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The Relegation Procedure

Vuelta a Espagne 2016

Having mentioned the frenzy in the transfer and rider recruitment market last month, now a quick look at the timetable and process ahead for the World Tour teams and some thoughts on whether the promotion and relegation story should be more public and as much a part of the seasonal drama as it is in Europe’s football leagues.

The timetable? “Chuckle” as someone once said, because there isn’t one. The UCI and the sport could be missing something here, a theme we’ll return to in a moment. What happens instead is that all teams have to get their paperwork in this month but there’s not set date for everything to be resolved and announced. Even existing teams with multi-year licences must still go through the application process, essentially an audit of their finances, admin and a check to see they have enough ranking points to stay up. So if you’ve read that such-and-such team has a three year licence it’s always conditonal on this annual appraisal. We should get a press release in the coming days from the UCI listing who has applied for 2017. Then the easy rubberstamp cases will be quickly reviewed and a second press release will go out in early November confirming those teams that get a hassle-free World Tour spot for 2017, think Movistar, Team Sky or BMC Racing. Last year all 18 teams, the full World Tour quotient, were announced in one go. If there are still outstanding cases then the reviews continue, for example the UCI is holding out for more paperwork from a team or firmer proof of its finances, the team makes representations and the iterative process continues until the UCI feels it can rule.

Note the UCI here is really its Licence Commission. This is a committee run at arm’s length from the UCI in order to provide some independence. Loyal readers will known it’s not staffed by the UCI, instead it’s run by Paolo Franz, Hans Hoehener, André Hurter and Pierre Zappelli – all Swiss. These are not pen-pusher bureaucrats in polyester blazers, Zappelli is a judge and member of the Switzerland’s Supreme Court whilst Hurter has been the boss of a Swiss energy and water utility. A licence for 2016 cost €76,125, a fee large to cover the audit and admin costs to review the licence.

The process can and has gone into December before. This is awkward for the teams who go into December not knowing if they’re supposed to ride the Tour Down Under or not and all the training, rosters and logistics this implies. As FDJ’s Jeremy Roy once pointed out teams can’t even get their new kit made because they don’t know if it will have a World Tour logo or not.

The Drop Zone
Promotion and relegation are a big part of the entertainment in many European sports. A team that loses regularly can still “win” by avoiding relegation from its league; a team that gets relegated down is subjected to a satisfying Darwinian drop. Pro cycling doesn’t have this. Are we missing a trick? Certainly the drama is missing and it could be a way to enliven the back end of the season. But cycling isn’t really a league with clear promotion and relegation criteria. Who topped the Pro Continental rankings this year? It’s a trick question because there’s no single ranking, as the “continental” label suggests each regional confederation has its own standings. In Europe Direct Energie won but they’re not seeking promotion to the World Tour, nor are second placed Cofidis. Bora-Argon 18 are but they finished 11th out of 23 in 2016. So there are rankings but promotion and relegation are not automatic, rather they are circumstantial.

Will Dimension Data get dropped?
We don’t know yet because they might have signed a rider with enough points to help them stay up. Or perhaps another teams fails with its admin or flunks the UCI’s ethics test. As such this is a moveable feast, no sooner can one team announce the signing of a valuable points-a-plenty rider to ward off relegation then a rival team can respond with their own new hire. It’s this dynamic element that means it’s unlike any tradional system, like, say, soccer.

18 teams?
The UCI’s has announced a move from 18 teams to 17. A lot of the tension among some teams could be eased by remaining at 18. Only if this pleases some it will infuriate others. Imagine a team that has potentially paid millions to hire a couple of riders with points. Now this spend is redundant as the relegation worries have gone but they’re on the hook for the rider salaries for a year or two. Not easy.

Summary
There’s none of the promotion and relegation drama of other sports in cycling and the procedure to assess teams is an exercise in off-season admin rather than a known target at the beginning of the year. Maybe we’re missing a trick, a way to spice up the late season and provide a secondary contest among teams? But we can also avoid situations where teams pay for injuries and crucially losing a World Tour spot can mean no Tour de France spot and this can scare sponsors away causing the team to fold. In other words relegation isn’t just frustrating, it can be fatal.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Anonymous Thursday, 6 October 2016, 12:04 pm

    The End of Season Relegation Drama, where knackered riders NEED to race for the team, I am sure there’s an injection to sort that out! Not that it would ever happen, no no of course not never!

