The UCI has announced details of this year’s inaugural World Cycling Tour (UWCT), comprising a series of events around the world, one of which may be in the UK, that will allow amateur cyclists of all ages to qualify for the 2011 Amateur Cycling World Championship, to be held in the Belgian region of Liège on 10 and 11 September and race for the rainbow jersey.
The top riders in each age group at the qualifying events will earn the right to race in Belgium – a previous announcement from the UCI said 10% in each group would qualify – where the route will include sections of roads used in Liège-Bastogne-Liège.
Although details are still to be finalised, the Ardennes town of Stavelot appears likely to host the start and finish of the race, with the first 100km of the route taking in features familiar from Liège-Bastogne-Liège, including the Côte de Wanne, Rosier and Vecquée, ahead of a five lap closing circuit.
When the competition, which replaces the UCI Masters World Championships, was announced last November, the UCI said that there would be up to 15 qualifying events and invited organisers wishing to have their races considered as part of the series to get in touch.
For now, seven events have been confirmed, all of them with a distance of between 100km and 180km, with some also featuring a time trial element of between 20km and 40km. the UCI added that “negotiations are still under way for qualifier events in Spain, the United Kingdom, Greece, Denmark and France.”
The events so far confirmed are:
- 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)
The UCI says that the events are aimed at “well trained amateurs: in other words, the typical profile of the Gran Fondo rider,” and the governing body’s president, Pat McQuaid, says: “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."
The UCI says that venues chosen for the qualifying races “must meet strict organisational criteria and offer added touristic value,” and has entered into a partnership with sports marketing business Golazo Tours to launch the UWCT Corporation which it staes “will take on the overall organisation, coordination and marketing of the qualifier races.”
Christophe Impens, Managing Director of Golazo Sports, commented: "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 can be found on the UWCT website.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.