. But that’s a problem and a discussion for another time!

Should a genuine WorldTour bring us more images such as this? Many of you thought so (Image: La Tropicale Amissa Bongo website)

Should a genuine WorldTour bring us more images such as this? Many of you thought so (Image: La Tropicale Amissa Bongo website)

Making the WorldTour more worldwide

Nearly half of you voted for creating an additional WorldTour race in either Africa or the Middle East, with a narrow majority favouring the former. There aren’t currently any 2.HC races – and only one 2.1 event, Gabon’s La Tropicale Amissa Bongo – in Africa, but the notion of a new race in South Africa proved attractive.

Promotion for Argentina’s Tour de San Luis was less popular, raising a number of objections after this year’s, ahem, shenanigans.

That’s fair enough, although even grand tours have suffered from similar problems and WorldTour status would undoubtedly bring more professional organisation and improved TV coverage. More problematic, perhaps, would be the more credible cases offered by North American races: the Tour of California in particular, but also the Tour of Utah and Colorado’s USA Pro Challenge.

Mind you, a promotion for a US race would also have some downsides:

Guaranteed attendance by the WorldTour squads would mean less space for domestic teams, but promoting California, say, would also bring significant benefits while allowing domestic teams to still race elsewhere.

Moving up to WorldTour level would probably require California to relocate at a different time, as it currently clashes with the Giro. On the blog, Cycling Mad suggested February which, until 2010, was exactly when it used to run.

Shuffling the pack

One in seven of you suggested pushing the Tour Down Under back, to start the season later. We suggested early February would be fine, but an even later date would please others.

While others proposed even more radical measures, such as Sheggsy:

Drop TDU to 2.HC. Therefore the world tour doesn’t start until Paris-Nice. Early season used for race training and everyone’s happy!

However, that would leave the southern hemisphere without a WorldTour race. With Australia currently a hot-bed for both road and track cycling talent and the Tour Down Under popular with teams, riders and fans alike, I’m not sure everyone would be happy, though, particularly after a 2014 edition widely considered to be the best ever.

Injera (better known on Twitter as @lesvachesdutour) points out both the disadvantages and advantages of TDU’s current January date:

The current TDU schedule works for those of us here in Oz who are stuck to a school holiday timetable as it coincides with the end of the summer break giving us the chance to enjoy it! Still, the general sporting calendar here at that time of the year is extremely crowded with the Australian Open on at the same time and usually some cricket vying for space.

Finally, the idea of ending the overlap between Paris-Nice and Tirreno-Adriatico by bringing one of these races forward into February wasn’t particularly popular, but did have its advocates, such as Littlewhiteduck:

Bring Paris-Nice forward so it doesn’t get overshadowed and I get more of a consistent fix of racing.

That’s certainly a plausible option – to me, the continuing overlap is nonsensical – even if it would disrupt lower-ranked races in Europe and increase the chances of wintry weather disrupting Paris-Nice.

Conclusion

Of course, there’s no simple solution here, although most readers believe the problem needs addressing. But if the WorldTour is to establish itself as cycling’s premier competition, the most popular option appears to be to fill the gap with a new or promoted race.

What would I do? I would maintain the current six-week gap but pull both the Tour Down Under and Paris-Nice forward by a week. I would then insert a week-long African race ahead of the Tour of Oman, and squeeze the Tour of California in before Paris-Nice.

That would provide us with non-stop action right through to Milan-San Remo, as well as making the WorldTour a truly global competition. I’m not pretending it would be easy or cheap to do, but I think it’s something worth striving for, and a worthwhile legacy for new UCI president Brian Cookson to leave behind.

Thanks to everyone who voted and commented. Look out for more Big Opinions throughout the season.

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