    • CA Thursday, 6 October 2016, 4:32 pm

      Ignoring the double-negative in your response for a minute…

      Totally agree – forcing these guys to ride desperately for points encourages doping

      Going one step farther, the entire structure of cycling with the constant pressure of folding/losing contracts (even if injured) forces riders to look for advantages to ride and stay healthy. Until the sport can calm down, we’ll always have doping.

      Now back to your “not never”….

      • Anonymous Thursday, 6 October 2016, 5:29 pm

        Sorry, I meant to write… not never ever! innit. Is that betta Mr teacher.

        • Anonymous Friday, 7 October 2016, 2:57 pm

          Don’t sweat it, double negatives are a feature of many languages and hardly hamper communication despite failing logic.

      • J Evans Thursday, 6 October 2016, 7:16 pm

        A lot of sports don’t have these issues, but still have a whole heap of doping.
        People cheat. They want money and success. Those are the things that encourage doping.

  • Augie March Thursday, 6 October 2016, 12:07 pm

    Was there ever a clearly articulated and widely accepted reason for the drop to first 17 and then 16 WT teams? In a sport struggling to attract sponsorship making life more difficult for teams to get into the biggest races with the most exposure seems nonsensical.

    • frood Thursday, 6 October 2016, 1:57 pm

      I’m guessing that they wanted to allow space for more invite teams, i.e. more than 4 at the Grand Tours.

    • DavidP Thursday, 6 October 2016, 2:15 pm

      I think it was at the request of ASO, was it not?

      • Tom J Thursday, 6 October 2016, 4:09 pm

        Surely Dimension Data are a shoo-in for the Tour de France all the time Cavendish is riding – I can hardly imagine that ASO would refuse entry to a team with a rider who has more or less become synonymous with winning in July over the last decade. Likewise, I’d suspect that they shouldn’t have too much trouble getting in to the Giro, Milan – San Remo, Gent – Wevelgem etc. if they so desired. Can you imagine the Giro turning down the multiple winner of their points competition if he indicated a desire to ride?

        So if the reduction from 18 to 17 was at the request of the ASO, it must be a longer-term strategy. At the moment, 18 World tour + 4 wild cards, or 17 World tour + 5 wild cards of which one is Dimension Data amounts to pretty much the same thing if you are one of the smaller teams sweating on whether you will get a wild card invitation or not.

        The whole attempt to force some kind of team competition onto the sport seems a shambles to me and doesn’t tie in with why people follow cycling. In cycling I suspect that most people – particularly casual floating fans – follow the races first; a rider second and the teams are a poor third – as such it is a very different model from, say, football where I suspect support is for Team > Competition > Player. In many sports, it is the teams that dominate the allegiances of fans and govern what they wish to follow; whereas in cycling, it is the races that govern what people want to follow. If he gets a ride in the Tour de France, the vast majority of followers would consider it irrelevant which division his team rode in (if they even knew), but it would be big news if an arbitrary structural change to the sport meant that he ended up excluded.

        Tom

        • Ryan Davies Thursday, 6 October 2016, 5:06 pm

          As far as teams are concerned the World Tour is about guaranteeing a team and therefore their sponsors access to the most high profile races. The team competition element is very much secondary.

        • Augie March Thursday, 6 October 2016, 5:48 pm

          The problem is that the World Tour isn’t a thing cycling teams (other than Movistar and Oleg Tinkov) and fans care about. In most sporting leagues you win a grand finale of some sort and get a trophy, and this is something the whole season leads up to. What does the team that ends up atop the WT rankings get? They don’t even have a special jersey or even a small patch thing on the jersey like the winning TTT team from the world championships is bestowed with.

          To get teams and fans to care, they’d actually have to structure the World Tour title to be something riders go for, but of course you wonder what sort of rider would win that, currently GC riders who can place highly in grand tours and stage races to scoop up points but that’s only with the current points system in place, one that seems to have very few supporters.

          There’s also the factor that the cycling season really peaks in the middle with the Tour de France, and unlike winners of the World Tour, TDF victors tend to be remembered. Riders and teams want to win at le Tour, either overall or stages, so build their season around that rather than looking to some year-long arbitrary points competition. The UCI’s first job should be to actually define what the World Tour is, then make it something that people care about.

