“Today, cycling is truly a global sport. The World Tour peloton is now made up of riders representing 44 countries. I would very much like to see the completion of a genuine ‘World Tour’, one in which the very best teams and riders in the world compete in some of the biggest markets in the world.” – Excerpt from ‘A Bright Future For A Changed Sport’, by Pat McQuaid.
We’ve all heard claims and figures from the UCI and, in particular, its incumbent President Pat McQuaid, to support the notion that cycling has indeed become ‘globalised’. It’s a fact there are now more professional cyclists and teams racing on the five UCI Continental Circuits than when the concept was introduced in 2005 – the first year of McQuaid’s presidency.
However, what about additional opportunities for these cyclists and teams to race? Surely, as the number of riders has increased, there has been a commensurate increase in the number of available racing days. In the manifesto published to canvass support for his re-election, under the heading ‘Fostering the Global Development of Cycling’, McQuaid goes on to say:
In my time as President, there has been enormous growth both in the number of races as well as the number of teams competing across all five UCI Continents.
– Races in the UCI Asia Tour have increased in number from 13 to 30
– Races in the UCI America Tour have increased in number from 19 to 26
– Teams in the UCI Europe Tour have increased in number from 96 to 106
– Teams in the UCI Africa Tour have increased in number from 2 to 7
– Teams in the UCI Oceania Tour have increased in number from 2 to 5
Notice how the emphasis changes from number of races to number of teams once the Europe Tour is mentioned. Why does this matter?
The above table shows the variation of racing days* and event status for all Continental Circuits since the inaugural 2005/06 season. We can see there has been a sustained year-on-year (YoY) decrease of UCI racing days, globally, since 2007/08 – the year of the infamous Global Economic Crisis. There has been an 11% drop in racing days since 2005/06.
It’s especially worrying to see the supply of 2.2-ranked racing days – a fundamental development platform for riders striving towards the WorldTour – drop by 25% in the space of eight seasons.
58 countries hosted UCI events in 2005/06, a figure that has since grown to 66 in the current season. Of the original 58, 50 have stayed the course. However, the allocation of racing days per Continent is far from equitable. China’s share of racing days on the 2013 UCI AsiaTour has grown from 10% to 31% (32%, if Continental Championships – which China itself has not hosted since 2000 – are excluded). If Malaysia’s 21 racing days are added, the two nations account for almost half of all racing days. On the Europe Tour, Spain has shed a massive 68% of the racing days it began with in 2005/06 (97 days). Spain used to have seven 2.1 and 2.2 stage races apiece; now it has three and one, respectively. France has demonstrated remarkable resilience, keeping its supply steady around 150 days per year (which means French races comprise 15.5% of all race days, globally, for the 2012/13 season).
Below are overviews of the change in volume and distribution (by UCI event status) of racing days per Continent. It’s little wonder McQuaid didn’t want to talk about the increase in teams on the Europe Tour and America Tour versus the availability of races.
*Note: includes rest days, which has a negligible impact on the overall figures