What is the UCI and When Did It Start?

Introduction

The Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) shows up a lot when talking about the sport of competitive cycling. But, what is this organization and what do they actually do? Here you’ll learn the basics of the UCI, so you can understand the sport and different competitions better.

What Is the UCI?

Since April 14th, 1900, the UCI has been the largest governing body over competitive cycling. Similar to football’s FIFA or the USA’s NFL, the UCI oversees all operations that have to do with competitive cycling at all. This includes both men’s and women’s competitive cycling all around the world.

Cycling is not limited to the more well-known road racing, but also includes mountain biking, BMX biking, cyclo-cross, indoor cycling, and track racing. Whether a race is amateur or professional, the UCI is there to make sure the sport is played fairly and competitively in all age brackets and regions of the world.

What Does the UCI Do?

There are a wide range of activities that the UCI is involved in. For one, they are the regulatory body behind competitive cycling. This means they are responsible for the rulebook of the sport, making adjustments as time goes on and enforcing current legislation during competitions.

Another major activity of the UCI is to participate in disciplinary matters, such as dealing with doping allegations and investigations against certain cyclists or teams. This responsibility has been necessary many times over the years, and keeps the sport healthy and competitive without allowing dopers to prosper.

All teams that want to participate in cycling events must get a license to do so from the UCI. Professional and amateur licenses are available through the organization, if a team meets certain standards. Individuals can also obtain licenses to participate in UCI-sanctioned cycling events.

Examples of the UCI in Action

You can see how the UCI operates with licensing by taking a look at MTN-Qhubeka, a South African cycling team (now known as Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka). This team was very small at first, but they registered as a UCI Continental Team in 2008 and could then compete in UCI sanctioned cycling events around the continent.

In 2012, the team applied for a UCI Professional Continental license, and managed to get it for their 2013 season. This granted them the ability to enter into professional competitions internationally. Finally, in 2014, they received a Grand Tour wildcard to enter the Vuelta a Espana. Other races that their license and qualifications allowed them to enter include the Tour de France in 2015, which marked them as the first African team to enter and compete in that particular race.

Without proper licensing, MTN-Qhubeka could not participate in UCI sanctioned events and would not be able to compete professionally in the sport of cycling. They may possibly be a registered amateur team in their country, but that is the extent of their ability in the sport without registering and getting proper licensing.

Conclusion

The UCI has been an important part of cycling since the beginning, and it has helped to grow the sport into something more respectable and prestigious than it ever was before.

What is the State of Competitive Cycling in Africa?

Introduction

Cycling is a sport that’s present all over the inhabited world, but it’s more common in some continents than in others. In Africa, for instance, there is less of a presence of cyclists than in many other continents. But, is that about to change? What does African professional cycling look like at the moment?

Challenges for African Cycling Teams

The biggest challenge that faces African cycling teams is finding new talent around the continent. It’s not that that talent doesn’t exist, but it has more to do with a misperception about riding bicycles. Many young people, and even older generations, view bicycles as a tool for the poor who can’t afford a car and not something to do for sport or fun.

This has inhibited a lot of progress in many countries, but South Africa and Eritrea seem to be two countries actively working to put this to rest. Initiatives are being put in place by one cycling team, MTN-Qhubeka, to try to help change people’s perceptions of bikes from being used only by the poor to something that can improve the quality of life for everyone. If it catches on, they may also be able to discover new talent amongst a generation not afraid to ride their bikes proudly.

MTN-Qhubkea: Putting African Cycling on the Map

Cycling in South Africa has proved to be a fruitful effort for one team in particular, MTN-Qhubeka (now called Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka). Qhubeka is a word that means “progress” in the Nguni language, and it describes exactly what this team is striving for in their own country and internationally. This was the first African team ever to compete in the Tour de France, which happened in 2015.

Not only did they compete, but one of the Eritrean riders on the team was labeled “King of the Mountain” and donned the coveted polka dot jersey. Made up of Eritreans, South Africans, Ethiopians, and some Europeans as well, the team is hoping to continue to improve their international record and continue on in their success.

