The WorldTour calendar is too crowded meaning some newer races may find better coverage one level down, say some team directors.
For 2017, the UCI expanded the WorldTour calendar from its traditional races with Grand Tours and Classics to include races like the Tour of Turkey, which ended Sunday in Istanbul, the Tour of California and the RideLondon-Surrey Classic.
The Tour of Turkey completed its 53rd edition this year having grown steadily over the years with sprinters Mark Cavendish and Marcel Kittel racing alongside overall stars Adam Yates and Thibaut Pinot. But problems in Turkey, political coups and terrorism, saw a possible cancellation before a date change to October from April.
“There are so many races now on the WorldTour calendar that I don’t think it needs to be in [the WorldTour], it can be ranked HC,” Bora-Hansgrohe sports director Enrico Poitschke told Cycling Weekly. “Also it is not so easy to find a date on the calendar with all the other races going on.”
After a steady rise from 2.2, to 2.1 and 2.HC, the well-organised stage race earned a WorldTour ranking. It failed, however, to attract top teams and riders in 2017. Only four of the 18 WorldTour teams attended – a concern for both the organiser and UCI governing body.
The same concerns apply to other new races including the Abu Dhabi Tour in February.
Political problems including the attempted coup in 2016 in Turkey forced the organiser to reschedule the race for 2017 from its usual April calendar slot to October. Many insiders were uncertain the race would even continue until late into the cycling year.
“The problem is or was that it was very late when we knew the race would be official,” Trek-Segafredo sports director Dirk Demol. “Now they have already finalised the dates for next year and that will give the chance for more teams to plan for it and race it.
“They deserve to continue but deserve to have more teams and stars because it’s a pity for them that they are not here. They suffered given the late notice of the race. Everything else is perfect the hotels, the directions and organisation.”
“The teams, especially the teams that are not here, will see that everything is fine in Turkey,” Poitschke added. “It’s just small improvements that need to be made and then everything is fine and for sure more teams will come here.”
Bora-Hansgrohe, Trek-Segafredo, UAE Emirates and Astana – all WorldTour teams – raced along side professional continental teams and the Turkish national team for six days. They committed themselves despite a rocky period in Turkey.
The attempted coup on the Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government and terrorism incidents could not have come at a worse time with Turkey’s new WorldTour status. The organiser shifted dates, but even risked losing its top place without the minimum number of 10 WorldTour teams attending.
“It’s a political problem and the teams see what’s going on with the coup and terrorist attempts, but if you take away those issues the race can have a future,” explained Dmitri Sedoun, an Astana sports director. “The organisers are working hard and anything you ask of them, they try to give you a hand.
“Clearly yes, to raise the level of their race they need more teams from the WorldTour. But on an organisational level they are ready.”
The UCI slotted the Tour of Turkey on its 2018 WorldTour calendar in October again, from 9 to 14. The organiser, however, says that they will ask to return to April in 2019 so that it sits just ahead of the Giro d’Italia.
Currently, however, several races including the Tour of the Alps, Croatia, Romandie and the Ardennes Classics crowd that time-frame. Forcing the WorldTour teams to race in an already busy time may not be wise.
“April is even better,” Demol explained. “Next year we will have fewer riders in each race with limited team sizes, so and at different moments, we will have more riders available because we have 28 riders in the team. So we can do more races.”
Sedoun added, “This date works out well because in April we already have so many races. It’s already filled up pretty much.”