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Cycling's Re-Orientation?

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With the Tour Down Under an official Pro Tour event, now comes news that UCI President Pat McQuaid is looking for more far-eastern races to add to the calendar, in China and Russia.

The CN piece says that Russia -- driven personally by Vlad Putin, apparently a Cycling nut -- wants to host a race someplace, and has identified Sochi, a Black Sea resort, as a good spot. China, meanwhile, sees Cycling as a way to remind everyone after 2008 that it hosted the Olympics.

This whole thing strikes me as a bit weird... countries using the Pro Tour as a marketing scheme. At least in the case of Australia McQuaid made the point that Oz has earned a race, given the class of riders (like Pro Tour winner Cadel Evans) that the country regularly churns out. Russia could almost make the same argument, and is catching up quickly with the rest of Europe. China?? Er...

Also, what becomes of the Pro Tour series? Can you really lump the Tour of Flanders into a group of races that includes the ADCROC, Tour of China (or what have you), Sochi Classic, etc?? Would riders turn up or tune out the new races? Snobbery aside, is it physically possible to travel such distances and compete at the highest level during the European season? At best this proposal sounds tricky to pull off; at worst it will render the season-long points series somewhat uninteresting and silly (news flash!).

That aside, I still support the globalization efforts. McQuaid clearly wants to come through on his original promises to bring the sport to the planet:

"We will create a global tour," said McQuaid, who wants to "take the sport outside of its traditional roots in Europe. It's important for our sponsors to go into these new markets. Cycling needs to offer those markets."

That last part is the key, and why I think we need to put aside concerns such as knitting together a coherent race series. Cycling's biggest threat is a sponsorship revolt in the wake of so much scandal, so it's incumbent on the sport to do everything they can to look good for sponsors. For its part, the Pro Tour was always an idea underwritten by international firms who want to show their brand around the globe. Now the sport is just growing into that new scheme, which should increase the demand for space on a jersey or short significantly. Given all that's going on, increased sponsorship sounds like a good idea.