A deep dive into the new UCI anthem - does it capture the 'essence' of cycling?

Cycling's governing body have released a song that will be used at all World Championships across all disciplines

World Championships
(Image credit: Getty Images)

For the eagle-eared among you, there was something different about the podiums of the junior men's and under-23 men's podiums at the Wollongong World Championships on Friday.

No, not the rare strains of the Kazakh anthem being played for Yevgeniy Fedorov, the winner of the U23 race, but the piece of music played as the top three riders walked onto the stage before the podium ceremony.

That's right, I know it's what you are all thinking, it's a new anthem for cycling's governing body, the UCI! And at long last too, because the old one had been going since 1996, and was definitely in need of a refresh.

The coming aural revolution was hidden in the press release about the latest UCI Congress, where the top lines were France being awarded the 2027 'Super Worlds', Bhutan joining the UCI as the 202nd member, and five people, including Anna Meares, being awarded the UCI's Merit award. Standard.

12 paragraphs down, way below where a normal person would read, if they had even navigated the UCI's incredibly helpful website to this point, was the explosive news about the anthem.

"Congress participants discovered the new UCI Anthem," the statement read. "It will be broadcast from tomorrow during the podium ceremonies of the 2022 UCI Road World Championships in Wollongong, and in the future will be used at UCI World Championships for all disciplines. 

"This anthem, which will replace the one that has been used since its composition in 1996, aims to capture the essence of the UCI and of cycling in a unique melody and rhythm. This change is part of the UCI's desire to modernise its sound brand and ensure it keeps up with the times."

Does that not sound super exciting? Having reviewed the Vuelta a España's official songs, and taken a look at Pieter Serry's Giro d'Italia playlist, it is time to turn Cycling Weekly's critical eye towards the UCI's anthem.

But first, for the ignorant among you, here is the anthem that has been used since 1996, apparently, although no one had ever noticed it.

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I really don't mind that, truth be told. It does its job, a twelve second trumpet fanfare to instruct the crowd gathered in front of the podium that something important is about to happen. A brass flourish is all that is really needed in this situation, right? I might be a bit biased as someone with grade eight on the euphonium, but this is good.

I suppose it does not feel particularly modern, and this might be why the UCI has decided now is the time to update it, although we really do not know. That said, is the seconds before the new world champion walks onto stage really that important? I am not so sure.

Next, it is time for what you have all been waiting for, the new anthem.

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First thoughts: it is perfectly fine, inoffensive, potentially a bit more exciting than the old one. It goes on a bit, which is why the three men on the podium of the under-23 road race look so awkward standing around waiting for it to end. It's also spoiled by being used when the riders walk out, which means that cheering and cow bells come over the top of it, how dare the crowd do that over such an important moment.

It's definitely more modern than the old fanfare, with a pounding base and drum beat accompanying what I assume are synthesised strings. Maybe a whole orchestra was used to record this, but I doubt it.

What really intrigues me about it is the unresolved chord at the end. It ends in dissonance (that's some grade five music theory right there), which leaves the listener wanting more, wanting a consonance, a more proper finish. I suppose this leads on to the podium ceremony nicely, and brings a sense of movement into it.

We do, however, have to rate it on the promises that the UCI's press release made about it. Remember, it "aims to capture the essence of the UCI and of cycling in a unique melody and rhythm", and is an attempt to "modernise its sound brand and ensure it keeps up with the times".

Call me curmudgeonly, but I'm not convinced the 40-second tune captures the essence of cycling, or even the UCI really. What even is the essence of the UCI? Is it confusing rule changes and relegation systems

What it certainly is not, is a unique melody and rhythm. Sure, maybe this specific set of chords and beats have not been put together in exactly the same way before, but this is not brand new music. It is not era-defining like The Beatles, Bowie or NWA, and it is not too different from other semi-anthemic music.

It does modernise the UCI's sound brand, I suppose, although that is management consultant speak if I've ever seen it.

Ultimately, it is OK. Perhaps that is the best that can be hoped for, but after we were promised so much, it definitely under delivers. Cycling Weekly has contacted the UCI to ask how much it cost, which legend composed it and if anything more about it can be revealed, with no response so far.

The new anthem will definitely disappoint the fans, some of whom were hoping for a bit more, maybe something like the Champions League's epic song, which is basically a rip of Handel's Zadok the Priest, or something a bit more avant-garde.

Many on Twitter appeared to want something referencing Mieke Kröger, the German cyclist who has become a meme for many fans of cycling in recent years; maybe they could put words to the new banger?

When you're watching the elite road races this weekend, make sure you listen out for the new UCI anthem during the podium ceremony. It is better than what follows as incidental music, which is an instrumental version of Whatever It Takes by Imagine Dragons. Maybe put your hand on your heart, salute, or stand for the anthem. Or don't, it's fine.

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