By Gregor Brown
Tour de France organiser Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO) launched a new stage race, the World Ports Classic, on Wednesday in Rotterdam and Antwerp. The race is due to travel back and forth between the two port cities in two days, August 31 and September 1.
"The event encapsulates the stage race in its simplest expression," read a press release, "Its distinctive character lies in its almost permanent exposure to the winds that blow across the Rhine Delta."
Each stage of the World Ports Classic is due to be around 180 kilometres, one from Rotterdam and the second from Antwerp. Rotterdam hosted the Tour de France's Grand Départ last year, when the idea for a race of its own gained momentum.
The first road leg of the Tour de France travelled from Rotterdam, along the coast, through Antwerp and finished in Brussels. Mark Cavendish crashed in the final kilometres and Alessandro Petacchi won the sprint.
"It is not by chance that the initiative stems from the two countries where bicycles have a greater right of way than anywhere else in the world," the ASO said in a press release. "It is also natural that an elite race should link the Netherlands to Belgium, each country having given so much to the history of cycling."
The Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) already inserted it in its 2012 Europe Calendar, as a 2.1-ranked Dutch race.
"ASO, the Dutch and Belgian federations established it to comply with the UCI's regulations," UCI press spokesman, Enrico Carpani told Cycling Weekly. "It's already on the 2012 European calendar."
He further explained that ASO asked only for the World Ports Classic to be in the European calendar, along with Critérium International in March, and not in the WorldTour. The race coincides with the Vuelta a España and comes after the London Olympics.
UCI WorldTour calendar 2012
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