          • Richard S Friday, 7 October 2016, 11:26 am

            I’d dispute the bit where you say ‘in most sporting leagues you win a grand finale of some sort’. That’s not really the case in Europe where the winners of leagues are always the participant who has accrued the most points over the course of a season of events. That’s opposed to a ‘cup’ competition where you have knockout rounds and a final. Having ‘play-offs’ after a league season that ends up in a grand finale is an Americanism. Obviously in the American system you can’t have run away winners that have things sewn up well before the season has finished and you have less risk of losing fan interest. Its inherently unfair but obviously good for marketing. I don’t like it as a system and I cant see how if you had a World Cup of 10 one day races and Sagan won them all but punctured in the grand finale which was then won by say Degenkolb how you’d be able to convince anybody that Degenkolb was the better rider that season.

        • 3rdMoment Friday, 7 October 2016, 1:51 am

          True, unless Cavendish is injured and can’t ride. Which is not really terribly unlikely, that kind of thing happens all the time in cycling.

      • velopoint Thursday, 6 October 2016, 5:01 pm

        I recall reading something to that effect in the last few days, maybe even here. A deal struck with ASO midsummer and announced with near-immediate effect instead of – say – at the beginning of 2018 or 2019, Sure is an odd way to run an institution.

  • J Evans Thursday, 6 October 2016, 12:18 pm

    Personally, I have no interest in the entire idea of the WorldTour – the races stand alone. Riders/teams winning that means nothing to me and, it seems, little to most.
    More importantly, I’d rather see riders trying to win individual races rather than ride conservatively to ensure they get the 6th place their team needs for the points.
    I can’t see much excitement in whether or not a team avoids relegation and I imagine that’ll be the same for most as most people don’t support one particular team.
    The biggest flaw in the idea is the fact that the points are allocated in an utterly arbitrary manner. (And I don’t see how this could ever be anything other than that: you’re not going to get much agreement on which of these should have more points: winning 3 grand TdF stages, winning the Amstel, coming 7th overall in the Giro, winning Tour de Suisse overall, winning the points jersey in the TdF.)
    It also seems obvious that any such relegation scenario should have its rules codified before the season starts so that everyone knows where they stand, rather than the UCI way of making things up as they go along.

    • Anonymous Thursday, 6 October 2016, 12:24 pm

      Well said, I too have never had the slightest interest in points, leagues, relegations and the like.

      • Ecky Thump Thursday, 6 October 2016, 7:01 pm

        I can see the validity of this viewpoint, but on the other hand the sport has almost effectively become (or was it always thus?) a financial hierarchy where, in the place of a tangible measure of team success (i.e. a league place) a ‘return on investment’ (be it air-time exposure, sales of sponsors’ goods, brand awareness etc) is both the goal and yardstick.

        I don’t like my sport like that. Or at least, not *mainly* like that.

        • 927 Friday, 7 October 2016, 9:06 am

          The ‘return on investment’ is often far more exciting than the points system though, whether it’s exposure throuh breakaways, sales through endorsements (which means the riders have to be more likeable) and brand awareness (again breakaways).

    • DavidP Thursday, 6 October 2016, 2:22 pm

      +1, and nothing demonstrates this point better then the contrasting seasons of Dimension Data (31 wins including several GT and world tour races) and Cannondale (9 wins all year including national championships and nothing in the WT). It is a shocking indictment on the system that it is Dimension Dataand not Cannondale who are left sweating.

      • Hammarling Thursday, 6 October 2016, 2:40 pm

        Well to use the Football analogy. DD had a big cup run and some upsets but Cannondale, whilst unspectacular, racked up the league points. DD might have popped in wins against the big names, but Cannondale kept it simple and got the wins they needed against competition. Obviously not a perfect analogy but the point stands in my eyes, especially with DD forsaking a number of WT races with third-tier riders whilst Cannondale went hard at them to get themselves safety.

        • J Evans Thursday, 6 October 2016, 7:10 pm

          And which would you rather see teams doing? Strikes me that DD’s method is a lot more exciting to watch. Do you want cycling to be better or more like football?

        • CA Thursday, 6 October 2016, 7:13 pm

          Football analogy makes sense, but is hardly a good scenario.

          DD’s wins far outclassed the results of Cannondale – it’s not even comparable. The points weighting system is bonkers.

      • Vitus Thursday, 6 October 2016, 9:27 pm

        “31 wins including several GT and world tour races” I don’t see ONE World Tour race they won. You’re talking about single stages.

