By Ryan McDonald
In cycling, the big three big races on the calendar are known as the Grand Tours. These consist of the Tour de France, Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a España. They are all huge events in their own right and the world’s leading cyclists tend to plan their calendars around these competitions. What is missing in cycling is a major European league which runs across the year. This could see the very best in the sport compete in a number of different countries, many of which don’t have their own tours. Points would be handed out in each stage of the league and the winner would be the cyclist who tops the standings at the end of the campaign.
Football: a Great Example of How European Leagues Work
If cycling needs a role model, it only has to turn to football. With the Champions League and Europa League, UEFA run two very successful annual competitions.
UEFA have proved a second-tier competition can be just as successful as the top ranks. With so many professional cyclists in the sport, this is something cycling can take note of. Tottenham are the favourites in the betting to lift the trophy this season with Europa League odds at 6/1, while Manchester United are second best at 7/1. This reflects the quality of teams involved in the 2020/21 campaign.
The Champions League, which was won last season by Bayern Munich, is the premier event and is the tournament all the leading teams in European football want to feature in. Qualification into this competition is achieved through the clubs’ domestic leagues. In some cases, the club has to win the title in their country to qualify into next season’s Champions League.
Each Country in Europe Has Something to Offer
As we see in Formula One, competing in different countries across the season really makes for fascinating viewing. Each country in Europe can offer something different to a European league. Not only will it promote some of the great scenery these countries have on offer, it will really boost tourism so a shortage of hosts is unlikely.
Some stages of the league will suit cyclists who enjoy the test which mountains present, like 2019 Tour de France winner Egan Bernal. Others will prefer stages which are set up for the sprinters to showcase their speed in the closing stages.
Often the challenge of putting a tour together is time. A league would work best spread out across the year to fit the time timetables of the world’s best cyclists. In order to reduce travelling, some countries could feature in back-to-back days in the league.
Like all new competitions, the early years of the event may prove to be the most challenging. If the cyclists and spectators are on board though, it has a great chance of being successful as ultimately, they are the most important stakeholders.
Every new event in cycling has to begin somewhere and in a few years’ time, this may prove to be a great addition to the calendar in the sport which fits in well alongside the Grand Tours.