- RCS Sport (the Italian organisor of the Giro d'Italia, Tirreno Adriatico, Milan Sanremo and Il Lombardia for example) and
- Flanders Classics (the Belgian organisor of numerous classics: Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, Dwars door Vlaanderen [A travers la Flandre], Gent-Wevelgem, Ronde van Vlaanderen [Tour of Flanders], Scheldeprijs and Brabantse Pijl among others)
announced with one voice that the number of riders in all of their races would be reduced by one.
But is it that simple?!
The organisors' press release
These three organisors thus sent out a press release in French, English and Italian (RCS Sport only sent out the Italian version), announcing that following the general assembly of the AIOCC ("Association Internationale des Organisateurs de Courses Cyclistes" or international association of cycling race organisors), these three organisors have decided to reduce the number of riders starting in their races by one: from 9 to 8 for the Grand Tours (Giro d'Italia, Tour de France and potentially also the Vuelta a España but that's not completely sure since even though A.S.O. has a majority participation in the races's organisor, the name of the official organisor, Unipublic, was not mentioned in the press release) and from 8 to 7 for the other races.
According to the organisors, this decision has a double goal:
> improve the safety conditions for the riders with a smaller peloton on roads equipped with more and more street furniture
> make it more difficult to dominate a race as well as enhance conditions for events to offer better racing for cycling fans
In an interview with AFP, Christian Prudhomme, director of cycling at A.S.O., came back on this double goal, saying: Security measures are becoming more and more important. For example, we will have twice the number of inclined fences in the final part of the flat stages since they are the best guarantee for riders, and we will no longer have an inflatable arch for the final kilometer mark. It's a package of measures in which reducing the number of riders is of course an important element.
At the same time we thus discover that Vittel loses its publicity support as it existed before with the arch of the "flamme rouge", following the accident which took place in the final of the 7th stage of the Tour de France 2016 when Adam Yates (Orica-BikeExchange) crashed at full speed while trying to gain some time to secure his white jersey as best young rider (in the end he did keep this jersey at the end of the Tour).
The press release simply ends with a mention that this decision will go into effect for the 2017 season, the number of teams will obviously remain the same.
But apparently it's not as simple as that...
The comments from the teams
Indeed, all teams do not agree with this reduction of the number of riders as they made clear in the past when this possible measure was being discussed.
Following the common announcement of these three organisors, the managers of several teams have commented this decision:
Patrick Lefévère, Etixx-QuickStep - the manager of the Belgian team is clearly against this decision, as we have read in the daily newspaper Het Nieuwsblad: I'm completely against this decision. No one has been consulted, neither the team nor the rider associations. They should start by finding safer routes, instead of using old agricultural roads. And take care of the security, not like in the Tour of Switzerland for example with this finish line which was only fifty meters after a hairpin turn.
He added that the obligation of having 30 riders for a WorldTour team also loses every sense with this measure: Why should we have 30 riders per team in 2018? In order to be able to continue with five less riders per team after this measure is applied. There will be around one hundred additional riders without work at the end of 2017. And twenty-five other members of staff because they'll no longer be necessary.
Furthermore, in reply to a tweet from Renaat Schotte, a Flemish journalist who comments cycling on Sporza (the sports section of the Flemish public TV channel) and who was wondering what was the scientific proof that one rider less per team adds to security, Patrick Lefevere also made a clear statement:
Put some more roundabouts, steep kl imps, dirt roads, tricky finish in the city's, stages of 250km.. They just understands nothing at all https://t.co/CoVJe4UjFf
Add some more roundabouts, steep climbs, dirt roads, tricky finishes in the city center, 250km long stages. They just don't understand anything of it.
Marc Madiot, FDJ - the manager of the French team and also president of the "Ligue Nationale de Cyclisme" (French cycling league) is much more fan of this measure or at least he would like to give it a try. Indeed, Madiot answered the AFP answered: Why not give it a try? It's a possibility to make the races interesting again, as no longer allowing in-race earpieces (race radio) or power meters could be. If the races are interesting with 8 riders, let's go for 8 riders. If they are with 6, let's go for 6.
