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Yet Another New Race... Where Is This Going?

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Velon announces a three-day points race in Limburg unlike anything else this side of Portland

AmstelGold_1997_Getty_Clive Mason

Interwebs broke the news today from the Netherlands that Velon — a joint venture of almost a dozen World Tour teams to rethink the sport — will create a three-day race in early June in Limburg province, home to the Amstel Gold Race a month earlier. The three days will consist of a sprint event with prime points, a circuit race over the famous Cauberg, and a team time trial pursuit race, whatever exactly that means. Apparently people will attend this race, to ride and to watch, because... Uh, I guess because the teams created Velon in the first place. According to Dutch media the UCI are for it, and ASO are against it, the latter because the race will conflict with the Dauphine. Details about the race itself will emerge next month.

I can’t help but wonder about this at the same time as reading the hilarious and deeply strange exploits our friend Anne Marije Rook experienced at the Portland Single Speed Cyclocross World Championships. Obviously anything with the word “Portland” in it is automatically held in deep suspicion, and while it was apparently “all in good fun,” I can’t be the only one thinking that if Sven Nys came to my event I might be worried about someone of his stature maybe not being into the silliness that ran rampant at the SSCXWCs. But Sven is a salt-of-the-Earth type, I guess, so he paid his dollar to take the “stripper bus shortcut” just like everyone else in the finals race. Sheesh.

There are some legit hilarious people associated with stuff like Pacific Northwest cyclocross, and all sorts of radical approaches to the bike and how you use it in the US these days. Good times, generally, and I once raced in a tux on Halloween, so I can’t get too high and mighty. But I do think it’s worth retaining some perspective as we all “think outside the box” about cycling, as Velon are committed to doing.

No doubt the Limburg race will be a celebration of on-board video, live athlete data, and “cool gadgets” as 1Limburg are emphasizing. Maybe the points format, where riders and teams are accumulating points throughout the three stages, will prove exciting. Perhaps the race itself will be raced like a race, and we will all welcome this new model. Maybe all the top stars go to the Dauphine anyway... which also isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

Or! Maybe this race looks like a skills contest and technology infomercial and we hate it. It’s possible the races themselves don’t need reformatting with (let’s face it) American ideas any more than Alpe d’Huez needs more people in bizarre costumes unrelated to cycling. Lots of newfangled ideas have been tried, with the idea that shiny objects will bring in young viewers, and failed miserably. For every useful technological advancement like the yellow first-down line in NFL games there’s the puck comet trail from hockey that made everyone scream at their TV. And not in a happy way.

Do I sound old and close-minded? That’s another possibility. But I have no interest in cycling teaming up with the X Games for better TV bang for the buck and social media cred. So I’m curious about just what Velon are up to here, besides creating a new event on an already crowded calendar, but I’ve yet to pick up on why I should be more excited about these ideas than I already am about cycling.