Czech Billionaire To Bankroll $25M Champions League-Style Cycling Series
Omega Pharma-Quick-Step pro cycling team billionaire sponsor Zdenek Bakala, who sponsors cyclist Mark Cavendish's new team, is "poised to invest more than €20M ($25M) in the restructuring of European cycling based on a Champions League model," according to Jeremy Whittle of the LONDON TIMES. The Czech entrepreneur who made his fortune in coal mining, "announced his plans to transform cycling" by '16 in a press briefing in Brussels, Belgium behind the Manifesto for Credible Cycling. Discussions between Bakala and many of cycling’s leading teams "have been going on for about nine months and were initiated before the Lance Armstrong scandal plunged the European professional cycling scene into crisis" (LONDON TIMES, 11/12).
MOVING FORWARD: CYCLING WEEKLY's Gregor Brown reported that Int'l Cycling Union (UCI) confirmed that it "signed an initial agreement with private investors" to begin a new pro cycling league." Bakala, according to La Gazzetta dello Sport newspaper, has "joined with eight to nine teams," including Omega Pharma, BMC Racing, Garmin-Sharp and Cannondale. He has "won over" UCI President Pat McQuaid, former UCI President Hein Verbruggen and former ProTour Manager Alain Rumpf. The UCI "confirmed it signed a Memorandum of Understanding" with Bakala and Dutch businessman Bessel Kok and is entering into "extensive dialogue with the teams and race organisers" (CYCLING WEEKLY, 11/12). VELO NEWS' Neal Rogers reported that while the UCI acknowledged discussions with Bakala and Kok are in place, the federation stated that no agreement has been reached on reforms to the pro road calendar, “and as such, any media reports about the future of the calendar are pure speculation at this stage.” The UCI said it would retain full control over a potential new race calendar, including “sporting and technical elements” (VELO NEWS, 11/10). ROAD.cc's Simon MacMichael reported that Bakala acknowledged that to date "no discussions had been held" with Tour de France organizer ASO. No discussions have taken place with other major races including Paris-Nice, Paris Roubaix and Liege-Bastogne-Liege, which also owns a significant stake in the Vuelta, or RCS Sport, which owns the Giro d’Italia, Milan-San Remo, Tirreno-Adriatico and the Giro di Lombardia, among others (ROAD.cc, 11/11).