Mar 7 2011
Craig Lewis is dead-on about the outright quality of Montepaschi Strade Bianche in his most recent Versus post. The race is sensational, but unfortunately, that’s why the UCI will likely do everything in its power to keep it out of cycling’s top tier for the foreseeable future.
Strade Bianche was founded and is organized by RCS, the Italian Media Conglomerate that owns the Giro, Milan-Senremo, Tour of Lombardy, Tirreno-Adriatico and (I believe) a few other notable Italian Races as well.
Along with their counterparts in France and Spain, RCS has been waging an on-and-off turf war with the UCI over the cycling calendar; the UCI wants less emphasis on traditionally important events and more on a season long campaign, while the Grand Tour Cartel would like to consolidate and expand its stable of established cycling events.
It’s tough to pick good-guys and bad-guys in the feud; siding with the UCI would help expand cycling beyond Europe, but they governing body has also got a habit of producing snoozy, unromantic events. The Cartel does a great job preserving the historical pillars of the sport, but at the expense of the rest of the calendar, and events in the rest of the world. Neither group is compelling as an objective, reliable central authority.
Fortunately for fans and riders, the two seem to have reached a detente. With the formation of the WorldTour, an agreement on dope testing and even—for the rest of 2011—an ongoing cease-fire on radio earpieces, things are more or less OK between the factions.
But the promotion of a Cartel-owned event (especially one as instantly charismatic as Strade Bianche) would almost certainly upset the balance of power, and the UCI is smart to keep it off the list. For the time being, RCS is content not to promote its latest creation to preserve the status (and profitability) of the events it already runs.