Continental Competitions in Africa

Competitions exist all around Africa currently, with many different regional circuits that host international races. Eritrea, South Africa, Nigeria, Ethiopia, and Egypt are some of the better-known circuits for continental competitions. These circuits go all around the countries themselves and give riders a great tour of some of the incredible places to see while they ride.

So far, no other African team has managed to gain the same level of success at MTN-Qhubeka, although there are a few that have been successful in local and continental circuits. In the future, it’s hoped that South Africa’s most notable team has broken a barrier that will now lead to more and more African teams seen in prestigious international competitions, not just their own continental competitions.

Conclusion

Africa as a continent still has a long way to go when it comes to professional cycling, but MTN-Qhubeka is one team that’s showing the world that it’s possible for an African team to succeed!

What Are the Most Significant Cycling Competitions?

Introduction

Men’s cycling has been an exciting competitive sport for years. If you’re just getting into watching it regularly, you may need to catch up on some of the specifics, such as what the major competitive races are and how they work.

I want to give you a short guide to some of the basics of cycling competitions, so you can understand the importance of some events over others. You will also see a little bit about how the competitions are organized, including who the regulatory body is that judge competitions.

What Is a Grand Tour?

Out of all the professional cycling races, there are three main types: championships, single, and stage races. Single races are those that are a single run from start to finish, with the winners announced at the end of the race. Stage races are those that have multiple legs to the same race This means that one day the cyclists will race in a particular area, but the next day they will race somewhere else. Each stage of a multi-stage race declares a separate winner, with the overall winner declared at the end of all stages.

Championships are held by major cycling bodies, and they consist of a variety of races held throughout the year. As each cyclist competes in a race that is part of a certain championship, they will gain points towards a championship win. There are 4 main championship races.

Out of all of these types of races, the most well-known and prestigious are the Grand Tours. There is a total of 3 Grand Tours, each of which is held on a major European circuit. The 3 Grand Tours are the Tour de France, Vuelta a España, and the Giro d’Italia. These Grand Tours are all part of certain championships and provide point towards winning.

Who Regulates Cycling as a Sport?

There is one major regulatory body that heads international cycling. This is the UCI (Union Cycliste Internationale). Every professional cycling competition around the world is involved with the UCI, including Grand Tours, major international races, and championships.

Local and Continental Races

Some stage races and single races are hosted as continental or local races. Continental circuits include circuits and teams from around the continent for the competition, while local races focus mainly on circuits within a certain area.

Five circuits are recognized by the UCI. These are the Africa, America, Asia, Europe, and Oceania circuits, and each one is a very significant event that contributes points to championships and helps teams to qualify for Grand Tour races later on.

Local races also contribute to a team’s overall performance, although not all will contribute points to each championship. But, local races do help teams to qualify for other, more significant races down the road.

Conclusion

These are the basics that will help you understand a bit more about what is happening when you watch men’s cycling competitions. There is a lot more to know, but much of that knowledge can be learned as you’re watching for yourself!

Africa’s Most Accomplished Cycling Team: MTN–Qhubeka

Who Are MTN–Qhubeka?

If you’ve been keeping up to date on cycling, you may or may not already know the answer to this question. MTN–Qhubeka is a South African cycling team that’s found a lot of international success over the last decade, showing their ability to show up and win around the world.

History of MTN–Qhubeka

In 2007, cyclists from South Africa decided to try to start a UCI Continental Team. They succeeded in 2008 when the team was officially recognized, and by 2012 they became the first team in all of Africa to receive a Professional Continental Team license. This license was for the 2013 season, in which they were able to show their true skill and excel past expectations around the world.

Brian Smith was signed on as the general manager in 2014, bringing along with him a Cervelo sponsorship for bikes, as well as a host of unexpected, yet significant signings to the team.

Also in 2014, the team began to compete in a lot more international races in both Africa and Europe, collecting a number of first place finishes along the way. These good results ending up helping MTN–Qhubeka to make history once again, by being the first African team to ever qualify for and compete in the Tour de France.

