World Series Cycling is organised boredom

Sean Lee Columnist

By Sean Lee, Sean Lee is a Roar Expert


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    Thomas de Gendt leads the Criterium du Dauphine after winning Stage 1 (AAP Image/Benjamin Macmahon)

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    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.

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    The Crowd Says (16)

    • Roar Guru

      December 14th 2012 @ 8:52am
      Bones506 said | December 14th 2012 @ 8:52am | ! Report


      I am in absolute violent agreement with you. If it ain’t broke – don’t try and fix it.

      The current structure of racing is fantastic and as you clearly point out – it suits varying riders abilities.

      What needs to change is the UCI’s approach to the sport. The Rush guys (over Dumplings and Tsing Tsao’s) came up with the following three initiatives:

      1. Increase in women’s cycling and funding
      2. Better distribution of funds to teams and riders (the UCI like the IRB and a lot of other senior sporting bodies keeps too much of the funds for themselves)
      3. Increased testing and the ban being moved from 2 year to 5.

      • Columnist

        December 14th 2012 @ 2:23pm
        Sean Lee said | December 14th 2012 @ 2:23pm | ! Report

        We can be violent together on this one Bonesy. That the UCI have even jumped into bed with Jonathan Price’s Gifted Group for this is only to protect their own interests and power and has nothing to do with the best interests of the sport. And the underlying reason for Jonathan Price’s group is money. They sense that they may be able to make a quid and to hell with the fans and everything else. What really irks me though is the way that they tell us that this is what we want to see! Spectator attendance and interest in today’s races has never been stronger despite the sport’s problems (Tour of Beijing excluded). Really, the roster of races is the least of cycling’s problems. If as much energy was placed into strengthening its drug testing procedures as with coming up with this silly idea, then the sport would be a shining light to the rest of the world.

    • December 14th 2012 @ 12:57pm
      kid said | December 14th 2012 @ 12:57pm | ! Report

      I’m not sure why you guys are so passionately against this. There is nothing to say that you can’t havea lot of diversity within the 4-day format. Races all over the world will provide unique challenges for every race. As a sports fan I think the scheduling plays a very important part in the success. Fans will know to tune in every second sunday to watch, they will be able to place each race in a context that will elevate the importance of the race from just another race to a possibly season deciding event. Thats why the world champs, the TdF and the olympics draw massive audiences and other races while supported locally bearly rate a mention abroad.
      In saying that though, i think the format is likely to fail unless everyone gets behind it. They can’t run two schedules concurrently, and I don’t think cycling is ready to be a spectator sport.

      • Columnist

        December 14th 2012 @ 2:55pm
        Sean Lee said | December 14th 2012 @ 2:55pm | ! Report

        We already have races all over the world that provide unique challenges and in a much more interesting and varied way than this current proposal. It is actually the one part of cycling that isn’t broken. Why disenfranchise the hundreds of thousands of loyal cycling supporters who have stuck with the sport through thick and thin for the sake of some third party which is only interested in skimming some extra money from possible broadcast rights. would this money filter down to the riders? I bet you it wouldn’t. Also, cycling is as much a spectator sport as any other. Have you not seen the hoards of people standing hillside and crowding the start/finish areas of races not just in Europe, but in Australia, America, Britain? Often numbering not just in their thousands, but in their tens of thousands, even hundreds of thousands? It’s standing room only on the slopes of Willunga Hill or the mountains of Colorado, with support at the big European races the best it’s been for years. Cycling is not like motor sport. You will never have a season deciding event because of the very nature of the sport. Sprinters can’t compete against climbers in the mountains and climbers have no hope in the sprints. in no other sport do such radically different athletes compete against each other. That is why trying to ‘simplify’ the sport will never work. Each race is itself an event bringing with it prestige and opportunity. A series of ten identical races does nothing to enhance the sports appeal.

        • December 14th 2012 @ 3:56pm
          kid said | December 14th 2012 @ 3:56pm | ! Report

          Sean, I don’t think anyone is saying that the current races are not worthwhile or well supported. That is all true. I think the goal is to maintain all the good things you have mentioned while giving the calender more of a unified, coherent feel so audiences can follow cycling year round.
          Your objections surrounding sprinters and climbers is solved as it has been for years by providing classes (points, gc, climbing, young rider). Effectively it is just an additional grand tour spread out across the year.
          Your objections surrounding the sameness of each race is solved by selecting courses for their individuality. No one says milan-san remo, tour of flanders and paris-roubaix are all the same and boring because they are all single day races. Why would you think similarly diverse courses could not be found for the 4 day events?
          If all races were the same then yes that would be a bad thing but I don’t think they would do that.

          • Columnist

            December 14th 2012 @ 10:47pm
            Sean Lee said | December 14th 2012 @ 10:47pm | ! Report

            But that is exactly what they are doing mate. The formula for each race will be exactly the same – eg one sprint per race, one climbing stage per race, one rolling stage per race and one time trial. Currently we have a spread of stage races that range from two day events right up to the three week grand tours that offer various combinations of flat/rolling/climbing terrain. Could Mark Cavendish or Andre Greipel win the GC of one of these new races? The answer is no, because they will lose to much time on the climbing stages. yet Cavendish and Greipel have both won GCs in the past (ok, Cav has only won one, but it is one more than he would win under the four day format proposed). The courses of the four day races will not be diverse because a sprint stage has to be flat, and a climbing stage has to have challenging climbs. I guess the rolling stage could be played around with a bit and I believe that the time trials would alternate between ITTs and TTTs, but I am not convinced that this series is the right way to go if we want to see the very best this sport has to offer.

