World Series Cycling is organised boredom
Stuart O'Grady, centre, says GreenEDGE is crucial for Australian cycling. (AAP Image/Benjamin Macmahon)
According to Jonathan Price, the mover and shaker behind the proposed World Series Cycling concept, his planned Grand Prix series of races is just what the sport and its supporters need.
Cycling is too complicated, he says, it needs to be simplified. It needs to become a ‘coherent’ product with a proper global broadcast platform.
It needs to create a package which sells better to sponsors and broadcasters alike. It needs to be a competitive product, “that we think cycling fans worldwide want and which is good for the sport.”
To achieve those goals, Jonathan Price and his cronies want to create ten new four-day stage races. Each race will consist of one sprint stage, one mountain stage, one rolling stage and one time trial stage.
In a nod to the traditionalists, the organisers will also include the three Grand Tours and a generous six of the existing one day races in their World Series schedule, but otherwise the focus will be on the new stage races with their repetitive four day format.
It will be where you can see the best cyclists go head to head throughout the series, Thursday through Sunday.
Welcome to the Formula One of cycling ladies and gentlemen.
Without getting caught up in the speculation of when or if this project will get off the ground, and ignoring the politics associated with it, let’s focus purely on the calendar it hopes to instigate. It is hardly attractive.
We know that Mark Cavendish is the fastest of the flat track bullies, we don’t need him to win eight of the ten sprint stages of the new format to confirm this. Nor do we need to see Alberto Contador take eight of the ten mountain stages.
Cycling has always thrown up a variety of races for its competitors, both in length and terrain. Not all riders are built alike. Each have different strengths and weaknesses.
Variation from race to race allows a greater spread of riders to share the spoils of victory. It keeps the sport interesting.
We love that the Tour Down Under is different to Tirreno-Adriatico and that Paris-Nice is different to the Criterium du Dauphine.
They are great races because of their differences and each throws up its share of heroic rides and new heroes each year.
But under the new system, this diversity will be gone.
So what happens to these races if the pro-teams are otherwise engaged with World Series Cycling? The newly created stage races will take up an extra 40 days on the racing calendar, so something will have to give.
While the Grand Tours and six of the major one day races will be protected, it is these other events that will suffer. Events which have always been eagerly awaited and well supported will fall by the wayside.
Younger events such as the Tour Down Under, the US Pro Cycling Challenge and the late season Canadian events that have been growing year by year and received phenomenal support from fans and riders alike will be threatened. Either that or they will be absorbed into the WSC circus as watered down four day events.
And this is apparently what we, the fans, want?
40 days of compulsory, yet bland racing. One sprint stage, one mountain stage, one rolling stage and one time trial. Ten times over. The location may change but essentially we will be getting the same race, again and again, every Thursday through Sunday.
It’s enough to make me want to watch motorsport.