Amidst the fuss over the UCI’s seemingly monopolistic pursuit of WorldTour event ownership in China, via UCI subsidiary Global Cycling Promotion (GCP), hardly a word has been spoken about near-neighbour India. However, there have been some interesting developments behind the scenes of the ‘Tour de India’, scheduled for March 2012.
Now in its third year, the Tour de India (TDI) – actually a trio of one day professional races and public “Cyclothons” spread over a week – is described by race organizer ID Sports as “India’s parallel to the Tour de France.” The International Cycling Union (UCI), Cycling Federation of India (CFI) & Maharashtra Cycling Association (MCA) are all listed as stakeholders on the Tour De India website. Note that ID Sport’s race director is David McQuaid, son of UCI President Pat McQuaid.
TDI 2012 was originally scheduled to take place in late January – in Pune, Nashik and Mumbai – but the Pune segment was withdrawn in December 2011, due to organizational issues (something about local elections) that were not fully clarified. When the UCI updated its Asia Tour calendar in January, only two one day races were scheduled to take place, on 25 March (Mumbai) and 1 April (Delhi) respectively. Both were/are ranked as UCI1.1 races.
Last week, without any announcement at all on ID Sport’s TDI facebook page, nor the official website, a third stage was added – in Srinagar, 28 March – with a UCI1.2 ranking. So the Tour de India schedule, at least according to the UCI’s 2012 Asia Tour calendar, looks like this:
Odd chronology aside (note that ‘III’ comes before ‘I’ and ‘II’), it appears this will be the final version. ID Sports states that the teams participating in this year’s TDI “will explore an exciting and a difficult task to compete in India’s longest cycling race ever, amidst the chaos and beauty on the India soil. The participation of one of the best teams in the world** only testifies further India’s new found status of being a favourite destination in the world of competiting cycling.” So far, the nine teams listed as participants are all at a National or Continental level. Watch this space.
Anyhow, back to the interesting developments.
In the first slide of this PowerPoint presentation (clicking will download file) – almost certainly created by an ID Sports official in late January – ID Sports is presented as a “joint venture arm of Global Cycling Promotion Company under International Cycling Union”. Crucially, in a later slide, ID Sports states it is the “only company in India affiliated with (the UCI and CFI to) host both professional and mass participation cycling events.
Sound familiar? This is eerily similar to the stealth by which the UCI, via the almost-invisible Global Cycling Promotion, entered China as the seemingly exclusive owner of top-level professional cycling races.
Additionally (prophetically?), it is further stated in the presentation that the 2012 TDI underpins a longer-term vision to host the World Championships in India by the year 2017. The World Championships, as shown in the UCI’s own annual report, are the standout profit center for the UCI – in fact, profits from the 2010 World Championships basically offset the majority of the UCI’s operating costs in the 2010 financial year.
At an administrative level, the TDI’s logo recently changed. It is now much more closely aligned to the corporate style of the Tour de France, owned by Amaury Sports Organisation (ASO). ASO partnered with Global Cycling Promotion ahead of last year’s Tour of Beijing (operated by GCP) to provide technical support for the inaugural Chinese WorldTour event. Whether ASO is providing similar support for the Tour de India is unclear, but the dots join convincingly.
Also of note is Mark Cavendish’s inclusion in the presentation as “The face of Tour de India 2012” – this may reveal that Team Sky** will be participating. Or, due to the fact that Cavendish is pictured in the cycling kit of a now-defunct team, perhaps not. I could see no mention of this anywhere online or in press releases.
So, could be we seeing the UCI attempting to gain first-mover status in India, whilst wielding the top-down regulatory power to remove meritocracy from future race selection in this highly-populated and emerging country? Is this the future model we can expect in Russia, South America, etc? More answers hopefully coming soon.