What's Cool In Road Cycling

World Cup: Force Or Farce?

– By Gordan Cameron –

Paolo Bettini clinched the 2002 World Cup at Lombardy last week, and is certainly a worthy champion – 5 top 10 placings including a win at Liege-Bastogne-Liege is hugely impressive. But that’s not the whole story. Is the World Cup a true measure of who cycling’s top one-day man really is?

In April, Bettini came 8th at Amstel Gold (a week after his Liege win) before competing in the Giro d’Italia and the Tour de France. When the World Cup resumed in August, he took 4th at HEW, 7th at San Sebastian and 2nd in Zurich, all in the space of 14 days.

Now, I’m not going to have a go at Bettini – I couldn’t win Liege-Bastogne-Liege in around 6 hours – but with 2 peaks of form he had done enough to clinch the title. What if there were more events to choose from, and you had to race or score points in a higher number of events to be considered a World Cup Champion – say 10 races or 12, maybe more?

In order to have your score count now, you must have raced in at least 6 World Cup races. But you can be in the mix with results in only 2 or 3 races. No-one would dare denigrate the achievements of Museew, but his 270 point total was achieved in 2 peaks of form – a breathtaking win at Paris-Roubaix just a week after a bitter 2nd at Flanders, then a win at the HEW-Cyclassics in Hamburg some 4 months later.

How could you ensure the best possible balance for all types of racer to win? What could be done to make the competition more relevant? Spicier? Here’s a recipe.

First: include the World Cup races as they stand, with the addition of all the events classified 1.HC or 1.1 by the UCI. So, that would take in days like:
– Het Volk at the very start of March, followed by GP E3-Harelbeke;
– Ghent-Wevelgem and the Grote Scheldeprijs in April to complement Liege, Paris-Roubaix and so on;
– Rund um der Henniger Turm in May;
– Classiques des Alpes and GP Gippingen in June;
– Tre Valle Varesine, Giro del Veneto and GP Ouest Plouay in August;
– Coppa Placci, Paris-Brussels, GP Fourmies, GP de Nations, Giro dell’ Emilia, Milano-Torino and Giro del Piedmonte all of which fall in September.

Sprinkle: the Worlds road race into the mix. You now have a pretty impressive list of events. All tastes catered for – ample opportunities for climbers, sprinters, hardmen, even the time-trial specialists who can do a bit of everything. All weather conditions and race routes dealt with from flat, hot summer races to cold, windy, snowy, wet slogs through Belgium before spring has appeared.

Add: the proviso that riders must compete in at least 7 events before the Tour de France and at least 7 after it finishes. This will ensure that the final outcome will be well-rounded.

Next: alter the number of points on offer in each race, or at least make the gaps between places smaller – a win nets 100 points now while 2nd only grabs 70. This seems fine in a ferociously difficult Paris-Roubaix like this year when Museew came home over 3 minutes clear. But does 30 points reflect the difference between Cipollini and Rodriguez at Milan-San Remo?

The icing on the cake: increase the number of UCI points available to the overall and his team – more valuable a currency than money in cycling these days. There has to be some sweet reward at the end of a long campaign.

I know there are other factors like sponsorship money, organisation, and the UCI’s bid to grow globally, but they’re ideas worth thinking about. And if I get shot down in flames, well, they’re just suggestions.

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