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by Shane Stokes
December 31, 2014
The UCI’s planned restructuring of pro cycling has led to considerable uncertainty in relation to how it will affect the pro peloton, with talk of a reduction in WorldTour team sizes to just 22 riders provoking concerns about how this will impact upon the professional peloton.
Rider agent Paul De Geyter has called for clarification from the UCI as to what those plans are.
According to the Belgian, who represents clients including Tom Boonen, Tejay Van Garderen, Jan Bakelants, Greg Van Avermaet, Maxime Bouet, Matt Goss and Luke Durbridge, rider agents have not been included in discussions thus far. Because of this, he says there is a scarcity of information being made available to them.
He said that this in turn trickles down to the riders, provoking increasing unease about whether or not they will be able to find employment once the new structure is in place.
“Unfortunately the UCI doesn’t inform the agents about what they are going to do, which is a bit sad, I think,” he told CyclingTips. “It is not very clear what they are planning to do, but there is talk that the top teams might be limited to just 22 riders and that each of those might have a separate development team too.
“More recently I’ve heard suggestions from a couple of team managers that the reforms could be delayed and that the limit might now be 25 riders rather than 22. We need clarification about what is happening.”
De Geyter said that the repercussions could be severe if the original reports proved to be accurate and that teams would have just 22 riders in the future.
“In that case, I think it could be a disaster for all riders between 25 and 35 because there are going to be even less spots for them since the number of places will be limited,” he said. “Those would already be taken up by a lot of young riders.
“If you look at the peloton now, today, you see that there are already a lot of young guys under 25 – Degenkolb, Michael Matthews, those guys are already there. I see it as a big problem if those main teams can only have 22 riders and the under 25 guys are going to take some places there.
“It is going to be really, really hard for all riders over that age. The riders that are coming up are getting younger and younger. It could be a real slaughter for those [older] guys, because it is purely mathematics. You can see that there will be a big, big problem.”
Given the dearth of information on the planned reforms and the reasons for them, De Geyter says there are real questions about the need to shake up the peloton in such a pronounced way.
“It would be interesting if someone could explain to me what would be so bad if there are more jobs for riders in cycling,” he said. “I would like if they can explain to me what the good news for the riders is [with the reform].
“I have more than one big team that told me, ‘Paul, we would take more riders, but we are just not capable of doing that.’ We see already an issue because of this; just look at the number of riders on the teams [for 2015]. There are less riders than what is permitted as the teams all start to anticipate this new system.”
Combine that with the shutdown of several teams in the past two seasons and the net effect is a restriction in the availability of places.
Many riders have been left scrapping for slots, with some being forced into retirement and others accepting salaries far lower than they might otherwise command.
De Geyter believes the sport’s governing body has been part of this due to its reform plans.
“If the UCI can explain to me why they want to increase the number of jobs that are going to disappear for riders, I would be more than happy to know,” he stated.
“I can’t see a reason for it. The fact is that in the past, Mapei had 40 riders. That was great for cycling, particularly when you see all the riders who came up through that system, all the riders who became big stars.
“Basically, I don’t see the reason why the UCI should limit the number of riders. In addition to that, I think it should make clear what it is going to do, because this uncertainty that is there right now is costing riders jobs.”
The planned reforms were first proposed while former UCI president Pat McQuaid was in office. His successor Brian Cookson continued on in the same direction, with the UCI reportedly desiring a smaller top tier of the sport and less racing days.
A possible reduction in length of Grand Tours is one idea thought to be under consideration.
De Geyter believes that it is vital that the various stakeholders in the sport are kept fully informed about the situation. He pointed out that agents have an important role to play within the sport but, in his opinion, are not treated as seriously as they deserve to be.
“I think it is clear that he riders trust us and pay us to represent them,” he said. “We also had to do an exam to be licenced agents. But we haven’t been involved by the UCI in these discussions. In fact, we don’t even get accreditation to the worlds.
“I hope that the new president of the UCI will take a different approach and have us involved in decision making, so that we can talk on behalf of those who are most involved, the riders.
“Team managers say to me that we should be there too at those talks. They have told me that they consider it could be an added value to have us there.”
Also see: What factors determine pro cyclist salaries?