Richie Porte wins first WorldTour event of the year – but what the hell is the WorldTour?
The French film Belleville Rendez-vous does a cracking job of expressing the sheer irrepressible joyful exuberance of cycling at this time of year.
It looks something like this:
You’re slower and heavier; it’s darker and colder outside; and your bike seems to require cleaning even when you haven’t actually used it.
Yet the season is here!
The first WorldTour event of the year, the Tour Down Under, had two uphill finishes, on stage two and stage five. Richie Porte won both and as a result, the race overall.
But this does beg three obvious questions and those questions are: “What the hell is the WorldTour, why doesn’t it have a space between ‘World’ and ‘Tour’, and why the hell should I give a flying Fausto Coppi about it?”
The answers to those questions are that it is the name given to the top category of professional races; no idea, but it doesn’t; and you probably shouldn’t.
The WorldTour is bigger this year. The sport’s governing body, the UCI, has added a few more events to what was already a meaninglessly packed calendar and to compound the confusion has since said that these new events won’t contribute as many points towards the season-long competition for individual riders that supposedly ties everything together. They will also contribute as many as zero points to the equivalent competition for teams.
In what sense these new events are actually part of the WorldTour is therefore up for debate. Or at least it would be if it weren’t so obvious that they aren’t actually part of it in any meaningful sense.
There’s also the eternal problem that the Tour Down Under remains not just geographically but temporally distant from the rest of the season. A high quality race for certain, but an independent one that doesn’t really fit too well within the narrative of the season.
The next WorldTour event is the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road race on January 29 (a new event and therefore one offering fewer points to individual riders and none to teams). After that, it’s the Abu Dhabi Tour from February 23.
That’s a bit of a gap. It would have been less had the newly promoted Tour of Qatar taken place as planned from February 6. However, that event responded to its elevation by promptly folding because they couldn’t find sponsors. They couldn’t find sponsors because no-one gives a Theo Bos about it.
So why was it promoted to the WorldTour in the first place? Probably just to fill that gap.
If we give the WorldTour the respect it deserves, the next event on our calendar is Omloop Het Nieuwsblad on February 25. That is the first major one-day race of the year and heralds the start of spring classics season, which then runs until Liege-Bastogne-Liege on April 23.
Narrative, you see. These things matter.