Everything Changes Eventually
Gate revenue could be just what professional cycling needs.
Sometimes I picture professional cycling like those construction sites with signs that are posted boasting how many days it has been since the last accident. Perhaps that's what the UCI should hang outside their door in Aigle, Switzerland - "It's been 7 days since our last doping scandal."
The one drama that did catch my attention (and remarkably it doesn't involve doping) is the debate regarding the route change for one of the holiest one-day races, the Tour of Flanders.
It's an understatement to say that the Flanderian people are cycling mad. So the race organizers knew they would catch some grief when a change in the 2012 Tour of Flanders parcours was announced. The Muur has been removed from the route and the racers will complete three loops of the Oude Kwaremont and finish in Oudenaarde.
Velonation reported that Flanders Classics director Wouter Vandenhaute said at an assembled press conference, "the reactions were even more emotional than we expected."
In fact locals took to the street and protested the change by holding a mock funeral suggesting that the Tour of Flanders, a race so much part of the region's heritage, was dead.
Velonation quotes Vandenhaute saying, "There's few spectators on the roadside along the long and straight stretches between the hilly zone and the Muur, and between the Muur and Meerbeke. The experience on the Muur is absolutely fantastic, but its location in the course is not convenient."
This means that the iconic Muur, at least for two years, is no more. While the Muur was packed with screaming fans, to get the racers to that location meant traversing through areas that didn't lend themselves to spectator viewing. If you're a fan you're not going to load up your car, drive to some spot where the racers come barreling through for all of about five minutes. Maybe if you're lucky a water bottle gets tossed your way. No, you want to be posted at a climb or some pivotal location where you can see the suffering up close and personal, or perhaps even hold up a "Dirk Hofman Motorhomes" banner for guerrilla marketing purposes. No one is going to see you if you're sitting out on the side of the road in a desolate patch of Flanderian territory.
The next statement from the Tour of Flanders race director caught my attention, ""If the new route is successful, the Ronde could set an example for all one-day classics. To race from A to B doesn't have much longevity no more. With the new concept, spectators have the chance to see the riders three times, right there in the finale of the race. They can settle themselves in the morning for a day of festivities. We're going to put up large TV screens, there's portable toilets installed and other infrastructure."
Are point A to B races a relic of the past like Vandenhaute claims? Some races already use loops as a course design. Events like the Olympics and World Championships are examples. And other races use finishing loops like the Amstel Gold to