Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Tour de Hangzhou: A Race Too Far?

The UCI announced today that the Tour of Hangzhou (China), which was supposed to take place between the 17th and 21st of October has been 'postponed' until 2013 - cancelled in other words - stating that 'not all the conditions had been met to guarantee the necessary quality'. So, a race that the UCI stamped with a 'WorldTour' licence (the highest race status achievable) before it had actually run for the first time has failed to come up with the goods it promised - perhaps the UCI should look again at how they dish out licences in what has become a very blurred line between distinction in quality and money...

The race is organised by Swiss based private company Global Cycling Promotions - but just how private is this company? Not very. In fact the company is owned by the UCI (background on this at Inner Ring) and this in itself present a worrying conflict of interest. The UCI originally stated upon creation of the WorldTour that races would have to be established and to prove their worth prior to World Tour licences being handed out - not so for the Global Cycling Promotions run Tour of Hangzhou and last years new addition, the Tour of Beijing which were both slapped with WorldTour status before even taking place as the not-for-profit UCI looked to earn a few bob from it's profit making sideshow Global Cycling Promotions.

The issue of the actual race quality was not only second in consideration to the profits that could be made in China, but the Giro di Lombardia - considered a 'monument' and traditionally the last race of the season in late September (hence its nickname: "the classic of the falling leaves") has been pushed aside to accommodate the Tour of Beijing and Tour de Hangzhou and the date move for 2012 to the 6th of October. Both races will be ridden after Lombardy taking away from the tradition of the Autumn monument and the finale to the season of which is now extended to late October - a fact that didn't go down too well with teams and riders, and even less so with the fans who on the whole found the Tour of Beijing a drab afair last year, not least by the Chinese fans - who didn't actually exist. Is Hangzhou a race to far? In simple terms yes, the season is long enough already - let alone be extended by races with little to offer but a pot of gold and some sneaky earnings on the side for the UCI.

Cycling needs money and sponsorship, this is a fact. Cycling doesn't need races for the hell of it and to line the pockets of an already shady governing body. Riders do not need another month of racing in a season already stretched to its physical limits. There is many a race been yearning for a WorldTour licence whilst scraping by at a lower level for many years, not only that but all round better races with roots and character simply overlooked whilst the bigwigs dish out WorldTour licences like sweeties to China because money talks way louder than route, class and history. I for one won't miss the Tour de Hangzhou this year, though I am glad its absence serves to make a mockery of the licencing system and shine a light on yet another dark and mysterious corner of the UCI/Global Cycling Promotions/Insert any other guise here. Will they now put Lombardy back where it belongs? I doubt it...

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