February 9, 2011 (Aigle, Switzerland) – It’s official: Amateur cyclists now have the chance to earn a coveted UCI rainbow jersey. Launched for 2011, the UCI World Cycling Tour(UWCT) is a series of events for amateurs. Through qualifier events around the world, riders can obtain a place to participate in the UWCT Final, with a world title for their respective age group as the ultimate goal.
With this new series, the International Cycling Union (UCI) targets well trained amateurs: in other words, the typical profile of the Gran Fondo rider.
UCI President Pat McQuaid explains: “It’s no coincidence that the UWCT and the UCI WorldTour (former ProTour) have such similar names. We want the amateur cyclist who is devoted to the sport to have a taste of high level racing, and ultimately race for a World Champion title. The UWCT is how we are going to take amateur cycling to the next level. We are really looking forward to the opening of the series.”
Racing on three continents
The UWCT will comprise a maximum of 15 qualifier events. For 2011, seven races have already been confirmed: two legs in the United States and one each in Australia, Portugal, Slovenia, Belgium and Switzerland.
Negotiations are still under way for qualifier events in Spain, the United Kingdom, Greece, Denmark and France.
All qualifier events will be raced over a course of between 100 and 180 km. Organisers have the opportunity to opt for either a one-loop stage or a smaller circuit to be covered several times. The start may be given en masse or by age group. Time trial events will also take place in some qualifiers, covering distances between 20 and 40 km.
The confirmed qualifier events for 2011 are as follows:
– 14 and 16 April: Perth (Australia)
– 8 May: Gran Fondo New York (USA)
– 15 May: Gran Fondo Eddy Merckx – Village Palmela (Portugal)
– 12 June: Marathon Franja BTC (Slovenia)
– 18 June: Gran Fondo Eddy Merckx (Belgium)
– 20 and 21 August: Echelon Gran Fondo Colorado / Fort Collins (USA)
– 28 August: Gruyère Cycling Tour (SUI)
Finals UWCT 2011
– 10-11 September 2011: Stavelot, province of Liège, Belgium
The UWCT kick-off event will present athletes with Australian sunshine and hospitality. Perth is a buzzing metropolis blessed with a favourable climate and white sandy beaches overlooking the Indian Ocean.
New York will provide a contrasting backdrop for the second qualifier event: after the start close to Central Park, riders will cross the iconic George Washington Bridge with stunning views of Manhattan.
Portugal is the first European port of call with the Gran Fondo Eddy Merckx in Palmela. This charming small town, built around a fortified castle, lies at the heart of one of the country’s richest wine-growing regions.
Slovenia’s traditional Franja Marathon also joins the UWCT series. This popular event, which attracts thousands of participants every year, takes riders around the capital of Ljubljana, which will be completely closed for the race.
Belgium will host the next European event, with the Gran Fondo Eddy Merckx. The race starts and finishes on the famous Mur of Huy. The Cannibal himself will start the race along the difficult course of the beautiful Condroz region.
The Echelon Gran Fondo Colorado starting in Fort Collins will take riders to the Rocky Mountains and the Rist Canyon. It is a demanding race but the riders will be more than rewarded with the beauty of the surrounding landscapes, old mining towns and impressive lakes.
Finally, the Gruyère Cycling Tour in Switzerland will provide the last opportunity for cyclists to qualify for the Worlds. This event, which has been a popular race on Switzerland’s cycling calendar for more than 10 years, takes riders through some of the country’s breathtaking mountain scenery.
At the end of September, Australia will host the first qualifier event for the UWCT Final in 2012.
The best age-goupers in each qualifier event will automatically have the right to compete in the UWCT Final.
This year, the region of Liège, in Belgium, is proud to host the World Championships, which will take place during the weekend of 10th September.
Although the exact location has not yet been finalized, the Provincial Commissioner for Sport, Christophe Lacroix, says the plan is to race over a circuit of around 100km, reeling in the monumental climbs of Liège-Bastogne-Liège such as Côte de Wanne, Rosier and Vecquée. The race will probably conclude with five laps on a local circuit. Stavelot, a little gem of an Ardennes town, is currently the main candidate to stage both the start and finish.
Competition and tourism combined
All races on the UWCT calendar must meet strict organisational criteria and offer added touristic value. Therefore, the UCI has signed a partnership with sports marketing agency Golazo Sports, in order to create the UWCT Corporation, which will take on the overall organisation, coordination and marketing of the qualifier races.
Christophe Impens, Managing Director of Golazo Sports, says, “Participants in the UWCT will have the chance to discover some of the world’s most beautiful regions and participate in fantastic events that are accessible to everyone. By combining both attractive competitions and touristic interest in the regions, we should be able to see the long-term success of the UWCT.”
More information on www.uciworldcyclingtour.com