29/06/05

Protour - The "premium product"

The UCI ProTour – An Important Reform in Cycling

The word “reform” is used by everyone, however in some institutions it happens faster than in politics. In the year 2005, at least professional road cycling has been completely restructured. The cycling association Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) has set itself the target to achieve a higher quality level by obliging the licensed teams to be at the start in the most important races. With the help of this approach, the financing of the races is to be safeguarded. The ProTour is also supposed to make a contribution to the development of cycling on all continents.
In 2005, ProTour comprised a total of 27 races and 20 teams. Among them are the big races such as Tour de France, Giro d'Italia and the Vuelta. In addition, 20 teams are obliged to participate in the time trial and the road race within the framework of the World Championships.
So ProTour is the premium product in the world of cycling.

Major Advantages through ProTour

Over the past few years, the big tours such as the Tour de France and the Giro d’Italia did not only increase the public interest in cycling it also had negative effects. It was above all the big stars such as Jan Ullrich or Lance Armstrong who almost exclusively focused on the Tour. Therefore, the teams made their annual plans on the basis of very few major events. As a consequence, it was hardly ever the case that the teams came with their best cyclists to races other than the Tour de France. They often also skipped either the Giro d’Italia, the Spanish Vuelta or the Tour de Suisse so that those races became ever more interesting to the national cyclists. The elite, however, stayed away from those races.
This development is now stopped through the regulations of the newly established ProTour. As all teams are now obliged to participate in all races the attractiveness of the races will significantly increase. The interest on the part of the spectators as well as the media will clearly rise. Cycling will became more interesting.

Four-year License for a Clean Sport

The team operators have to buy a four-year license for the PorTour. In return, the teams receive a starting-position guarantee for all 27 races of the ProTour for the coming four years. In addition, there is another important clause in the contract of ProTour: The teams are not allowed to sign up a cyclist who had a positive result in a doping test in the past four years. This stricter rule applies to doping sinners who will be detected from 2005 onwards.
The ProTour regulations also provide that all licensed teams have to participated in all ProTour races. The idea behind it is to make sure that especially the Giro and the Vuelta will attract international athletes again. This will have a positive effect on the marketing possibilities and the general interest of the fans.

Simple Points System

So far it has been very difficult to understand the points system of the cycling world rankings. The points system will be extremely simplified through the introduction of ProTour:
One can obtain the highest score for an overall victory at the Tour de France. So the most important cycling race in the world will be above the Giro d’Italia and the Vuelta in terms of points. Before they had been at the same level in the world rankings. When it comes to the so-called one-day races a difference is made between the so-called “monuments” and the other “classics”. The five monuments are Milan-San Remo, the Tour of Flanders, Paris-Roubaix, Liège-Bastogne-Liège and the Tour of Lombardy For those traditional races one will be able to obtain more points than for the other one-day classics.
Individual stage victories will, however, be devalued. At the Tour, Giro or Vuelta, the top three will receive three points, two points or one point respectively. In all other stage races the day winner will only receive one point.
This will have two positive effects: The stars can hardly focus on the big events only such as the Tour de France.
Apart from that, the so-called “water-carriers” of the stars, who exclusively participate in the big tours to support the captain, will have new opportunities. Those who win races apart from the big tours will easily rank among the top cyclists of the ProTour and consequently raise their market value. On the basis of the points system a victory of a race such as Gent-Welvegem equals not less than 14 stage victories at the Tour de France.
All points achieved will be eliminated at the beginning of a new season and all cyclists start from scratch gain. When it comes to the team classification, each race of the ProTour has the same value. The best team of a ProTour race gets 20 points, the second best 19 down to the last team, which receives one point.
The leader of the ProTour classification wears the white jersey. In case the world champion wins the white jersey he has to take off his rainbow jersey as long as he competes in the leader jersey of the ProTour. Classification jerseys of stage races, however, such as the yellow or green jersey of the Tour de France have priority in the dress code. After the 2005 Tour of Lombardy in October, the first ProTour winner will be honored.