    • CA Thursday, 6 October 2016, 4:10 pm

      Totally agree – cycling is the kind of sport were minor placings have zero relevance.

      In reality, the best domestiques should have zero points. Let me explain – in each race, the domestiques each have a goal to carry the leaders until “x kilometre”, and then they should be 100% spent and barely able to hold onto the autobus to finish. Therefore, forcing domestiques to ride for 25th place means they’re saving energy from their number one duty.

      • J Evans Thursday, 6 October 2016, 7:13 pm

        Agreed.
        And you’ve demonstrated another downside of the points system: a good domestique can have their salary considerably lowered by not having enough/any points.

    • Larry T Thursday, 6 October 2016, 7:19 pm

      +1 “Heinie’s Folly” was dumb when introduced and remains a dumb idea today. And look who’s now sending nasty letters to the UCI complaining about Cookson. Why they didn’t take away this fellow’s UCI credentials is beyond me. While I’m no huge fan of ASO they continue to be the only adults in the room when it comes to governing pro cycling.

      • Bemused Friday, 7 October 2016, 9:24 am

        “While I’m no huge fan of ASO they continue to be the only adults in the room when it comes to governing pro cycling.”

        This sentence stuck in my mind, I feel the same.

  • Matt Thursday, 6 October 2016, 12:29 pm

    Any chance the UCI will undo the 18->17 if teams make a strong enough showing and protest vociferously? Some UCI rules havent been set in stone in the past (eg, disc brakes and race radios).

    • J Evans Thursday, 6 October 2016, 12:35 pm

      I struggle to think of a UCI rule that is set in stone.
      One of the problems with the UCI is that they never force riders/teams to adhere to their rules. From minor things like mechanics working on bikes on the move to backdated TUE’s; and everything in between.

  • BC Thursday, 6 October 2016, 1:17 pm

    The whole system stinks and is simply a money raising scam for the UCI. Buying in riders with points at the end of the season to make the cut, makes the whole scam even less acceptable. Even some of the criteria are questionable – ethics anyone ?

    If this whole expensive and artificial system is to continue, then at least make it a season long competition based on that years team performance. Better still, bin the whole ludicrous idea and lets just watch the races with the riders the organizers accept.

  • sam Thursday, 6 October 2016, 2:52 pm

    the UCI really need to stick to their guns on this one. If they back down on, their last remaining bit of legitimacy and leadership will vanish.

    they mucked this up pretty bad, but turning back now would be far worse.

    • DavidP Thursday, 6 October 2016, 3:01 pm

      Or to quote Macbeth,”I am in blood stepp’d in so far that should I wade no more, returning were as tedious as go o’er”.

      Pro cycling, probably not the best place to use a blood analogy, but never mind.

      • Augie March Thursday, 6 October 2016, 5:41 pm

        I appreciated it, and just goes to show the very high standard of discourse on this blog.

  • Richard S Thursday, 6 October 2016, 3:09 pm

    Another reason why not to have a relegation system is that at this time of year teams tend to give young riders a go and we get a look at new faces. If a league place, sponsorship and a place in the Tour de France were dependent on the outcome teams would be more likely to wheel out the tired old pro in the hope he’ll slog his way to a solid 9th.
    The whole thing does look shockingly disorganised and short term. Have the ASO ever explained why they want to invite so many wild cards? It’s not like there is a massive array of talent missing out in the pro conti ranks? All the French teams get a go, the Italians get to ride the Giro and Caja-Rural the Vuelta. It seems satisfactory?

    • Larry Theobald Thursday, 6 October 2016, 9:37 pm

      Not so fast there Richard S – there are ITALIAN teams that can’t participate in the Giro because World/Pro/Whatever Tour teams must be there and I assume it’s the same for France. Then consider the local cobble wizards who are excluded from Paris-Roubaix because the “hard, classics men” of Movistar must be there.
      I still say if they must have “Heinie’s Folly” at least boil it down to a dozen squads who can really pass tough financial/ethics/etc. requirements, then let the promoters add up to 6 wild-card teams of 9 riders. 18 X 9 = 162 riders and is more than enough, especially these days with traffic furniture, radio-controlled riders all being told “get to the front” seemingly all the time, narrow roads, etc.

      • Richard S Thursday, 6 October 2016, 11:31 pm

        You know your Italian cycling but I’d just add that wanting to ride and being good enough aren’t always the same thing. I’d ride if they let me. But like you say I can’t see Movistar sending their A team to Dwars Door Vlanderen next year?!

