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The UCI’s Professional Cycling Council (PCC) announced a number of rule changes following its second meeting of the year Tuesday in Geneva, Switzerland. Several decisions for the 2018 WorldTour were made — most notably, a decision was announced regarding a decrease in team size from nine to eight riders for Grand Tours, in addition to a 176-rider field limit for all WorldTour and Continental races.
The move comes as a bit of a reversal for the UCI. Last fall, race organizers ASO, RCS Sport, and Flanders Classics – who, between them, run 28 of the sport’s biggest races – agreed to cut current rider numbers by one, bringing Grand Tour squads to eight competitors each, and those riding the other events to line out with seven.
However, at that time, the UCI said no changes would be made without consent of the PCC — which, on Tuesday, agreed to the field-size limits.
“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,” the UCI stated last fall.
In Tuesday’s release, the UCI wrote that the size of teams taking part in the three Grand Tours will be reduced from nine to eight, “assisting in efforts to ensure the safety of the peloton and the rest of the race convoy…These changes will be effective from the 2018 season.”
Another rule change was made in the name of safety — the amount of time that defines a “split” in the bunch, on field sprint stages, was expanded from one second to three seconds, in hopes of that GC riders will not feel pressured to stay close in field sprints to preserve their position.
“The revision changes the time gap for a split to three seconds – instead of one – and is intended to address the issue of increased stress and risk during Grand Tour bunch sprints, while retaining the sporting integrity of the sprint and stage,” the UCI said.
A recent test of this protocol was held at the Tour de Suisse, and the revised protocol will now be tested at the 2017 Tour de France.
Also discussed in Geneva was the 2018 UCI WorldTour Calendar. The early season Abu Dhabi Tour will expand from four to five days while the 2018 Tour de France has been moved back one week to minimize overlap with the 2018 Fifa World Cup; the 2018 Tour will begin on July 7.
Regarding UCI WorldTeams, the PCC agreed that the challenge system envisaged as part of the development of the UCI WorldTour would now be put into effect for the 2020 and subsequent seasons.
Rule changes based on the outcomes of the meeting will made be effective from the beginning of the 2018 season.
The next meeting of the PCC will take place in September, when the full UCI men’s road calendar, including races at HC, Class 1 and Class 2 levels, will be published.