Jonathan Vaughters, the manager of the Cannondale-Drapac team, shared his negative thoughts on this decision, thoughts which he thus shares with Patrick Lefevere just like several other team managers.
The American manager is very active on Twitter and published his thoughts in two tweets, in the first one he showed a screenshot of the press release of the three organisors, sent out by A.S.O., saying: So nice of ASO to give teams+riders a heads up on their unilateral decision to reduce team size 2mos before season.
In the second tweet he goes on, saying:
I don't disagree with the concept of smaller teams. But letting us know AFTER our planning and rosters are well in motion...Not considerate!
In a press release sent out the day after the common press release from the three organisors, the UCI (International Cycling Union) indicated that such a decision can not be taking unilaterally by the race organisors.
Indeed, the UCI indicated in its press release that Whilst a potential reduction in team sizes may reflect a view held by some stakeholders, (...), 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. 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.
What the rulebook says
However, the statement of the UCI seems mainly based on its wish to have the final word to say in all what happens in the world of cycling than on specific rules in the rules book which organises the discipline.
Indeed, in article 2.2.003 the exact wording of the rules about the number of riders per team is as follows: The number of starting riders per team shall be set by the organiser, with a minimum of 4 and maximum of 8, 9 for Grand Tours. The organiser shall indicate in the programme or technical guide and on the entry form the number of starting riders per team for the event. This number shall be the same for all teams.
Based on this paragraph, we could thus think that the rules never mention the fact that there would be a minimum number of 9 for the Grand Tours and 8 for the other races, these are the maximum numbers for these two types of races. The organisors seem to be completely free in their choice of number of riders, without any modification of the rules book as the UCI seems to indicate.
However, there is a specific mention in this same article about the UCI WorldTour races, which says that the number of starting riders per team is 9 for Grand Tours and 8 for other events but that it is however possible, subject to prior approval by the Professional Cycling Council, the organiser may fix the number of starting riders per team at 7 and that he must request the permission of the Professional Cycling Council on or before 1st January of the year of the event to do so.
A little handicap thus for the UCI WorldTour races of these organisors, but still no need to modify the rules which are completely in line with what the organisors want to do. The organisors are also still on time for such a request to be sent to the PCC! Furthermore, as we know, A.S.O. is ready to remove its races from the UCI WorldTour for details like these...
And you, what do you think about this measure??
As a reminder, here are the races concerned by this measure in chronological order (with a mention of the race organisor and whether or not the race is part of the UCI WorldTour; as a second reminder: for the races which are not part of the UCI WorldTour, it is thus possible to have one less rider without any validation from the UCI or more precisely of the PCC):
Dubai Tour - RCS Sport - outside the UCI WorldTour, in the Asia Tour - from Tuesday 31 January till Saturday 4 February 2017
Tour of Spain - A.S.O. (to be confirmed that this race is concerned because the official organisor Unipublic was not mentioned in the press release) - UCI WorldTour - from Saturday 19 August till Sunday 10 September 2017
As a reminder, the Critérium International, planned in the UCI Europe Tour calendar on 25 and 26 March 2017 will no longer be organised. Indeed, A.S.O. and the city of Porto-Vecchio have not re-signed their agreement for the organisation of this race around this city on Corsica. Furthermore, since A.S.O. realised that the peloton at the start of the race became less and less interesting, due to the number of races taking place at this period of the season, the organisor didn't try to find another location to organise it in France. UPDATE 8 December 2016: according to CyclingNews, the race organisors would have finally accepted the UCI's position and postponed their decision for 2017, submitting the request officially to the Professional Cycling Council. by Thomas Vergouwen
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Très bon article et bonne idée de citer des directeurs sportifs qui ne sont pas contre une telle évolution !
Par contre Lefévère, pour un DS d'une équipe spécialisée dans les classiques, ces propos sont risibles : qu'a-t-il contre les petites routes usées ou les chemins de terre ? Que souhaite-t-il ? Avoir 15 coureurs pour contrôler une course toute plate sur une autoroute histoire de faire gagner son sprinteur fétiche ?
