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by Shane Stokes
December 8, 2016
Photography by Kristof Ramon
Contradicting the fait accompli announcement made by the Grand Tour organisers plus Flanders Classics on November 25, the UCI has told professional squads and other stakeholders that team sizes will not be reduced for 2017 events.
Last month Tour de France and Vuelta a España organiser ASO, Giro d’Italia organiser RCS Sport and Flanders Classics – who, between them, run 28 of the sport’s biggest races – said that they had agreed to cut current rider numbers by one. This would see Grand Tour squads field eight competitors each, and those riding the other events to line out with seven.
In a joint statement, both ASO and RCS Sport explained the reasoning behind the move.
“This decision responds to two-pronged objective: the first being to improve the safety conditions for the riders with a smaller peloton on roads equipped with more and more street furniture. The second, which is a fortunate consequence of the first, is to make it more difficult to dominate a race as well as enhance conditions for events to offer better racing for cycling fans.”
However according to Spanish publication AS, this was premature and the UCI has definitely ruled it out this week. On Tuesday the UCI World Tour Seminar was held in Mallorca and while this didn’t directly address the team size numbers, the governing body told teams the latest position.
It said that the statement released by the three race organisers was a request only and that the Professional Cycling Council (CCP) ‘has not taken any decision.’
It stressed that as a result, ‘the regulation would not be modified by 2017.’
The race organisers have representation on the CCP, with both Richard Chassot and Tour de France race director Christian Prudhomme being part of the 14 member group.
The latest news will please the various teams, who stated their opposition to the squad size reduction in November.
Tuesday’s message from the UCI echoes what it said on November 26, one day after the race organisers’ announcement.
“Following recent statements, the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) wishes to clarify the current position regarding team size,’ it stated then.
“Whilst a potential reduction in team sizes may reflect a view held by some stakeholders, including some race organisers, any changes to the regulations governing men’s professional road cycling must be agreed by the Professional Cycling Council (PCC), on which the race organisers are fully represented.
“This subject was discussed at the last PCC meeting in November 2016, and it was agreed to consider in detail the implications of such reduction over the coming months, with no change for 2017.”
ASO, RCS Sport and Flanders Classics are yet to comment officially. Unless they dig their heels in, the issue will be put to rest for at least one more season.