The UCI, cycling's governing body, today played down reports that a new so-called ‘Champions League’ of road cycling events will involve 10 races, saying that no agreement had been reached on the number of proposed rounds.
The UCI announced last month that it had been in discussions with Zdenek Bakala, the Czech billionaire owner of the Omega Pharma-Quick Step team, and his business partner, Bessel Kok, since late 2011 about possible development of the professional road cycling calendar, but issued another statement today saying that "no agreement has been reached on the reforms that will take place to the calendar and as such any media reports about the future of the calendar are pure speculation at this stage."
Those media reports were fuelled, however, by Jonathan Price, chairman of London-based sports promoter the Gifted Group, which claimed to be working with the UCI and Bakala on the so-called World Series Cycling project that would involve a new series of races, the sharing of television revenues, greater transparency in the fight against doping and an overhaul of the points and ranking systems.
Price held a briefing with news outlets yesterday, and said that eight UCI WorldTour teams had signed up to the WSC - not including the UK's Sky Procycling team - which would feature 10 new worldwide grand prix four-day events alongside the three Grand Tours (Tour de France, Giro d'Italia and Vuelta a Espana) and six of the major one-day classics (Milan-San Remo, Tour of Flanders, Paris-Roubaix, Amstel Gold Race, Liège-Bastogne-Liège and Giro di Lombardia).
The UCI refused to comment on the details of the calendar, noting only that it will "retain full control over the calendar, including sporting and technical elements. The UCI and the investors are also committed to ensuring that the final structure of the joint venture will avoid conflicts of interest."
According to Price, each grand prix would feature all the best riders and consist of a sprint stage, a mountain stage, a rolling stage and a time trial; five individual time trials and five team time trials spread over the 10 races. A simplified points structure would result in the creation of a world champion team and rider.
He said: "We want to see races up and running in 2014. We've already had discussions with broadcasters, we're confident there's a real appetite for this product. We're now going to start some serious discussions with potential host locations to get our first race up and running."
In October, the UCI declined to comment on a report that Gifted Group had offered the governing body a stake in a 'breakaway' new professional road cycling series.