        • Larry Theobald Friday, 7 October 2016, 1:32 am

          True, but the silliness of a team like Euskatel back-in-the-day lining up for Paris-Roubaix while teams much more competent over this type of course couldn’t race was directly due to “Heinie’s Folly” and should never be repeated.

  • Tom Douglas Thursday, 6 October 2016, 3:10 pm

    This is not in the best interests of pro cycling, a sport almost entirely dependant upon sponsorship, and winning the fight to promote itself as a clean sport.
    Reducing the numbers of riders, just by 1 per team, for most events, would offer better alternatives, not only by reducing numbers of riders, but also giving a chance for more wild card slots if relevant. It would make races more difficult to control, and therefore potentially more exciting for fans.
    Team and young rider development is an integral and important aspect of the sport, and to punish a team for just failing to get it right on one occasion is detrimental to the whole.
    Any totting up of qualifying points could have a carry over to the second subsequent year, with an option to remedy, or to simply pay a surcharge “entrance fee” in order to continue.
    The truth is that there are many better options than that which seems likely to be implemented.

    • J Evans Thursday, 6 October 2016, 7:26 pm

      Yup, one less rider in every race would improve almost every race. Especially grand tours. Then you could try losing another one and see how that goes.
      Yet another terrible policy by the perma-perplexed UCI.

  • baad-boo-boo Thursday, 6 October 2016, 3:13 pm

    Are Team Dimension Data hoping that Mark Cavendish wins the worlds so that they get an automatic invite to all the best races next year?
    Assuming they get relegated of course.
    I can’t imagine the World Champion not racing in the biggest races.

    • DavidP Thursday, 6 October 2016, 3:32 pm

      IIRC, BMC weren’t a world tour team when Evans was world champion. Or did I remember wrong? Still went to big races I believe.

      • Augie March Thursday, 6 October 2016, 3:58 pm

        Correct, but it was not as if the wearer of the rainbow jersey’s team weren’t going to get a ticket.

    • CA Thursday, 6 October 2016, 4:21 pm

      Mark Cavendish will already get the invites he needs because he won the most sprints at the 2016 TdF

      If he wins the rainbow jersey, it’ll be proof how ridiculous the WT is.

      Honestly, dropping from the WT could be a blessing in disguise – look at next year’s calendar and see how many stupid conflicts there are. A team as small as Dimension Data wants to avoid some races. For example, July 29 and 30 is a nightmare – you are forced to have 3 full WT squads in Spain, London and Poland, plus any post-TdF crits you might want to do.

      That’s just one example, but if Dimension Data is a pro-conti team they’d already get their desired program for Cavendish next year.

      • Shawn Friday, 7 October 2016, 2:27 am

        Yes, DD can go where Cav is willing to race but he refused to race the Vuelta and the Giro this year. This didn’t leave the team in a good position and, if he does this again, they miss 2 of 3 GTs. If they were keen on racing the in the top tier, he shouldn’t have been in either CA or GB (or spent so much effort on the track). I feel bad that the rules changes after the season started but DD could have made a better plan regardless.

  • Bemused Thursday, 6 October 2016, 4:26 pm

    Just imagine it was Katusha in DiData’s current predicament and ask the following question :

    What would Igor Makarov have Brian Cookson do?

    • Very bemused Thursday, 6 October 2016, 4:55 pm

      I wonder if Igor Makarov has a thing for fancy bears?

      • VVB Thursday, 6 October 2016, 7:24 pm

        Who is this Brian Cookson of whom you speak? Oddly, I haven’t heard anything in the media from anyone of that name in some time.

        • Bemused Thursday, 6 October 2016, 7:41 pm

          Ok, so you made me go check, according to his Twitter :

          “Can’t wait to fly to Doha and enjoy what will be an amazing week of racing! Don’t miss it! ”

          Said no real cycling fan in the history of the world.

          • J Evans Thursday, 6 October 2016, 7:51 pm

            Had me spluttering with laughter.
            Yup, I suspect most real cycling fans will be watching Paris-Tours, a true classic. Shameful that the UCI has timed the WC to clash with that. Bad enough that they usually have the WorldTour MoneyWheel Desert Trundle at the same time.

