Is a UCI Champions League in the Future of the WorldTour?

By Siegfried Mortkowitz

As the popularity of professional cycling continues to grow, with women’s competitions suddenly experiencing a global boom, some important changes are coming to the WorldTour in the near future, with the goal of growing the sport even more.

Some of these proposed changes were discussed at a WorldTour seminar held at the end of November, and a video was posted to LinkedIn in which a number of influential cycling officials talked about some of these changes. One of them was Richard Plugge, the president of the Association International des Groupes Cyclistes Professionnels (International Association of Professional Cycling Groups, or AIGCP). He said that these changes were proposed to maximize the benefits of the sport’s popularity. “We can finally get the sleeping giant, as I’d call cycling, and wake him up and get the business potential out of the sport,” Plugge said. Perhaps the most exciting of these proposed changes is a series of races that UCI President David Lappartient has dubbed “a kind of UCI Champions League.”

“In the context of the WorldTour, we will have every year a series with a number of races still to be determined, perhaps some 15 races, with 5 or 6 being stage races, and not necessarily the same [races] every year,” he explained. “The idea is to strengthen the attractiveness of our sport so that we can market it even better, broadcast it even better, and even have races where there aren’t any now, in territories where we are not [represented].”

The UCI has already created a UCI Track Champions League, collaborating with Discovery Sports Events, to produce a track racing series that exists in parallel with World Cup track racing events. Road safety was also a topic of discussion at the seminar, with Plugge discussing the creation of SAROC, for “safe road cycling.” He explained that courses need to be made safer and rider behaviour needs to be made safer and that race organizers and riders “should work together” to create a safer racing environment.

2022 UCI Track Champions League
The 2022 UCI Track Champions League in London. © Profimedia

According to Lappartient: “We’ve already gone some way in this direction. For example, at the beginning of the year, there will be a safety training course for the safety managers of each event.” Increasing the sustainability aspect of the sport by limiting the damage it does to the environment was also a hot issue. “We are well aware that our events need to be approached in a more sustainable way,” noted Maya Leye, head of the Flanders Classics Women. “In the last few years, we’ve been working to do that as much as possible. And I think we’ve still got a long way to go.”

Alessandro Tegner, Soudal-Quick Step’s marketing and communication manager, said that “the entire cycling family is going in that direction. We calculate our CO2 footprint, we analyze how we can reduce this footprint and we feel we are doing something for the environment and the world.” UCI President Lappartient agreed. “The subject of sustainability is a major issue for everyone, on climate, on waste, on the economical use of resources,” he said, adding: “Our objective is to have some guidelines, or precise specifications, in that area.”

He also suggested that in the near future, teams will be certified for WorldTour racing licenses not only on financial, administrative and sporting criteria, as is currently the case, but also on environmental and sustainability criteria.

It sounds as if our favourite sport is taking impressive strides into the future.