Race organisers’ decision to limit team sizes in most major events for 2017 and beyond will put 100 professional cyclists out of work, says Etixx-QuickStep boss Patrick Lefevere.
ASO, RCS Sport and Flanders Classics – organisers of most major races on the calendar – decided on Friday to cut team sizes in their races by one. They want eight instead of nine in the grand tours and seven in the races that currently have eight-man teams, like the classics and the Critérium du Dauphiné.
“I am categorically against it,” Lefevere told Belgian newspaper Het Nieuwsblad. “No one was consulted, teams or the riders’ union.
“Then why should we continue to have 30 riders per team in 2018? You can continue with five riders less per team. You’ll have 100 cyclists out on the street at the end of 2017, plus 25 caregivers because they will not be needed anymore.”
The organisers said that they want to make the races safer by limiting the peloton size. The Tour de France, for example, would only count 176 instead of 198 cyclists in the peloton. They also want to limit team domination, like Team Sky has shown in the Tour de France.
“They should start by looking up safer streets instead of using old cart roads,” the Belgian manager said. “And not have a right-hand bends 50 metres before the line like in the Tour de Suisse. Or is that safe?”
Mangers of BMC Racing and Cannondale, Jim Ochowicz and Jonathan Vaughters, also criticised the organisers’ plans for 2017 and beyond.
The rule change may not see the light of day, however, because the UCI says organisers must follow a process.
“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,” a UCI statement read.
“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 the November meeting, the teams won a battle with the ASO and UCI to keep 18 teams in the 2017 WorldTour instead of cutting the top series to 17. This saved Dimension Data, which includes British riders Mark Cavendish and Steve Cummings, from slipping down to the Professional Continental division.
Organisers such as ASO want to make changes after a terrible year that saw Antoine Demoitié (Wanty-Groupe Gobert) die due to an incident with a motorbike in Ghent-Wevelgem and Stig Broeckx (Lotto-Soudal) suffer brain damage in another crash.
“Already for one year, we’ve been talking about rider safety without taking action,” RCS Sport Cycling Director Mauro Vegni told La Gazzetta dello Sport newspaper. “[Safety] has become more important in the last years because dangers have increased for various reasons. And with fewer cyclists, it could help in having less controlled races.
“I say it’s not true, how I heard some saying, that reducing the team size in races will automatically cut the number of jobs available. There are so many races on the calendar, and even ones running at the same time, that this danger does not exist at all.”