          • Bemused Thursday, 6 October 2016, 8:18 pm

            Guaranteed photo ops of weak chinned designer stubbled el presidente walking round in ray ban wayfarers, Panama hat, pale blue cotton shirt with the sleeves rolled up a bit (obviously it is too hot for anyone to wear a suit outdoors there, you’d have to be mad) glad handing every rich sheikh just as fast as Igor can tug the strings on his arm.

            He is such a player.

          • Patsy Puppet Saturday, 8 October 2016, 6:15 pm

            Do try and keep up, Bemused, you’re so 2013 – David is Igor’s bright new hope for UCI-placement purposes and has been for quite some time, Brian having dropped him like a rock as soon as the election was over.

          • Bemused Sunday, 9 October 2016, 8:59 am

            David Lappartient is backed by the Amaury family.

          • Amused Sunday, 9 October 2016, 6:17 pm

            The English gardener dropped the billionaire backer as soon as he got elected? Seriously you saying that??

          • Vitus Friday, 7 October 2016, 3:56 pm

            I have no problems. The RR is 7 days later and a lot of it’s contenders are starting in P-T on Sunday. I don’t need to watch the TTT, but if, it finishes an hour before P-T

    • Vitus Thursday, 6 October 2016, 9:31 pm

      I can imagine most of Cav fans here wont give a single F on the “unfair” points system then.

      • Bemused Friday, 7 October 2016, 9:53 pm

        I’m not a Cav fan, not since TdS 2010 when he took Haussler and Tommeke out of that year’s Tour and everything between until he smashed Gerrans in 2014 and everything since. At least Kristoff had the balls to speak out.

        However the way UCI implemented this relegation policy was half assed, read Larry’s comment re ASO further up.

        There is no justice in pro cycling, if the big wheel in the sky was trued Haussler would’ve won MSR.

  • Pax Thursday, 6 October 2016, 8:41 pm

    I believe cycling will becoming more interesting for fans if the team component increases in relevance.

    Clearly, there are some who ignore teams, but there are others that think it is important. Some of the current teams, loosely represent countries thus creating “viewer” affinity. For example South Africa, Australia, Spain, UK, Russia, Kazakhstan all have one WT team, of course there are spainish riders on many teams (as an example).

    If the team aspect is enhanced going forward, like I would suggest it should be, it is likely to create more interest in many of the other WT events.

    So a lot of the discussion about teams is boiling down to whether it should be all about the ASO owned Tour de France, plus a couple more, or about all the races. The sport will become stronger, in a variety of ways if all of the WT events become important. So I see those of you arguing for ignoring teams and a point system – arguing for a weak cycling sport.

    To the other point – If you were looking at a team resume and their best results from GC’s were as follows – would you consider this impressive?
    Grand Tours – 10,38,42
    One week WT GC – 12,60, 18, 35, 17, 19,17,42 and 12.

    • Vitus Thursday, 6 October 2016, 9:35 pm

      I wouldn’t consider that as impressive. But some folks here think 5 stages in one GT are enough to be impressed. Me not.

      • 3rdMoment Friday, 7 October 2016, 7:42 am

        There were 27 World Tour events in 2016 (13 stage races, and 14 one-day races). There were 7 WT teams that didn’t win any events. But each of these 7 teams had at least two podium spots in WT events, except Dimension Data, who had zero.

  • Patrick Thursday, 6 October 2016, 9:44 pm

    poor old UCI, no real power just administrators torn between the wishes of the various stakeholders of the sport and yet they get blamed for everything. this particular mess is ASO’s doing. ASO forced the reduction of WT teams, ASO are the only ones that want promotion/relegation (which i really don’t think makes sense in the way cycling is currently structured – maybe after other changes but not now). the fact that the 2 teams that would potentially be up for promotion this year are not interested says it all. if ASO want to have more wildcards to give out then reduce team sizes – simple and easy.

    • J Evans Friday, 7 October 2016, 8:28 am

      Simple and easy… and recommended by ASO. It’s the UCI who are not doing that.
      The promotion/relegation nonsense was ASO’s idea, though, as you say.
      If you must have a WT, then it would be better to have fewer teams in it so that – as Larry says above – you don’t have quite so many teams competing in races they have little or no interest in.
      With the new races added, that’s going to be a lot more now.
      Overall, the WT adds very little and causes a lot of problems.

