Two-week Grand Tours could be part of race calendar revamp

UCI wants to see a streamlined race calendar, but Grand Tour organisers reject the idea of reducing their races from three to two weeks

Cycling’s stakeholders this winter are plotting changes that could include shortening the Grand Tours from three to two weeks to make a more rider-friendly calendar.

“Nothing is untouchable,” Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) president, Brian Cookson told Spanish daily AS. “We want to plan for a better sport in which the top cyclists are able to participate in the top races. With the current calendar of three grand tours, each three weeks, it’s impossible.”

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Representatives of key groups within cycling met last Thursday, November 13, in Paris to reportedly talk about the 2017 season. Starting with 2017, the governing body (UCI) would like to have fewer and smaller teams, a new points system and a streamlined calendar.

For example, instead of 18 first division teams capped at 30 cyclists each, in the coming years cycling could see 16 teams of 22 riders. A new second division would feature eight teams of 22 cyclists. Third division teams would have eight to 10 riders.

The calendar, which runs from January through October could be shortened and re-organised to avoid overlapping races. The changes could affect cycling’s big three stage races: the Giro d’Italia, the Tour de France and the Vuelta a España. Each run three weeks, with the Giro in May, the Tour in July and the Vuelta in late August and September.

“We have too many races and days of competition on the calendar, which creates a significant financial strain,” Cookson continued. “Cycling is not just a sport and we have to find appropriate solutions.”

Race organisers attended the UCI’s reform meetings and representatives of the three Grand Tours would have been in Paris on Thursday. The bosses, however, already have spoken out earlier this spring against the shortening of their races to two weeks.

Tour director, Christian Prudhomme explained that other issues take priority. “What is important for me… It is impossible to have two races of the same category at the same time, for example, Paris-Nice and Tirreno-Adriatico. It’s important to have the best riders in the best races, like it was 40 years ago.”

“No. The Giro has to maintain its tradition,” RCS Sport’s General Manager Paolo Bellino said to cutting the Giro to two weeks. “The tradition deserves to continue as much as possible. There’s no reason to modify the length of the race. It should remain how it is.”

“There is no plan to reduce the Vuelta, not by one day, not in 2016, 2017 or 2018,” Vuelta race director, Javier Guillén told Spain’s Ciclismo a Fondo magazine. “If it ever happened, it would be a reduction of a few days, but only if and when that would benefit the Vuelta.”

The three bosses could have changed their minds after a recent round of meetings with Cookson and other stakeholders. More on the changes should come early in the 2015 season.

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