The decision to reduce the number of riders per team in Grand Tours from nine to eight from the 2018 season will make riders more valuable as there will be less opportunities for many to race three-week stage races.
That is the view of Dimension Data sports director Roger Hammond, who dismissed suggestions that the ruling – announced on Thursday as part of increased safety measures – would dramatically alter the dynamics of racing tactics.
“What does it change?” Hammond pondered to Cycling Weekly. “Little. We run out of riders with nine riders, so we are going to run out with eight, so nothing really changes. It will make races harder to control, but significantly harder? I doubt it.”
The impact, Hammond believes, will be on the value of riders and domestiques who aren’t guaranteed Grand Tour selection each year.
“Does it make the Tour de France more valuable?” he questioned.
“I think it will make Tour teams more expensive to run. Riders will be more valuable because they have to be better at what they do and they can command a price.”
Rolling away on the turbo, Steve Cummings, who won the British National Championships time trial yesterday, interjected: “There’ll be pros without jobs – prices will maybe go up, prices will maybe go down.”
Hammond added: “It will be more disappointing for riders because Grand Tours are getting more and more important to ride, so that means there are less opportunities.
"That’s three riders in a season who would have had a ride and won’t now. For furthering careers it’s important [to ride a Grand Tour].”
Rod Ellingworth, Hammond’s counterpart at Team Sky, commented: “It will make selections hard. We have left out some really fit and healthy bike riders this year so it will make that even harder.
“Last year [at the Tour] was the first time we’d finished with nine riders, so when you look back, eight rider teams won’t make a huge difference.
“Will it change anything tactically? Not massively. If it went down to six it would – the races were it is six-man teams are quite difficult – but I wouldn’t have thought they’d do that in a Grand Tour.”
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Follow on Twitter: @richwindy
Richard is digital editor of Cycling Weekly. Joining the team in 2013, Richard became editor of the website in 2014 and coordinates site content and strategy, leading the news team in coverage of the world's biggest races and working with the tech editor to deliver comprehensive buying guides, reviews, and the latest product news.
An occasional racer, Richard spends most of his time preparing for long-distance touring rides these days, or getting out to the Surrey Hills on the weekend on his Specialized Tarmac SL6 (with an obligatory pub stop of course).
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