Belgium’s opening classic Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, presented yesterday in Ghent, is weighing up the €180,000 (£153,000) cost of being in the UCI WorldTour.
The race, scheduled for February 25, is one of 10 new WorldTour events in the 2017 calendar. Previously, it ranked 1.HC, but still could attract big stars. Team Sky’s Ian Stannard won in 2014 and 2015. Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing) topped Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Tiesj Benoot (Lotto-Soudal) in 2016.
“Our financial manager has about three times the amount to swallow,” Director of the organiser Flanders Classics, Wim Van Herreweghe told Het Nieuwsblad newspaper.
“It’s for the long term, but indeed, at present, the Omloop doesn’t need it.”
The race invested in its bid for WorldTour status. The UCI announced the new races in its top series last year. Since then, the Tour of Qatar, which would have made its WorldTour debut, cancelled its race.
Its biggest expense is the increase in prize money needed, around €40,000. The other fees include flying teams in and paying for hotels.
Other race organisers confirmed the extra cost and their worries, since the new races in the series do not have the guarantee to have the 18 WorldTour teams.
Director of the Tour of the Alps (formerly Giro del Trentino), Maurizio Evangelista decided to stay in the lower HC tier.
“There was an added €120,000 (£100,000) cost in joining the WorldTour,” Evangelista told Cycling Weekly in December. “But for what? There are no guarantees.”
Prudential RideLondon now has a €100,000 prize purse. Race Director Mick Bennett said, “The costs are quite incredible to be a WorldTour race and the benefits are marginal.”
The Tour of Turkey is one of the new WorldTour races for 2017, but looks ready to shift calendar dates or fold considering it can only attract one WorldTour team.
Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, however, has always presented a rich startlist. The race is a perfect appetizer for the classics riders ahead of their spring campaign.
Last year, it counted 12 WorldTour teams and this year, 15. The article on Thursday pointed out that it essentially paid for teams Bahrain-Merida, Cannondale-Drapac and Astana. It read: “Quite bluntly, Flanders Classics paid €180,000 to also get Niccolò Bonifazio, Taylor Phinney and Oscar Gatto.”
“It’s true. A race like the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad currently has no need for WorldTour status, but eventually we will always have to have it,” added Van Herreweghe.
“You can not deny that teams and riders will increasingly focus on WorldTour points. The contracts of riders are now even determined on them. The Abu Dhabi Tour [February 23 to 26] now coincides with the Omloop. If they have points on offer and not us then teams will send their stars there. With the expansion of the WorldTour, we anticipated that problem.”