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by Shane Stokes
September 23, 2015
Photography by Cor Vos
Several key changes including three year WorldTour licences and a general reform of men’s professional road cycling have been confirmed by the UCI, bringing to an end over two years of dialogue and debate with various stakeholders in the sport.
The governing body has long been working at a reform of cycling in order to lead to greater stability and growth.
It announced on Tuesday that its management committee has approved key principles drawn up.
These principles were discussed this week by the Professional Cycling Council, which met at the UCI road world championships in Richmond, USA.
One of the biggest agreements is the decision to extend the granting of WorldTour licences from one year to three, with the UCI saying that it hopes this will result in increased investment and thus greater stability.
A total of 18 teams will receive these licences, which will be granted based on ethical, financial, sporting, administrative and organisational criteria.
The proposed three year licences are understood to have been one of the main factors in tensions between the UCI and Tour de France organisers ASO, who are reportedly unhappy with this development.
In June it was reported that ASO had sent a letter to the UCI threatening to withdraw its races from the UCI calendar. Although Reuters said at the time that the dissent was due to delays with the reforms, CyclingTips was told by a team source that the three year licence was actually one of the main reasons why ASO was dissatisfied.
That source suggested that ASO wanted the current one-year system to remain as teams had less power and were thus unable to take strong negotiating positions.
ASO has not yet responded to the UCI announcement. It is consequently unclear if the agreement will reawaken tensions.
If so, it could return the sport to the same turmoil that affected it in the late 2000s.
The UCI has also announced what it terms the introduction of a new ‘Cahier des Charges’ system, which it said will strengthen team integrity and anti-doping measures. This will be mandatory from 2017 onwards.
It comprises ten main rules which will ensure all riders are supported and supervised, and was debuted by some teams last season. A similar system is likely to be introduced for other pro teams from 2018 onwards.
The governing body believes that this will boost the integrity of cycling.
In addition to that the new reforms will see a limited number of additional races being introduced to the WorldTour from 2017 onwards.
Both these events and existing WorldTour races will be subject to an organisers Cahier des Charges system, which will ensure that those running such races will have to conform to a high standard.
Additional details have yet to emerge but the UCI has apparently indicated that the current rules requiring all WorldTour teams to compete in every WorldTour race might change.
“The current participation rules will be maintained for existing UCI WorldTour events but new rules will be set for new events seeking to join the UCI WorldTour to encourage growth and globalisation,” it stated.
Yet another change is a planned reform of the men’s professional rankings. The individual rankings will be expanded to reward the world’s top climber, sprinter, one day rider and stage race competitor.
In addition to that, the individual rankings will extend from the top level of teams down to the third, much like the old world rankings.
There will also be nation rankings based on the top eight riders from each country, plus WorldTeam rankings based on results from WorldTour events only.
Meanwhile, second-tier teams will have their own ranking based on results from WorldTour and second-tier events.
Further details will be announced prior to next season.
“These are important changes that will help to further enhance men’s professional road cycling and aide its global growth and development,” said the UCI president Brian Cookson.
“I would like to thank all stakeholders for their positive and constructive approach to this reform process. I believe that the measures announced today will help to bring greater stability and growth to men’s professional road cycling while also opening the door to greater technological innovation and fan engagement.”
He said that the new reforms sent a strong signals to fans, broadcasters and commercial partners in relation to the governance and organisational structure of the sport.
“This is an important moment for professional cycling and another major step forward as we continue to restore trust and credibility.”