  • Scarabeo Friday, 7 October 2016, 5:41 am

    A sensible decision would be to keep the 18 teams for 2017 and relegation will start applying at the end of 2017 based on the points accumulated on the last 2 years of competition. You are only counting the average results through the last 2 years of competition. For instance, Dimension Data will be still capable of getting enough points on 2017 or else face relegation,. New signings only could count for the following year therefore the team relegated has not plan B based on check books. The New World Tour team will start with the same points as the last team that keeps the category.

    That is a relegation system that has been applied in some football tournaments in South America and it gives every team a chance to survive a bad year if correcting measures are apply the following year. Points should not be carried over by cyclists when changing teams.

  • Michael B Friday, 7 October 2016, 10:56 am

    Football is so all encompassing now that there’s a tendency to see everything through the prism of football. Ultimately cycling is a different sport and there’s no reason it can or should replicate football’s calendar or format.

    Cycling is a difficult sport to explain to the average person and, in truth, I think that’s why many of us fall in love with it too. The secret club element. If the UCI wants to grow the sport it needs to focus on better TV production values of its showcase events.

    Compared to football or NFL, the final TV product of even the most prestigious races is very poor and that is what ultimately draws global interest. Play around with WT format all you like but if the media package isn’t good enough, cycling will remain a niche sport.

    • Richard S Friday, 7 October 2016, 11:15 am

      I find the TV production of races pretty much satisfactory. You switch the TV on, the race is shown, you see who wins, you get to see classifications at the end and you know all you need to know. What else can they show? Bland, cliché filled interviews? Pointless stats showing heart rate, cadence and power output? They’ve tried most of this already and the vast majority of people agree it adds nothing to the viewing experience, even detracting from it. Like you say cycling is not football, or any other short duration sport, so it can’t really be very easily packaged as a prime time entertainment show. That could easily be done with track cycling, but not road racing.

      • Michael B Friday, 7 October 2016, 1:39 pm

        Totally agree that wattage, HR, cadence etc on screen is a waste of time. However, that doesn’t mean they can’t do anything to improve it. I don’t work in TV production but it’s just nowhere near as slick as many other sports, a few things off the top of my head…

        – Races are rarely put into context for the mainstream viewer. The amount of races where TV coverage just dives in halfway through is pretty bad. Where are the pre-record packages with previous winners, a look back at archive footage or even last year’s race? Pretty rare.
        – Closing stages. The lack of fixed point gantry positions should be fixed too. Too many finishes are shot with long lens. Look at how much better F1 captures cars moving through corners etc. More of those cameras over the last 5km also helps if footage drops out – as happened at this year’s RideSurrey. Not my favorite race but in the UK it is one of the most watched and no-one in the TV audience saw “local favourite” Geraint Thomas reeled in as the moto feed disappeared. The Eneco is a very good race but it struggled to cope in the final KM this year as well.
        – Speaking of moto feed when they had Robbie McEwan analysing things on the back of the moto midrace at Cadel Evans Race, that was cool. Noticed ITV started doing it with Millar. Can this be done at bigger races?
        – TTs. The lack of checkpoints is a joke. This is where they should use live GPS data etc. What about a new form of TT at end of some races? Riders set off at intervals they’ve already banked time wise and first across line wins. If that’s ‘cos one stays away with his 2 minute lead, or it comes back together for a group finish, or 2 riders work together, so be it. Wouldn’t want to see that in a GT straight away, but maybe something Eneco could try? I like their golden KM thing too (although wouldn’t want to see in a GT).

        Just a few ideas, and personally speaking I love the sport now for what it is, but if they do want to develop it as a TV product there’s a lot of work to do compared to many other sports. Higher production values cost money of course, and that isn’t an easy problem to solve although with better production comes bigger audiences, higher TV rights sales and so on.

    • Ecky Thump Friday, 7 October 2016, 11:44 am

      CX or MTB have structured seasons that are simple to sell and follow, with a defined end.
      It amuses me that so many road cycling fans seem to be so resistant to change, be it new races, new equipment or bike design. There’s an inherent conservatism.

      And yet they’ve signed up to the most capitalist of sports, a sport designed to sell something.
      It relies on the patronage of wealthy individuals and the income of commercial entities that should be at odds with its working class heritage.
      It is ridden by teams that can disappear as quickly as they appeared, and yet at its heart cycling is a team-based effort.
      But the team does not receive tangible sporting reward, only its continued existence or not at another’s whim, and the glory goes to the individual.

      When you analyse its model like this, it is all really very unpleasant.
      It’s a microcosm of the exploitation of the working man.
      Maybe it’s time for a revolution?

