UCI handling WorldTour reforms ‘very badly’

Former Tour de France yellow jersey Jan Bakelants the latest to speak out against the UCI

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The start of the 2017 WorldTour may still be over a month away, but the changes that the UCI has made to the top level of cycling have already come in for plenty of criticism.

The latest man to speak out is Ag2r-La Mondiale rider and former Tour de France yellow jersey wearer Jan Bakelants, who says that he simply cannot understand some of the UCI’s decisions.

>>> ‘It’s not really clear what the WorldTour is any more’

“At the moment I see a lot of bad decisions being made,” Bakelants told Sporza.

“I cannot understand how race organisers in China can say ‘we’re going to organise something’ and that the race immediately gets WorldTour status.

“They’ve spent 10 years reducing the number of events to get the best riders to the start of every race. Now there are, I do not know, 80 race days added to the World Tour calendar, alongside all of the cobbled races in the Flemish spring.

“They are organising races in Turkey, where nobody wants to go, and in China, where no one knows what the race will be. I think it’s all managed very badly.”

Watch: Tour de France 2017 – essential guide

The 2017 season will see an expansion of the WorldTour from 27 to 38 races, with events such as the Abu Dhabi Tour and the new Tour of Guangxi taking their places alongside Paris-Roubaix and the Tour de France.

However, the expansion of the calendar has also seen the removal of the requirement for all WorldTour teams to compete in every race, meaning that top-level teams can pick and choose which events to take part in.

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

Bakelants was also critical of the UCI’s handling of the procedure for those looking to set up new WorldTour teams, which has seen TJ Sport (the former Lampre-Merida) currently without a top level licence.

“I cannot understand why the UCI allows people to say they will build a team, then find out later that the money is not there. That means that come December, you have 20 riders out on the street.”