Note: this is a totally spur of the moment piece. If it makes no sense, just move along.
Reading the interview with Michele Acquarone in VeloNation today and boys and girls I decided to spend a few minutes mapping out a hypothetical cycling calendar following his vision. In this silly project I was not alone: some nice beer made some useful suggestions. Did you know that beer tends to get smarter and smarter the more you drink? It's true!
Anyways before I present my calendar, I followed a few ground rules:
1) There are four Grand Tours, each of them two weeks in length spread out over three weekends. This follows Acquarone's lead which he makes more explicit in an interview with Cafe Roubaix a few weeks ago. I remember reading that C R article and a light bulb went off in my head. Basically he is advocating for a modified tennis calendar (the ATP calendar is here) and I can see the logic. The biggest thing in tennis is not one particular Grand Slam but all four together. For example there's always buzz in the tennis world about the GOAT in both the women's and men's draws and said GOAT is mainly measured by the numbers of Grand Slams the best players win. The great thing here is that there's always a big tournament coming up that attracts world wide attention. Attention = Money, which is something that Pro Cycling, mens and women's, just doesn't have.
Instead what we have in Pro Cycling is one huge huge huge event for one sex only: the Tour de France-aka the Lance Armstrong of the Cycling world. It so dwarfs every other event that the women's side of things is barely professional at all and even the mens riders give much less importance to almost every other race. Acquarone is right that outside the TdF there's only the Giro, Paris-Roubaix and barely the Tour of Flanders. Maybe MSP The rest are chump change, unwatched by only cycling fanatico weirdos like us. For cycling to really grow up, this has to change.
And Acquarone I think correctly identifies the way to change it, by keeping the Grand Tours to two weeks of racing so as to allow the best riders to do multiple Grand Tours. This in turn gets the public more interested in more races, allowing more money into the sport. The womens tour then stands a real chance of making it.
2) Looking at the tennis tours a couple things stand out. Tournaments schedule around weekends for their finals. There is a hierarchy of the tournaments too, much like our VDS hierarchy. Before every Grand Slam there are a few lower level tournaments (our VDS cat 5/6 races) to let the players get in a groove. I'll do the same for my cycling calendar. The Grand Tours are in boldface; the cat 2 races (including Paris-Tours finally) are in italics
3) I did this calendar in 10 minutes, barely pausing to think out the schedule. So there are holes and omissions that you will no doubt point out. No problem. This is just a rough draft and since this won' get implemented until say 2020 there's time to adjust things. But I wanted to do it quickly just to se if cycling can adjust fairly easily to this major reorganization.
4) Yes I know the UCI is working on a major restructure. The UCI can go %$ itself as far as I care. My calendar is better. Anyone can make a better calendar than the UCI-even you. Definitely my beer can.
5) Finally some races are left out. No Tour de San Luis cause it is way far away in South America which is a long trip to take. Perhaps it can be included but the point here is that staying opposite the TDU is problematical since the TDU is becoming a Grand Tour. Yes it is. Shut. It. Oh and the Tour of Beijing is out. Stop your crying! Actually I figure that I could put it back in after or before the TDU but my beer was talking to me just then and...whoops. Oh and the Tour of Spain is gone. Yeah...somehow that needs to be re-entered but not as a Grand Tour.
6) And second finally as you will see the east Asian/Australian/Middle Eastern races are clumped together to cut down on travel costs. The North America races get the same treatment with California moving to late August/early September. Speaking of California, I have it and Colorado alternating yearly: year one California is a warm up race while Colorado is the Grand Tour of North America and in year two, they are reversed. Actually for a North American Grand Tour I would want to move it around more and have say a Northwest Grand Tour one year, a Northeast Grand Tour another year, etc. But for the purposes of my calendar I just have California and Colorado as placeholders.
Okay the calendar. The dates listed are the Sundays of that week.
1 Jan 5 Tour of Langkawi/Dubai Tour
2 Jan 12 Jayco Herald Sun Tour/Tour of Qatar
3 Jan 19 Tour of Oman
4 Jan 26 Tour Down Under- Grand Tour #1
5 Feb 2 TDU
6 Feb 9 TDU ends
7 Feb 16 Tour of Oman/ GP Marseillaise
8 Feb 23 Etoile de Besseges/various Trofeos
9 Mar 2 Omloop Het Niewsblaad (Mar 1) KBK (Mar 2) Paris-Nice (Mar 2-Mar 9)
10 Mar 9 Strade Bianche (Mar 8) Roma Maxima (Mar 9) Tirreno-Adriatico (Mar 10-16)
11 Mar 16 Dwars Door Drenthe
12 Mar 23 Milan-Sanremo/Volta a Catalunya (Mar 23-30)
13 Mar 30 E3 Prijs (Mar 27) Gent Wevelgem (Mar 30)
14 Apr 6 Tour of Flanders/ Pais Vasco (Apr 6-12)
15 Apr 13 Paris-Roubaix
16 Apr 20 Brabantse Pijl (Apr 19) Amstel Gold (Apr 20)
17 Apr 27 La Fleche Wallone (Apr 23) Liege-Bastogne-Liege (Apr 27)
18 May 4 Frankfurt (May 3)/Koln (May 4)/Tour of Turkey/ Tour of Romandie (both start Apr 27)
19 May 11 Giro d’Italia Grand Tour #2
20 May 18 Giro
21 May 25 Giro ends
22 Jun 1 Tours of Belgium, Norway, Luxembourg, Bayern Rundfahrt start...
23 Jun 8 and end here somehow. GP du canton d’Argovie
24 Jun 15 Dauphine (end the 22nd)
25 Jun 22 Suisse Tour (end 29th)
26 Jun29 national Championships week
27 July 6 thru July 6
28 July 13 Tour de France Grand Tour #3
29 July 20 TdF
30 July 27 TdF ends
31 Aug 3 San Sebastian (aka the best race in the world)/ London Surrey Cycle Classic
32 Aug 10 ENECO/Burgos/Denmark (Aug 10-16)
33 Aug 17 Vattenfalls then travel to North America
34 Aug 24 Tour of I dunno New England? Boston-Toronto? Ah: Utah/Alberta
35 Aug 31 Tour of California/Colorado alternate (start on Sep 1)
36 Sep 7 Tour of California/Colorado Grand Tour #4
37 Sep 14 ToC
38 Sep 21 ToC ends
39 Sep 28 Quebec (Sept 26) Montreal (Sept 28)
40 Oct 5 Paris Bruxelles (Oct 4)/ GP Ouest France-Plouay (Oct 5)
41 Oct 12 Tour de Vendee (Oct 11) Giro dell’Emilia (Oct 12)
42 Oct 19 Paris-Tours (Oct 18) Lombardy (Oct 19)
43 Oct 26 World Championships week (ends Oct 26)
43 race weeks. You could probably cut out a few weeks. And yeah other races can be squeezed in.