This first happened in 2015, and 2 riders from the team managed to place first in separate stages of the competition. They also raced in the 2016 Tour de France, in which they experienced a lot more success than in 2015.

Sponsorships and Team Name Changes in 2015

After the great season in 2015, the cycling team announced a change of sponsors, which came with the latest of a series of name changes. The team is not called Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka, rather than the still commonly used name MTN–Qhubeka.

This isn’t the teams’ first, as it has experienced several since it was founded in 2007 as “MTN”. It progressed on from that to Team MTN, MTN Cycling, MTN – Energade, MTN–Qhubeka, and finally the current name Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka. The inclusion of Qhubeka in the new name is to show that the team supports this charity organization, while it receives funding from Dimension Data.

Major Accomplishments for MTN–Qhubeka

This cycling team boasts a lot of wins around the continents of Africa and Europe, but the riders also made history in 2015 by being the first African cycling team to compete in the Tour de France. This is a special accomplishment for the team, and it has put them into a more international spotlight.

MTN–Qhubeka is very consistent in taking home the gold in African cycling competitions. They have years of history winning significant races and time trials in Ethiopia, Eritrea, Rwanda, and South Africa. In recent years, the team has also been winning in Europe, specifically in Austria, Norway, and Belarus.

In 2016, this cycling team made history again by becoming the first African team to join cycling’s top division when they were granted their UCI World Tour license.

A Brief History of the Tour de France

Introduction

Even if you don’t regularly watch cycling, nearly everyone has heard of the Tour de France for one reason or another. What makes this race so special, and what is there to know about it? I want to cover some of these questions and help you get to know the Tour de France cycle circuit a bit better.

When the Tour de France Started

The first year that the Tour de France happened was in 1903. Since then it became and annual race that typically takes place in July. There were are few years when the race did not happen, due to the World Wars in the region.

Originally, the race was hosted by a struggling newspaper that was attempting to bypass a larger rival paper.

In 1903 there were around 60 entrants in the first Tour de France race.

During the time period, a multiple stage cycle race was a great way to sell more papers around the country, so L-Auto magazine organized and funded the first ever Tour de France. At the time, this was the longest cycle race to be attempted, although shorter races around the roads had happened before. There were around 60 entrants in the first Tour de France race.

How This Race Works

From the beginning, the Tour de France has always been a multiple stage race. The first one had only five stages, but today there are twenty-one stages in the race. The race is held over twenty-three days, giving riders some time to rest between the various stages.

Individual tracks within the race change every year, but some things are kept consistent, such as the finish in Paris and riding through the Pyrenees and Alps mountains. Along the way, teams do not compete only for the first spot in each race.

There are traditionally a few different ways that riders can advance themselves during the race. The fastest finisher in each stage is what gets the most attention most times, but there are other ways of doing well in the race. These are the time trials, young rider classifications (only for those under 26), the mountain climbing points, the fastest team points, and the general points for sprinting cyclists.

The one who is said to be ahead in the race is the one with the lowest aggregate time from all the completed stages, whether or not they have outright won any of the stages so far. Between 20 and 22 teams usually compete, with each team having 9 cyclists.

Why Is This Race So Significant?

One of the main reasons that the Tour de France has become so prestigious is simply because it is the oldest Grand Tour race that is still going on to this date. It has grown in popularity and prestige as time went on, and today it is one of the most notable races to happen during the year.

In the beginning, the race was not well anticipated by many people. The hosts had to put a high prize for winning and a low entry fee in order to get participants to come and try their luck. Now, this is a highly competitive circuit that many cycling teams fight to qualify for each year!

Historical Moments from the Tour de France

Here are a few interesting historical moments from the history of the Tour de France race:

  • 2015: First ever cycling team from Africa competes in the Tour de France (MTN-Qhubeka)
  • 1969: Eddy Merckx wins 4 classifications, including the overall tour, in his first year competing
  • 1903: Maurice Garin was the first man to ever win the Tour de France
  • 2012: Bradley Wiggins becomes the first person to ever win a Tour de France and Olympic gold medal in the same year