How the hell … can they think about shortening the grand tours?

We’re in the middle of the third week of a cracking Giro d’Italia. But did you know if the UCI got their way the race would have finished by now? Euan asks: how the hell can they think about taking the ‘grand’ out of the grand tours? 

When it comes to the modern Grand Tours, they are steady and reliable things; they feel as familiar and predictable as a favourite walk. You can put your money on seeing a man in a state of undress running alongside the race as it goes up a mountain. You can guarantee that, at least once, cycling’s rules will be applied in an inexplicable way. And they always last three weeks.

Or do they? Seems UCI president David Lappartient wants to shorten them. What exactly is the sense in the UCI making the biggest test of a cyclist… well… less big…?

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So how the hell can they think about shortening the Grand Tours?

First of all, they’re not. They’re not thinking about shortening all the Grand Tours – just the ones that aren’t the Tour de France. 

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Lappartient explains to Cycling News: 

The Tour de France is the Tour de France, I would say, but for the Giro d’Italia and the Vuelta a España, why not discuss with the organisers about this? [shortening the races]

There are two main thoughts behind the proposal, which actually started with the previous UCI President, Brian Cookson. Firstly, the cycling calendar is already congested and two-week Grand Tours would free up dates for other races. Secondly, Lappartient would like to see the top riders competing at their highest level at two or three Grand Tours a year. This is something he believes isn’t possible with the current 3 x 3-week format.

While there’s merit in both points – having the race calendar more evenly spread out will help reduce team costs and perhaps help the Grand Tours to be as competitive as they can be (a desirable aim) –  but surely expecting the sport’s best athletes to ride two or three Grand Tours a year decreases the chances of seeing these guys at other races.

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Strangely enough, Grand Tours aren’t actually required to be three weeks long. They can last a fortnight if so desired, according to UCI Rule 2.6.007: The durations indicated below correspond to the total number of days occupied on the calendar, i.e. both days of competition, including any prologue, and rest days. Grand Tours – 15 to 23 days. 

So there’s no rule change needed, all that’s required is to convince the Giro and Vuelta organisers to shorten their races. Good luck with that!

Being shorter than the Tour de France means they’d lose prestige and status – and cash. With a shorter race the Giro and the Vuelta would get less money from fewer towns paying to host stages; less sponsorship money due to less opportunity for sponsors to be seen and less money from TV rights. 

Maybe some of that could be recouped with more top riders taking part in the races but that isn’t guaranteed. Do the fans want three races choc full of the biggest names anyway? Isn’t one of the joys of the Giro and Vuelta seeing new riders having breakthrough performances?

So how the hell can they think of shortening the Grand Tours? I have no idea … 

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