Updated date:

Cycling history: UCI World Tour, the highest level for professional cycling

The UCI World Tour is the highest level for professional cycling globally. This competition was established in 2009. Predecessors of the UCI World Tour were the Challenge Desgrange-Colombo (1948-1958), the Super Prestige Pernod International (1959-1987), the UCI World Cup (1989-2004) and the Pro Tour (2005-2008).


Challenge Desgrange-Colombo (1948-1958)

The Challenge Desgrange-Colombo was established in 1948. It was the first season long international competition in professional cycling. The competition was organized by four newspapers: La Gazetta dello Sport (Italy), L'Équipe (France), Het Nieuwsblad (Belgium) and Les Sports (France).

Those newspapers were the organizers of many famous races, like the Tour the France (L'Équipe), the Tour of Flanders (Het Nieuwsblad) and the Giro d'Italia (Gazetto dello Sport). These races became part of the new season long competition.

The ranking of the Challenge Desgrange-Colombo was the prestigious (but unofficial) world ranking of pro cycling.


The Challenge was named after Henri Desgrange (founder of the Tour de France) and Emilio Colombo (former director of the Giro d'Italia).


The first winner of the Challenge Desgrange-Colombo was Briek Schotte from Belgium in 1948. Fausto Coppi won the Challenge in 1949.

The most successful riders in the history of this competition are Ferdi Kübler and Fred De Bruyne. They both won the classification three times. Disagreements between the organizers led to the collapse of the Challenge Desgrange-Colombo in 1958.

Pernod: "Santé!"


Super Prestige Pernod International (1959-1987)

The French alcohol company Pernod introduced a new competition in 1959, the Super Prestige Pernod International. Twenty big pro races were part of this new season long competition. (The Challenge Desgrange-Colombo usually was a competition of eleven races.)

Who were the most successful riders in the history of this competition? Eddy Merckx won the Super Prestige Pernod seven consecutive times (1969-1975). Bernard Hinault and Jacques Anquetil both won this world ranking four times. The competition collapsed in 1987, because French law prevented the advertisement of alcohol in 1988.

UCI: International Cycling Federation


World Ranking (1984-2004)

The Challenge Desgrange-Colombo (1948-1958) and the Super Prestige Pernod International (1959-1987) were both prestigious, but unofficial world rankings. In the eighties the UCI (the international cycling federation) developed an official world ranking. This new competition contained almost all professional road races (except very small races, like criteriums en kermesse races). The name of the new world ranking was the FICP ranking. Later, the name changed to UCI World Ranking. However, this official world ranking of the UCI was less prestigious than the unofficial rankings Challenge Desgrange-Colombo and Super Prestige Pernod had been.

World Cup (1989-2004)

In 1989, the UCI decided that an extra competition was required. The name of this ranking was the World Cup. It contained twelve one day classics. There were no stage races in this competition. The World Cup became the prestigious competition for the classic specialists, like Johan Museeuw, Paolo Bettini and Michele Bartoli.

UCI Pro Tour (2005-2008)

The UCI introduced the UCI Pro Tour in 2005. Just like the Challenge Desgrange-Colombo (1948-1958) and the Super Prestige Pernod (1959-1987) it contained both the one day classics and the biggest stage races. However, it wasn't an instant success. There were many disputes involving the UCI, the organizers of the races and the cycling teams. Both the teams and the races concerned that the UCI would receive too much power.

UCI World Tour (since 2009)

After a long negotiation process, the UCI and the organizers had an agreement for a new world ranking. This became the UCI World Tour.


The UCI World Tour consists of 33 events. The most important races are the three Grand Tours (Tour de France, Giro d'Italia and Vuelta a Espana) and the five Monument Classics (Tour of Flanders, Milan-San Remo, Il Lombardia, Paris-Roubaix and Liège-Bastogne-Liège). It also includes many other famous one day races (Strade Bianche, Amstel Gold Race, Gent-Wevelgem) and stages races (Paris-Nice, Tour de Suisse, Tirreno-Adriatico).

Tour Down Under

Usually, the Tour Down Under (Australia) is the opening event of the UCI World Tour. However, the 2021 edition of the race is cancelled as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. The 2021 Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race (Australia) is also cancelled due to the pandemic.

2021 Calendar: UCI World Tour

  • February 21–27: UAE Tour (United Arab Emirates)
  • February 27: Omloop Het Nieuwsblad (Belgium)
  • March 6: Strade Bianche (Italy)
  • March 7-14: Paris–Nice (France)
  • March 10-16: Tirreno–Adriatico (Italy)
  • March 20: Milan–San Remo (Italy)
  • March 22-28: Volta a Catalunya (Spain)
  • March 24: Bruges-De Panne (Belgium)
  • March 26: E3 Harelbeke (Belgium)
  • March 28: Gent–Wevelgem (Belgium)
  • March 31: Dwars door Vlaanderen (Belgium)
  • April 4: Ronde van Vlaanderen - Tour of Flanders (Belgium)
  • April 5-10: Tour of the Basque Country (Spain)
  • April 11: Paris–Roubaix (France)
  • April 18: Amstel Gold Race (Netherlands)
  • April 21: La Flèche Wallonne (Belgium)
  • April 25: Liège–Bastogne–Liège (Belgium)
  • April 27-May 2: Tour de Romandie (Switzerland)
  • May 1: Eschborn–Frankfurt (Germany)
  • May 8-30: Giro d'Italia (Italy)
  • May 30 - June 6: Critérium du Dauphiné (France)
  • June 6-13: Tour de Suisse (Switzerland)
  • June 26 - July 18: Tour de France
  • July 31: Clásica de San Sebastián (Spain)
  • August 9-15: Tour de Pologne (Poland)
  • August 14 - September 5: Vuelta Ciclista a Espana (Spain)
  • August 15: Hamburg EuroEyes Cyclassics (Germany)
  • August 22: Bretagne Classic (France)
  • August 30 – September 5: Binck Bank Tour (Netherlands and Belgium)
  • September 10: GP de Québec (Canada)
  • September 12: GP de Montreal (Canada)
  • October 9: Il Lombardia (Italy)
  • October 14-19: Tour of Guangxi (China)

© 2021 Van Staveren

Related Articles