Tour de France team sizes ‘will not be reduced’, rules UCI

UCI shelves the race organisers' plans to reduce team sizes at the 2017 Tour de France, Vuelta a España and Giro d'italia and other races

Upcoming events

Team Sky‘s dominance in the Tour de France will not be stopped by a proposed rule change to reduce team sizes from nine riders to eight. The UCI shelved the race organisers’ proposal on Tuesday in a meeting in Spain – which would have been the last opportunity to formally push through rule change ahead of the 2017 season.

The big three organisers – ASO, RCS Sport and Flanders Classics – said on November 25 that they would reduce team sizes from nine to eight in the grand tours and from eight to seven in all of their other races. Those races would include Tirreno-Adriatico, the Critérium du Dauphiné and Paris-Roubaix.

>>> How will a reduction in team sizes affect major bike races? It might not be obvious

The organisers argued the change would make for a safer peloton on the heels of a terrible season, reducing the number of cyclists from 198 to 176 in the Tour de France and other grand tours, and as a result, the change would limit team control. With only a maximum of seven helpers, Chris Froome and other team leaders would have less control over the peloton.

The push by the big three came too late for many, with teams already built for the 2017 season, and caused too much of a stir. QuickStep team general manager Patrick Lefevere argued that 100 cyclists and 25 caregivers would lose work by 2018 because they would no longer be needed.

The governing body already warned that any such change would need to pass through the Professional Cycling Council (PCC) and would not be possible for 2017. At a UCI seminar in Mallorca, Spain, AS newspaper said that body did not even address the proposal.

The peloton in Paris on stage 21 of the 2016 Tour de France

The teams association AIGCP was against the move to reduce team sizes. Photo: Graham Watson

“We wanted to give a signal, we’ve been talking about safety for many years, but the reality is nothing changes,” RCS Sport cycling director Mauro Vegni told Cycling Weekly last week.

“If the UCI says ‘no’ then that’s not great. They are saying they want safety, making safety commissions, but then they don’t decide anything. [We have too many meetings] without ever making a decision.”

“When you see the strength of some teams, you soon understand that not much is going to happen,” Tour de France event director, Thierry Gouvenou told L’Equipe. “We need to rediscover that element of uncertainty.”

The teams association, the AIGCP, were against the change.

AIGCP board member and team LottoNL-Jumbo manager, Richard Plugge told Cycling Weekly, “Such a change can never be made by one stakeholder, unilaterally. We also want to make decisions faster and quicker. But, for example, teams can’t decide to change the teams to 10 riders in the grand tours because we like it, we have to discuss it with the riders and organisers.”

“At this point, there is one stakeholder, the organisers, who tell the riders and teams, that we will both lose jobs. We need to discuss this because the implications are huge, especially for these two stake holders.”

The first of the three organisers’ races, the Tour of Qatar, starts in eight weeks. It is under clear if the big three will force through its change despite this weeks meeting in Mallorca.

Vegni admitted over a week ago their change announcement was “a bit of a provocation”. He added, “Us three organisers are standing together and staying we are ready to do something, otherwise it just stays the same”.