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UCI agrees to reduction in Grand Tour peloton size, Tour de France rescheduled

The International Cycling Union (UCI) has acceded to requests to reduce the size of the pelotons at its Grand Tour road events, while the Tour de France’s 2018 edition has been rescheduled to avoid a conflict with next year’s edition of national team football tournament the Fifa World Cup.

The actions of the UCI’s Professional Cycling Council (PCC) come after the governing body in November warned organisers of some of Europe’s top road races that they alone cannot shape rules for the events after it was announced that they would reduce team sizes from the 2017 season.

Following the general assembly of the International Association of Cycling Race Organisers (AIOCC), RCS Sport, which organises the Giro d’Italia; Flanders Classics, which stages the Flanders Classics and Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO), which puts on the Tour de France, said they would reduce the number of riders per team at the start of their races in an effort to improve racing and safety. The organisations said the number of riders per team will decrease from nine to eight on the Grand Tours – the Tour, Giro and Vuelta a Espana – and from eight to seven on other events.

The UCI responded by stating any changes to the regulations governing men's professional road cycling must be agreed by the PCC, on which the race organisers are fully represented. From the 2018 WorldTour season, the UCI has now said the size of teams taking part in the three Grand Tours will be reduced from the current nine to eight riders, thereby reducing the peloton size to a maximum of 176.

In addition, the UCI said it is intended that the maximum peloton size for other races in the WorldTour and the Continental Circuits will also be reduced to 176, with the regulations to put this into effect being submitted for approval in due course. These changes will be effective from the 2018 season.

The PCC has also approved the 2018 WorldTour calendar. Following the success of new events coming into the series in 2017, the calendar for 2018 is substantially the same. The success of the Abu Dhabi Tour has led to the extension of this race to five days for 2018 as it continues its place as one of the early season WorldTour races before the series moves to Europe.

To minimise the disruption resulting from the 2018 World Cup in Russia, the PCC has agreed that the Tour de France should take place one week later than originally planned. Other changes see the Tour of Turkey moving to an October calendar slot, while the Tour of Qatar has been dropped.

In January, Qatar Cycling and Triathlon Federation president Mohamed Al Kuwari said the country’s desert stage cycling race would return in 2018 after this year’s edition was cancelled. This year’s Tour of Qatar and Ladies Tour of Qatar events were abandoned by the UCI in December, with the body citing a lack of backing from sponsors as a reason for the cancellations.

The men’s Tour of Qatar was one of 10 new events to be granted top-tier WorldTour status in August and had been due to take place from February 6-10.