A recent tradition in women’s road cycling has been for the UCI to announce the women’s road calendar for the following year around the Road World Championships…. and then add and take away and move races throughout the entire year, so the calendar is never actually confirmed until after everything’s been raced. It’s frustrating, for teams, riders, media and fans – and for other races, when they think they’ve got a great empty spot on the calendar, and suddenly 2 more races clash with it. So I thought I’d have a look at how it might have changed since I last looked at the 2016 calendar, back in October, when I wrote a mini series (how the 2015 calendar changed between being published and raced; a first look at the 2016 season; changes to the calendar over time, and the podcast where Dan and I talked about all this). I was expecting changes, but not THIS many changes, and I’ll tell you about them below, why it matters, why it might have happened, and what extra changes are in the pipeline.
Changes to the 2015 season
The first change was a race in 2015 being added. I know, adding a race in October? As far as I have been able to find, the 94.7 Cycle Classic in South Africa appeared on the calendar six weeks before it was raced, so of course it was a small field.
Changes to 2016
So since I last looked at the calendar, we’ve lost 1 race, had 1 reduce in length, and added four stage races and seven day races – and incredible 23 extra racing days, making the calendar look like this:
Here’s where those changes have happened, with more analysis below:
Races that have disappeared
The race we’ve lost is the Ronde van Overijssel in May – it has only run for two years, and it’s a big shame – the men’s race seems to be happening, per the website, so I hope this is just an error.
Races that have changed
I am assuming that the two Apple Races that were on the calendar in Israel for May have transformed into the three Israeli races in March, the Arrad Diamond Arrad, Massada Arrad, and the wonderfully named Dead Sea – Scorpion Pass. Moving so early in the season, and clashing with Strade Bianche, I don’t think we’ll see any big teams there, but it’s good to have races in the Middle East, especially after years of having races in Golan (Syria) turn up on the calendar for years in a row, and never get raced (for obvious reasons).
The Auensteiner Radsporttage has moved back a week, and reduced from three days to two, but it’s a great race, I hope this is a positive change for the organisers.
The Baku ITT in Azerbaijan has moved back a date, and I’m guessing this is to coordinate with two new Russian races, the Moscow Cup and the Grand Prix of Moscow, though again, the clashes with big races mean big teams probably won’t be there. And I love the fact the Giro dell’Emilia have added a second race, the GP Bruno Beghelli, which has been running as a men’s race for years, so it’s now a weekend of racing, and a really strong end to the season.
More races that have been added
There are three kinds of races here – races that existed already, like the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race, and the Cascade Classic, that have been running already and upgraded to UCI status, races like the Trofeo Lazzaretti ITT that have been running for years for men, and have added a women’s race, and completely new races.
I’m happy the Cadel Evans race is UCI, as this strengthens the Aussie racing season, but it’s a huge shame this happened so late, because maybe more teams would have sent riders to the Aussie summer season if they’d known there were more UCI races there. We’ll hopefully see the impact of this change happening in 2017 instead. The Trofeo
Two new races in Thailand, the Tour of Udon and the Udon Thani’s 123d Anniversary don’t have websites, and as they’re in January, I can’t see many big teams get there. The two new Ukrainian races, the Horizon Park Challenge, and VR Women’s ITT, are on the same weekend at the end of May, but again, they clash with some big racing in the Netherlands and Belgium, and there’s no website for them, so there’s not much to say about them.
Nothing to find about the last two new stage races, the Tour de Pologne and the Tour de l’Occitanie, as they have no websites either, but Pologne is a long-standing men’s race, and there used to be a women’s race with the same time that was last raced in 2008. The clash with the Giro Rosa and the Czech race is annoying, but there are some great Polish riders coming through, I’m glad this race is back. And given the loss of races in France over the last decade, having l’Occitanie there is good, though I wish it didn’t clash…
(I have to say, I’m raising my eyebrows at the UCI allowing races to register without a website. Presumably they have to provide basic race information to get the ranking, so why not put having that information online a registration criteria? It’s annoying for me, but how can a team work out if they want to ride, or even if it’s feasible to travel there, if there’s no website? Especially when there’s no website a month before the race is due to run…)
Here’s the December 2015 version of how the UCI calendar has changed over time:
(Compare to the October version, and remember the caveats in there about some races evolving rather than disappearing)
What are the implications?
