World Series Cycling project backed by eight leading teams as future of sport
Last Updated: 11/12/12 5:56pm
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Eight of the world's leading cycling teams have given their backing to an overhaul of the sport that could be in place as early as 2014.
The World Series Cycling project aims to merge the three Grand Tours and six of the one-day Classics with a calendar of ten "grands prix" in a new format similar to Formula One or golf's European and US PGA tours.
The plan has been developed by the Gifted Group, a sports promotion organisation, with backing from billionaire Czech businessman Zdenek Bakala, who also finances Omega Pharma - Quick-Step.
The Belgian outfit are among the teams to have opted in to the project already. The other seven are: Garmin-Sharp, Cannondale, Movistar, Vacansoleil-DCM, Saxo-Tinkoff, RadioShack-Nissan and Rabobank Cycling.
However, the remaining ten of cycling's elite teams are yet to show their support, with the most notable absentee being Team Sky.
The International Cycling Union (UCI), the sport's governing body, has been involved in discussions with Gifted, who hope to have the series in place within two years.
The UCI has insisted it would retain control of the race calendar, but announced a memorandum of understanding has been signed with Gifted.
Jonathan Price, the chairman of Gifted, said: "We're working with the UCI and Zdenek [Bakala] to build a competitive product that we think cycling fans worldwide want and which is good for the sport.
"We want to see races up and running in 2014. We have already had discussions with broadcasters, we are confident there's a real appetite for this product.
"We are now going to start some serious discussions with potential host locations to get our first race up and running."
The grand prix events would take place over four days and consist of a sprint stage, a mountain stage, a rolling stage and a time trial. Five of the ten time trials would be individual, with the other five being team time trials.Both teams and riders would accumulate points over the year, with the respective champions being crowned at the end of the season.
The Tour de France, Giro d'Italia and Vuelta a Espana would remain focal points on the cycling calendar, as would Milan-San Remo, Tour of Flanders, Paris-Roubaix, Amstel Gold Race, Liège-Bastogne-Liège and Giro di Lombardia.
Price added: "The GP format will give fans compelling racing with the best teams and riders in every race and a championship structure where every race matters."
Also as part of the proposals, franchises would be subjected to strict regulations, race days would be limited to 88 per year and a state-of-the-art anti-doping programme would be established. A €4m budget for anti-doping has been set aside.
Tour de France organisers the Amuary Sports Organisation, who also run races such as the Tour of Qatar and Paris-Nice, have not yet been consulted.