            • December 15th 2012 @ 11:31am
              kid said | December 15th 2012 @ 11:31am | ! Report

              I take your point… but i’m keeping an open mind. I do think there should be more emphasis on season long competition and events need to be ridden in the same timeslot.

    • December 14th 2012 @ 1:41pm
      Alan said | December 14th 2012 @ 1:41pm | ! Report

      oh you mean like baseball or football or tennis with the same venue over and over. What is baseball have 160 games ? and football has 18 games are all like on the same venue , and the players and fans don’t seem to have a problem with that . it seems that the consistency in venue brings out the strengths and weaknesses of all the players . I think the 10 Ford a stage race is a great idea .

      • Columnist

        December 14th 2012 @ 3:06pm
        Sean Lee said | December 14th 2012 @ 3:06pm | ! Report

        Sorry Alan, you miss the point. It is not about playing or competing on the same venue each week. not even World Championship Cycling was going to do that. It is the sameness of each race that I object to. In fact, cycling does return to the same venues each year – the cobbles of Paris-Roubaix for instance. But throughout the cycling callender, not one race copies another. Each is different. And it is these differences between races that make things interesting and provide different opportunities to different types of riders. Teams and riders plan their seasons by their strengths and weaknesses and target different races making it difficult for one team or rider to dominate a season. The WSC would threaten that and I think the racing would become a lot more predictable and thus less interesting.

    • December 14th 2012 @ 5:34pm
      Tlux said | December 14th 2012 @ 5:34pm | ! Report

      I really like the idea of the 4 day event. I love watching the tour, but struggle to be interested in other events.

      I would like to see the 4 day event with smaller teams of 5 riders. A typical breakdown of each team could be a sprinter, a lead out sprinter, a GC/mountain rider, and two GC supporters.

      Not sure if this would need to be incorporated into the current UCI schedual. If the prize money is right, the best riders will come.

      • December 14th 2012 @ 5:36pm
        Tlux said | December 14th 2012 @ 5:36pm | ! Report

        Also i think the authors view on this format is short sighted.

        Yes Cavendish is the fastest ATM. But he wont be forever.

    • Columnist

      December 14th 2012 @ 11:00pm
      Sean Lee said | December 14th 2012 @ 11:00pm | ! Report

      This is going to sound horrible but it is not meant to be – Kid, Alan and Tlux, have you only recently got into cycling? I’m interested to know which demographic supports this proposal and which doesn’t. Also do you, or have you ever raced? You are all obviously fans of the sport or you would not be motivated to take part in this discussion. Thanks for your input so far and I look forward to reading more of your opinions in the future.

      • December 15th 2012 @ 11:16am
        tlux said | December 15th 2012 @ 11:16am | ! Report

        I’ve watched the last 4 or 5 TDF pretty intensely.
        Never ridden/raced.

        Im just sports crazy. Big motorsport fan (F1, MotoGP, Le Mans,) big into cricket, league, UFC, football.
        So i guess i come from a ‘sports’ point of view, instead of a cycling purist school of thought.

        I can see how an idea like this could be dismissed by the purists, (just like T20 in cricket, DRS in F1).

        I think events outside of the grand tours lack interest because their field isnt always at full strength, the fans want to see Cav, Wiggens, Cancellara, Greipel, Evans etc all the time. I know injury happens. But a real world championship makes every event relevant. I just think its a good opportunity for cycling. You can lead a horse to water…

      • December 15th 2012 @ 11:52am
        kid said | December 15th 2012 @ 11:52am | ! Report

        Very similar to Tlux though been watching TdF since late 90s. I’ll watch any sport, play social sport twice a week and only ride my bike to work (at a pace slower than a sprinter up the tourmalet). I guess my demographic sees cycling as entertainment, we want to watch riders we are familiar with, ride for a significant prize or prestige, at a time we can plan for (preferably after the misses has gone to bed).

        • Columnist

          December 15th 2012 @ 11:57am
          Sean Lee said | December 15th 2012 @ 11:57am | ! Report

          Thanks for replying fellas. I’m getting old and grumpy and pretty set in my ways so I’m always interested in how people newer to the sport view things. I was going to use the example of T20 (which incidentally I hated early on but love it now!). I think that events outside of the TdF are getting a greater following by general sports fans (from an Australian perspective anyway) with SBS now providing goog coverage of all three grand tours and selected classics such as Paris-Roubaix and with Eurosport now available through Foxtel, most major races can be viewed here. Of course the TdU is now covered and our national championships as well (cracking event last year too!) . Either way, lets hope cycling prospers for a long time to come.

    • December 18th 2012 @ 9:47pm
      Al-Bo said | December 18th 2012 @ 9:47pm | ! Report

      Diversity is the point. See also Test cricket versus Twenty20. The latter has instant appeal but a a much, much shorter shelf life.

      There’s also the fact that cycling isn’t about the best riders competing in conditions that suit them. It’s more about minimising losses when it’s not your day. That’s where you see people’s character and that’s what’s most fascinating.

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