The UCI WorldTour is set to expand to 38 races for 2017, not the previously reported 37, to include a race in China, the Tour of Guangxi.
Cycling Weekly learned from insiders about the new race in an ever-growing calendar. The stage race in the Guangxi region in southern China, over the border from Hanoi, Vietnam, will run six days and include a women’s race.
Nothing is confirmed, however. The UCI told Cycling Weekly: “China offers tremendous potential for the development of our sport, but at this stage there isn’t any agreement with Wanda Sports.”
The Dalian Wanda Group’s sport subsidiary, Wanda Sports will organise the events. The Wanda Group in recent years bought Infront Sports & Media and the World Triathlon Corporation along with Ironman.
The UCI already announced that it would expand its top race series with the Tour de France and classics like the Tour of Flanders. Instead of 27, it was due to go to 37 events for 2017 with new events like the RideLondon-Surrey Classic, Strade Bianche and the Tour of California. Now it will have a 38th event, and in China.
The news came as a surprise to some stakeholders in Geneva, Switzerland, for the Professional Cycling Council meeting. One insider said that no one wanted to say no to what looked like a good deal. Wanda will promote women’s cycling and alongside the races, initiates to get the population on bikes in the region.
“A full year programme, from grassroots sports to mass participation events,” read an internal document obtained by CW.
Lincoln Zhang sits at the top level of the race organisation, president of the Wanda Cultural Industry Group. Below him, Philippe Blatter and David Yang from Wanda’s cultural group and CEO of the World Triathlon Corporation (WTC), Andrew Messick
“Wanda is bringing in the full expertise of Wanda Sports China, Ironman, Infront and HBS to the table to secure the highest possible delivery standard.”
The group one year ago made a bid to buy RCS Sports races including the Giro d’Italia. Already this April 2015, Wanda purchased 20 per cent in Atletico Madrid for £34m. Money seems to be no problem for Wang Jianlin, the founder and chairman. Forbes called him Asia’s richest person with $28.7 billion (£23.1b). Wanda Group reported CN¥290.16 billion (£34.45b) in revenues in 2015.
The UCI itself organised the last big race in China, the Tour of Beijing from 2011 to 2014. This race takes the Far East back to the top and replaces the end of year spot, after Il Lombardia, that the Abu Dhabi Tour had occupied. The Abu Dhabi Tour after two editions will move to a new February time-slot.
The Chinese race is due to run through October 23, but it could be pushed up one week so the WorldTour season ends sooner. As the Abu Dhabi Tour did, the new Tour of Guangxi will host the UCI’s end of season gala alongside its event.
Cycling Weekly understands that all new WorldTour events for 2017, including the Tour of Guangxi, will have different participating rules. WorldTour teams will not be required to race those races for the first two or three years they are in the WorldTour. The points teams earn if they do attend will count for the WorldTour rankings, but not in a promotion/demotion system.
The 18 WorldTour teams have the right and are required to race in the other 27 WorldTour races, like the Tour de France.