Peace in our time

Professional cycling declared peace today with the launch of a race calendar that groups elite events into a world ranking system for riders and teams. The calendar of 24 races will comprise the three grand Tours, ten other stage races and eleven european one day races. Rightly the system acknowledges the pre-eminence of the Monuments by allocating more points than other lesser races such as Amstel Gold and Fleche Wallonne.

The co-ordinated series completes a deal between the UCI and Amaury Sports Organization, owner of the Tour de France and other major races, after years of wrangling over the sport’s future.

“Cycling has now regained its unity and harmony,” Pat McQuaid said. “Cycling has experienced a very severe conflict over past recent years and it has caused the sport considerable harm.” The calendar was drawn up by a UCI-led working party that included race organizers, teams and the professional riders’ union, the CPA.

“It represents the successful outcome of a genuinely collective effort,” McQuaid said. “It takes into account the heritage of our sport as well as the legitimate ambitions of the global development of our sport.”  Jean-Francois Pescheux, who represented ASO on the working group, said it was a perfect outcome for cycling.”  It was not possible while there was a war between (the UCI) and the organizers,” he said. “I think we have found the best solution now.”

The calendar offers guarantees to race organizers, sponsors and broadcasters that the sixteen top ranked teams will race at all the major events. Riders and teams will collect points for finishing positions in races and individual stages which will count toward the world rankings.

The rankings will be restricted to teams and riders participating in and helping to fund the $68 million biological passport anti-doping programme.

The UCI hopes to create a buzz about the rankings similar to the system used in tennis by publishing the new standings each Monday after a race and from 2011 the rankings are intended to decide which teams can enter the Tour de France. The working party will continue to meet throughout the 2009 season to fine-tune the calendar for 2010.

McQuaid told The Associated Press that it was important for cycling to present a united front when all sports are anticipating difficult financial times in the global economic downturn. “The world calendar has come just at the right time,” he said. “People are looking at cycling as a sport which is much more solid and stable. We have got a lot to offer in marketing and advertising.”

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