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UCI's race calender may herald new unity

PROFESSIONAL cycling declared a new era of unity and stability on Thursday with the launch of a race calendar that groups elite events into a world ranking system for riders and teams.

The world calendar of 24 races comprises the three major tours of France, Italy and Spain; 10 stage races, including the season-opening Tour Down Under in Australia; and 11 one-day classics in Europe.

The coordinated series completes a peace deal between the International Cycling Union (UCI) and Amaury Sports Organization, owner of the Tour de France, after years of bitter arguments over the sport's future direction.

"Cycling has now regained its unity and harmony," UCI president 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 16 best teams will race at all the top 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 fund, the US$6.8 million biological passport anti-doping scheme that was introduced in cycling after a succession of drug scandals hit the sport.

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.

From 2011, the rankings are intended to decide which teams can enter the Tour de France, cycling's signature event.


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