The UCI classification for bike races can be confusing when you just look at the categories for elite men: 1.UWT (in two different parts), 2.HC, 1.2, all corresponding to different levels and lengths of event. Once you get into restricted category entry such as the under-23 calendar a new layer of difficulty arrives…
To begin with the main elite category system, one day races are classified 1.x and stage races as 2.x. The meaning of “x” then varies depending on the race’s status in the calendar.
UWT: WorldTour – split into grand old races like Flanders and Roubaix, and lesser ‘B’ class events like RideLondon. Open to WorldTour squads and limited Pro-Continental teams, plus some Continental squads registered in the country of the race.
HC: hors catégorie. Not quite WorldTour but still major events such as the Three Days of De Panne or Tour of Britain. Open to WorldTour, ProConti and Continental squads.
.1 and .2 are the smaller races. 1.1 or 2.1 is predominantly professionals with national teams permitted, and 1.2/2.2 open up to a far wider rider base.
Colin Clews, organiser of the UK’s off-road “Cicle Classic” – which has been a 1.2 for the last few years – said that whilst he’d like to direct a 1.1 and have the higher level of competition, it would mean losing the domestic elite, regional and “club” teams that give the race so much of its appeal.
That’s the strength of a 1.2 (or 2.2) event – the potential to invite teams which aren’t UCI-registered whilst retaining up-to-Pro-Conti level entry.
What does this mean in Under-23 terms?
Putting the Nations Cup (“NCup”) to one side for a moment, a look at the 2018 calendar shows that most of the events are 1.2U or 2.2U.
In all respects bar one, these are normal 1.2 or 2.2 races – they’re part of the Continental Tour programme and adhere to the same UCI rules as any other 1.2/2.2 race. The U in the title simply means that entry is restricted to riders aged 19-22.
That’s it: 19-22 year-old riders only.
Theoretically, somebody could organise a 1.HCU event – but in making it an HC you’d be cutting off the non-UCI squads who make up the majority of the under-23 peloton. In practice, then, 1.2 or 2.2 is the best level to pitch the tour. Looking at the 2017 Baby Giro (a 2.2U event), Pro-Continental squad GazProm could line up alongside numerous Continental teams and the Italian non-UCI development teams (e.g. Zalf-Euromobil) and regional Italian teams.
The Nations Cup (1.NCup and 2.NCup for short) are the UCI’s season-long team-based points competition for national squads. It allows riders not on an international development team to compete at the top level of age-group racing. Many of the biggest races are in the NCup series – Paris-Roubaix, Tour of Flanders, Liege-Bastogne-Liege and the Tour de l’Avenir to name a few.
Whilst the Under-23 classifications are simple when you strip them back to their different parts, the myriad of race classifications that are available (mostly in Belgium, most days of the week) is best explained by someone else.
For an up-to-date list of all Under-23 races planned for 2018, see the espoirs.world calendar page. If you see anything on there which is out of date (the calendar has a habit of changing regularly and silently) please get in touch: firstname.lastname@example.org