Posted by Editor on 12/1/10
In September, Serge Arsenault and his team at Grand Prix Cycliste ProTour held the first ever ProTour events in North America, in the cities of Quebec and Montréal. The events were the first of a five year contract with the UCI. It was then announced last month that Arsenault's organization had submitted a successful proposal to the Canadian Cycling Association for a planned bid for the 2015 Road World Championships in Quebec City.
Since then, Serge Arsenault has been back and forth to Europe, discussing both the upcoming ProTour events next year, and proposals to expand his program in North America. We had a chance to talk with Mr Arsenault earlier today about the success of the 2010 events and future plans.
Canadian Cyclist: Your first year was quite a large success, I think everyone would agree. What needs to be done for the next editions, what improvements can be made?
Serge Arsenault: Yes, without any pretensions, the comments we have received are that it was a big success. The riders have said that they loved the races themselves, the organization, the transportation we provided, the meals and hotels. So, already we have a very good feeling from the teams, and most of the teams have already enquired about [participating] next year. Riders who didn't come [this year] now regret it.
One thing that we know already that we are going to do is add one lap to each race; however, since that will make them over 200 kilometres in length, we have to get approval from the UCI. But, it is something that [Technical Director] Charly Mottet has recommended. Although the races did not finish with the peloton together, it was not far behind, so adding one more lap could change the [dynamics] of the race a lot.
Another objective to be considered seriously is the Sprint Challenge [held in Quebec City the evening before the race this year]. I spoke with [UCI President] Pat McQuaid, and he said that the UCI wants to make it an official event, the UCI World Tour Sprint, which would be an event for all the top sprinters to attend. We will know in one or two months about this.
Television-wise ... the European networks are already in negotiation to carry it next year. We were lucky for [European TV] that a French rider won in Quebec and a Dutch rider in Montreal, so that helped us in the main cycling markets.
CC: What about the numbers, the statistics for the races? Can you provide any of those?
SA: This year we had 100,000 spectators, and I know we can have 200,000. I would say that for TV we have reached 50% of the perfect number. We had Eurosport International carrying the race, now, we have some of the big, mainstream networks asking us for next year - RAI, France, Belgium ...
In Quebec we are very good, but for the rest of Canada we have to move for more support from the networks, and I hope with Steve Bauer's Pro Continental team it will attract more attention. In the U.S. we had Versus, but we need to look to a bigger network.
For the television we also have to look at a different method of [collecting the feed] from around the course. This year, all of the [fixed] cameras, motorcycles, helicopters sent their signal to a plane 6000 feet in the air, but when we had the [low cloud], the plane had to go very low, and we lost almost four minutes of the transmission. We can not have that happen, so we are looking at going to fibre optic cable to all of the cameras around the course, which would be better, no matter what the weather.
CC: You have mentioned before the possibility of another race in Boston. Has there been any further development on that?
SA: The collaboration of Quebec and Montreal was excellent, and we have a unique organization - professionals from Europe and North America working together to put on these races. I have said for many years that a good triangle will be to have Boston as well, it is the best city for this, in my opinion.
We are working for Boston in 2012 now. The dates have already been planned, and the UCI has left the first week of September [Labour Day] empty. The teams would arrive in Boston on the Friday before Labour Day and race there on the Sunday or holiday Monday, then go to Quebec on the Tuesday, to race Quebec City on Friday and Montreal on Sunday. It would be three ProTour races in eight days. It would be great for everyone.
We have the agreement in place with the UCI for the first right of refusal for Boston through 2012. We have many of our plans in place, but now we are to meet with the Boston delegates to present the proposal.
I think that this is 90% probable an event for 2012, it is almost impossible for 2011, because the product has to be 100% perfect. Only if the Boston [delegates] said yes very quickly could it happen.
CC: Now, the CCA has announced that you are putting together the bid to submit to the UCI for the 2015 Road Worlds ...
SA: Yes, the Worlds are, of course, a long shot, but it would put a crown on what we are doing this first five years. We would have three more years of ProTour races to prepare [if the bid won] for the world championships, but there are many other cities interested. I have heard that there are two possibilities in the U.S., and in Colombia, Oman and Poland.
We are working with the CCA and the UCI to prepare our bid package [which must be submitted by December 31st of this year], and it is a short time frame before the decision is made next September [in Copenhagen, at the 2011 Worlds]. We are ready, and are building the dossier for the UCI.
I would say that, sportwise, we are the best candidate, but it is not just sport that decides this, there are many things, and the UCI has to make sure that a bid is financially solid. For TV, I think we have a big advantage, because we have shown that Quebec City has the facilities, and the races would be during primetime in Europe.
Canada needs to be at the top of the new cycling countries, and the Road world championships would be very important for this.
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