Cycling Weekly learned from insiders that the Professional Cycling Council will make the decision in a meeting next week in Geneva, on November 8.
The South African Dimension Data team risked being ejected only after one year at the top after they finished last in the WorldTour ranking, despite winning five Tour de France stages. If demoted, the team would have to fight for invitations to all the top races.
The UCI, however, should award two-year licences to the teams this winter and keep the WorldTour at 18 squads through to the end of 2018. The governing body would not confirm the decision, only that the council will meet next week to discuss this and other issues.
The UCI came under fire from all quarters for introducing a ‘challenge system’ of demotion and promotion that it wanted to implement for 2017. It originally wanted to take the WorldTour to 17 teams for 2017 and to 16 by 2018.
It rolled out the points-based rule this summer. Part of the reason it did so was because it was under pressure from cycling’s super-organiser ASO, which wants to be able to invite more wildcard teams to races like the Tour de France, Critérium du Dauphiné and Paris-Roubaix. Currently, all the WorldTour teams have the right to attend, and must participate, in the top races.
Teams association AIGCP warned last month of that it would block any attempt by the UCI to axe licences.
“By reducing the number of WorldTour licenses for teams, the UCI is taking away the economic rights of teams without any justification for it,” said the AIGCP. “The proposed Challenge System will not be accepted” and if the UCI tries to implement it, the teams will refuse it by any “necessary means.”
The UCI’s new rules stated that teams ranked below 16th in the WorldTour would be considered ‘candidates’ for the following season. IAM Cycling, which is closing, finished 17th and Dimension Data 18th. They would be lumped with new teams applying for a WorldTour licence, which for 2017 includes Bahrain-Merida with Vincenzo Nibali, and teams asking for promotions from the second division, such as Bora-Hansgrohe with double world champion Peter Sagan.
Tinkoff, which placed second in the 2016 WorldTour ranking, is also folding. This left two free spots for the three strong candidates and based on points, Dimension Data should be kicked out. We calculated the points of their top five riders for 2017, and Dimension Data counts 272, Bora 864 and Bahrain 905.
However, the points should not matter because the rule should not be applied. The UCI and ASO could have their way by 2018 or soon after, as on average two teams close every year.
Cycling Weekly also learned from an insider that the 10 new WorldTour races for 2017 will count for less than existing events.
The UCI expanded its 27-race series to 37 events for next season by adding in races across the globe, including the RideLondon-Surrey Classic. WorldTour teams will not be required to race in those events for the first two or three years they are in the WorldTour. The points teams earn if they do attend will count for the WorldTour rankings, but not in a promotion/demotion system.
This should favour non-WorldTour races fighting for their space and teams participation in a crowded calendar, like the Tour of Britain, the Giro del Trentino and the Vuelta a Burgos.
The teams association agrees with the UCI’s plans to go ahead with its rule after 2017 that would require new teams to spend at least one or two years in the Professional Continental division before applying for the WorldTour. Team Sky and Orica-BikeExchange debuted at the top strongly, but that was not the case for team Leopard-Trek.
After the issues are clarified next week, teams are reportedly pushing for a consultation meeting. They would meet with the UCI, ASO and other stakeholders to discuss a better mechanism for the open system, where licences are reviewed every two to three years, than the now proposed challenge system.