Having established some of the major obstacles against Oleg Tinkov revolutionising cycling in last week's blog, THIS WEEK I take a look at the possibilities should those hurdles not exist.
For this discussion I would like to propose there are no limits to the scale or scope of how we could change the world tour – as if we had a clean slate, and were starting again from scratch. Let's even pretend we have influence like Kerry Packer who changed the face of cricket in the 70's with the birth of World Series Cricket. Let's design a new competition with similar disruptive panache.
People have tried before. 'World Series Cycling' attempted to rout the World Tour, but hasn't managed to get off the ground. Aside from teams wanting a bigger slice of the pie (the pie being TV revenue, which ASO is jealously guarding) – it focuses on a more coherent race calendar, with a clear points system. Commendable concept, but does little more to improve the sport from a spectators perspective. The model has merit – 10 stage races over 4 days each, with the best riders forced to compete for overall honours at the end of the season. It's a step in the right direction for sure, but I think we could be a little more creative.
I don't know about you, but I tend to fall asleep a lot watching cycling in the middle of the night. I reckon I would still be at risk of falling asleep even if the cycling was in my timezone. 200Km or 5 hours of racing is just too long in one hit for every race/stage. Frequently, riders wait until the final KM to attack anyway, as they risk far too much going sooner, knowing the distance to the finish may be too far for them to hang on. The IPL or 20/20 cricket is wildly popular because it's all over in 2 hours. A similar concentration of cycling could be the key.
Let's make it interesting.. In addition to the evolution and inclusion of data discussed last week, my version would look like this:
To cater for different athletes and the different types of training required, there would need to be two major disciplines – Let's call them Sprint and Enduro, meaning long course and short course, or Aerobic/Anaerobic, or fast twitch/slow twitch.
Weekly Sprint events in the form of a 'round robin' competition – just like the biggest team sports on the planet (eg. Soccer, NFL, Baseball, Cricket) where one team is pitched against one other, fielding their best riders for any given event. The teams could all have 'home' and 'away' races just like the other sports too.
Monthly Enduro events where all teams on the roster convene to race in more traditional races.
There could be winners or World Champions for each discipline, and perhaps an overall winner for the freaks who can do it all (Peter Sagan?).
Sprint – all events run over a two day weekend.
Head to head sprints - One on one. Set up with two ramps like the ones used for the start line in time trials. Winner progresses to the next round, so the field is halved each time until there is a winner.
Hill climbs – Short explosive efforts up impossibly steep hills. Four riders at at time, with the winners progressing as above.
10km Team sprints – Super fast. Basically a 10km lead-out to the finish line, but with only two teams in contention at a time. Winning team has the first man over the line.
Go to Woe – 300m Individual Time Trial - standstill start to top speed, coming to a complete stop with the front wheel on the finish line. Shortest time wins.
Top Speed Team - Teams given five minutes from the gun to register their fastest GPS top speed – Speed of the fastest rider taken, achieved by whatever means possible.
1 hr city circuit criterium - could be reserved as a monthly event when teams meet for the road races, or perhaps raced weekly, making numbers up by introducing local pro teams.
Enduro – Stage races 4-7 days long.
TTT – Distance should vary month to month throughout the season.
ITT – To include terrain that is flat, rolling and a mountain pass, on alternating months.
Road races over varied terrain and distance, with an emphasis on shorter stages, around 100km.
Additional points awarded for fastest times up certain climbs, irrespective of position in the race, identified as popular using the Strava heat map.
Classics – Taking in some of the traditional longer road races.
So that's how I would design it. That's how I see the sport becoming more interesting for the masses, and allowing newcomers to better understand the racing. This structure makes it easier to learn about the strengths and weaknesses of the riders, and would encourage more personality to shine through, creating new stars and fans in the process.
The problem with all of this of course, is that we don't live in a vacuum, and all of the challenges previously raised remain.
But what if such a vacuum existed? What if there was some way to test this model without the UCI intervening, or Oleg's personality getting in the way, and without behemoth traditional races that can't be moved or ignored? Sponsorship risk would still have to be considered - I would suggest testing the model in a completely separate competition. Perhaps in a competition that is fairly mature, within a strong cycling nation that is already struggling to survive and has nothing to lose.
Now where would we find one of those? Gerry?
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