There are three reasons that races might be added to the calendar late on. There may have been problems getting the race confirmed; the country’s Federation or the UCI might have wanted clarifications about issues before they agreed it… and a cynical theory that some races register later because they actively want to reduce the number of pro teams, and be skewed towards riders and teams from their country. UCI races have to invite the top UCI teams (the number depends on their ranking), but given teams start to plan and budget for their seasons during the previous summer, inviting them with six weeks to go, or even a couple of months, if the race is on a different continent, means they won’t come, and hooray, more local teams, and local riders getting UCI points, and especially important this year, Olympic qualification points. Some fans refer to these as “pop up” races, and when you look at the calendar over time, there’s traditionally been a bump of 1-year-only races in the Olympic qualification period.
(If you want to know a bit more about the impact of races being added to the UCI calendar late on, I interviewed two team DSs earlier in the year about this – ORICA-AIS’ Marv Barras, for the big team perspective, and Matrix Procycling’s Stefan Wyman for the small team PoV)
I should make it clear that I don’t think all the new races are late for cynical reasons. The Gran Premio Bruno Beghelli, for example, is clearly after the Olympics, and put on by the Giro dell’Emilia organisers, to be a second race over the weekend, which is rally positive, especially being in Italy, which has lost a lot of women’s races in the last ten years. And the Cascade Classic is the longest consecutively run elite stage race in the USA, and going UCI just strengthens the North American cycling calendar, and is a really positive move.
The races I’m most surprised have got on the calendar just look cynical. When a race appears late, and clashes with 3 or 4 other races, I can’t help thinking “pop-up”. I suppose that the UCI might not actually mind that extra races appear this year, and will give Olympic points to riders who could never get them racing against the top teams, but if this is a deliberate move, at least be open about it – don’t call them .1 or .2 races, call them .OLY races, so teams know they will only be around for a year, and don’t need to think about them for 2017.
What other changes are likely?
When I said on twitter that I was looking at this, a couple of people advised me to wait a bit, because we know of more potential changes in the pipeline. I did consider waiting, but the calendar is in continual flux, so there’s never a firm time to say “this is it”. But here’s what the women’s cycling twitter detective club think could happen.
- The Emakumeen Bira and Durango-Durango Emakumeen Saria have asked the UCI to move, from June, back to April. Given these changes that have been allowed, we guess this will be agreed.
- The Tour de Yorkshire have just announced their race route, along with a proper women’s day race next year – after this year’s under-80km race, they’re having a 135km race on the same-day, same-course as the men’s next year. Rumour had it they wanted to be a World Tour race, so it’s likely they will go UCI – but since they clash with long-term races, the Festival Elsy Jacobs and Gracia-Orlová, don’t expect to see all the big teams.
- There are still a couple of French stage races that ran this year, and may or may not turn up late – the Tour de Bretagne and Tour de l’Ardèche are popular races, but apparently a lot of these French stage races are run by aging committees of volunteers, who’ve been struggling, so don’t hold your breath. It’s very sad that we’ve lost so many races in France, and I hope they are being supported by the French Federation so they can come back stronger.
And of course, more “pop up” races in non-traditional cycling countries….
I’ll have another look at the calendar before the Spring Classics start, and I’ll re-do all my tables then – and if you want to talk about any of this with me, leave me a comment below, or talk to me on twitter. One day I hope that the UCI will put out monthly bulletins so we can get told about these changes in an organised fashion, rather than trying to work it out ourselves… Until then, imagine me with paper all round me, and colour-coded spreadsheets!
As always, big thanks to my Patreon supporters, who fund me (from as little as $2/month!) to make spreadsheets, count races and try to work out what’s going on…