UCI fires back at team size reduction claim

The International Cycling Union (UCI) has moved to warn 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.

While stating the number of teams would remain the same, a joint statement read: “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, the UCI responded on Saturday by stating: “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.”

In other news, Chinese team TJ Sports has said it is in the process of fulfilling the criteria needed to secure a WorldTour licence after being the only outfit to miss out in a UCI announcement on Friday. The UCI said it had awarded WorldTour licences to 17 teams for the 2017 and 2018 seasons, with TJ Sports facing further scrutiny from the UCI Licence Commission.

It was announced in August that the WorldTour was set for its first Chinese team after a takeover deal was sealed for the Italian outfit Lampre-Merida. Chinese company TJ Sport Consultation was confirmed as the new licence holder of Lampre-Merida, which was formed in 1991. TJ Sport Consultation replaced CGS Cycling as the licence holder to create China’s first WorldTour team from the 2017 season onwards.

TJ Sports told the Cyclingnews website it had requested extra time to complete its application after a delay in obtaining some documents from China, adding it was confident of soon completing its application.

The 17 teams to be granted licences form the bulk of those who competed this season, with two exceptions. German outfit Bora-Hansgrohe is promoted from Professional Continental level after signing Peter Sagan and Rafael Majka. Meanwhile, the newly formed Bahrain-Merida project has secured WorldTour status for its debut season after signing Italy’s Vincenzo Nibali as team leader.

Earlier this month, the UCI elected to delay a reduction of the number of teams competing in its elite WorldTour to 2019. In June, it was announced that the number of WorldTeams would be set at 17 for 2017, with the objective to reach 16 a year later. From the 2019 season onwards, it was proposed that the number of WorldTeams would be set at 16.

However, following a meeting of the PCC, stakeholders of men’s professional road cycling agreed a new set of WorldTour regulations for the 2017 season and beyond. The UCI said that since the commencement of the WorldTeam registration process for 2017, it had “become clear” that there were 18 candidates for WorldTeam licences.