Autre critique, envers Vaughters cette fois-ci, qui critique l'annonce tardive, mais l'UCI vient tout juste d'annoncer la création d'une nouvelle course en Chine pour octobre prochain, et obligatoire pour chaque équipe world tour... Les organisateurs s'y prennent plus en avance.
Sinon, perso, je pense que cette réforme puisse être une bonne idée pour l'animation. Je ne regarde presque plus les courses à la télé (hormis le giro et les classiques pavées), sauf les arrivées, puisqu'il n'y a plus rien à regarder !!! On s'ennuie ferme et on est mieux à faire soit-même du vélo dans ce cas là !
Par contre, peut-être que passer à 7 coureurs sur un GT permettrait davantage ce spectacle qui manque tant avec une impossibilité de contrôler la course de bout en bout.
En tout cas, c'est une bonne chose, et les organisateurs ont bien compris que si le spectacle n'est plus au bout, plus personne ne s'intéressa aux courses et que le cyclisme risque tout simplement de couler.
| Aurélien M. | saturday 03 December 2016 at 19:15:04
Dommage la disparition du Critérium International. Elle était un épreuve prestigieuse et serieuese. Pas comme tant d'autres qui continuent partout... dans le "nouveau' monde du cyclisme....
| Francisco | saturday 03 December 2016 at 19:20:08
You could reduce the number of riders per team to one and you will still have accidents with the addition of road furniture, dangerous narrow roads and 90 degree turns near the finish. The reduction of the riders is not the answer. Reduction of the overly dangerous elements on the roads is the answer. When these courses are setup there should be several cyclists who have the ability to veto anything they see as dangerous. No cyclists on the Committee, then it is an automatic "No" to that course!
| George Schneider | monday 05 December 2016 at 01:01:10
Les organisateurs n'ont rien à voir avec les aménagements routiers : ils n'y peuvent rien si les hommes politiques construisent des ronds-points partout, rétrécissent la chaussée, rétablissement les tramways...
Les organisateurs des courses doivent faire à partir de ses contraintes, sinon ils ne pourront plus franchir le moindre village !
| Aurélien M. | tuesday 06 December 2016 at 08:38:31
Comment ne pas etre d'accord avec Aurélien face à l'attitude de Patrick Lefevere ?
Cela me remet en mémoire les attitudes de ce dernier en 2014.
Sur le Giro et l'étape du Val Martello qu'il aurait voulu faire annuler (Uran son leader était en rose ...) sous prétexte que Stelvio et Gavia étaient dangereux.
Un mois plus tard, début de Tour,il stigmatisa ASO pour avoir supprimé deux zones pavées dans la fameuse étape d'Aremberg.
Sauf qu'il est difficile de croire qu'un DS n'avait pas connaissance du communiqué officiel de depart de l'équipe dirigeante d'Issy les Moulineaux indiquant que ces secteurs étaient "sous eaux" !
Donc, oui à une réduction des effectifs à 8 par GT.
Cette mesure sera-t-elle suffisante ?
Je croise les doigts ... mais la coupler avec une limitation des oreillettes aux infos courses serait un "plus de plus".
Aurélien a mille fois raison de pointer le manque d'animation "stratégique" sur une majorité de courses construites pour favoriser les controles avant un final plus ou moins explosif.
La question est ?
Quel serait le déroulement de courses comme LBL, le "Ronde" (meme si Sagan-2016 fut un grand cru), l'Amstel, ou la Flèche, sur des parcours à l'ancienne ?
Quid pour des étapes (notamment de haute montagne) du Tour ?
Qui n'essaie rien n'a rien !
Au vécu de la course olympique (sans oreillette et six coureurs par nation), et d'un Giro di Lombardia qui ne concentrait pas les grosses difficulties tout à la fin, j'entretiens l'espoir de courses différentes avec des tracés plus audacieux, oserais-je : "à l'ancienne" !
Meme constat sur bases des grandes étapes de montagne du Tour d'Italie 2016 vers Corvara, Risoul, et Santa Anna di Vinadio.
Le cyclisme ne peut se permettre de "speculer" uniquement sur un maximum de suspense pour retenir le téléspectateur amateur de vélo quand d'autres sports offrent un spectacle "total".