      • Richard S Friday, 7 October 2016, 12:54 pm

        So that it can be exploited by marketing men and sold to the highest bidder, and have all its historical races replaced by glitzy events in Arabia because they have paid a higher fee for the right to hold a ‘World Tour’ race? No thanks. Cycling couldn’t be any easier to follow in the places where it is actually raced and where its core demographic is. You just step out of your front door and watch them go past. With the examples you use – CX and MTB – the races are much shorter and easier to package, and MTB is a much newer sport with no historical events. Even with CX the vast majority of the races are in Belgium.

        • Larry T Friday, 7 October 2016, 1:50 pm

          +1 Pro cycling continues to have two major problems – 1) Economic woes in most of the traditional cycling countries have left potential sponsors without a lot of hope (or funds) to advertise consumer products via cycling because few consumers have the funds to purchase them 2) Continuous doping scandals make any potential sponsors with money and optimism to overcome the first problem afraid to get involved.
          All the repackaging, reformating or reinvention in the world will not quickly eliminate either of these problems. Neither of them happened overnight and neither will be solved instantly by “throw-the-baby-out-with-the-bath-water, knee-jerk or instant solutions.

        • Ecky Thump Friday, 7 October 2016, 2:03 pm

          That’s the point though Richard, many of the races themselves were created to sell / promote a commercial product in themselves.
          They come and go, and always have done.
          The point was made above that the races stand alone; a few do, but most are not profitable and probably rely on local public and private monies and volunteers to continue.

          I don’t have an answer however, it is what it is.
          My Libran nature leads me to play devil’s advocate.
          It’s just more than slightly ironic that the issue of relegation stirs up so much feeling, whereas a team that folds following the loss of sponsorship is merely an accepted and routine matter.
          At least relegation follows a sporting consequence, unlike a team folding because some non-descript commercial entity’s balance sheet doesn’t add up.

          • Larry T Friday, 7 October 2016, 5:26 pm

            “….. many of the races themselves were created to sell / promote a commercial product in themselves.” This tired trope gets trotted out way too often. OK, we get it.
            But we call it SPORT rather than advertising. Does anyone tune in their TV or livestream competitive ADVERTISING? Just because bicycle stages races may have been dreamed up to promote a newspaper, does that make them merely an entertainment product? Many of these races have become part of the patrimony of the region, country and people so they are not simply “products” to be bought, sold or exploited for purely monetary purposes.

          • Tom Lehrer Saturday, 8 October 2016, 6:08 pm

            I made it all the way down here and now I see the venerable LarryT calling out another poster for trotting out a tired trope way too often.

            Satire truly is dead.

    • CA Friday, 7 October 2016, 5:24 pm

      Michael B – I couldn’t agree more – our sport has the potential to be really interesting to many people, however the method that it is delivered holds it back.

      What the race shows and discusses in its current format mostly treats each race/stage as a stand-alone event. But, as the big cycling fans understand, each race is either a stepping stone to a larger race, or it is a cumulative effort from past races, historical results, etc. However, this story is never really explained properly, and for me personally, I was really confused by this sport until the last couple years. Effectively, it took me 6-7 years to start appreciating how interesting and intricate this sport is. But, for the vast majority of potential watchers, they don’t understand this context, and therefore the sport feels overwhelming, or boring and therefore they tune out.

      To address Richard S’ point – of course you (and I) get what we need from the current coverage, but that’s only because we have spent a lot of time learning the sport, but others look at the sport and say, “What, why didn’t Froome win this stage? Isn’t he the strongest rider?” We know the answer, and we try to tell them that “Froome had to let the break go up the road, and that Talansky is probably stronger than Froome right now because he’s going for the Giro, not the Tour, and the Giro is…..”

      How often have we had conversations like this only to see our loved ones falling asleep in 20 seconds? haha

      The entire distribution of the events needs to change.

      • Michael B Friday, 7 October 2016, 5:58 pm

        Haha, I’ve had a lot of those conversations. It’s probably not helped by the fact that domestic broadcasters have to hype their own races up eg any casual viewer tuning into the Tour du Yorkshire is given no real clue of its status in the grand scheme. To be fair to ITV though I think they do a decent job generally of trying to bridge the gap between Joe Public and inrng reader. Or at least they do whenever Chris Boardman’s involved.

  • Anonymous Friday, 7 October 2016, 3:43 pm

    Is there any need for such drama as IAM and Tinkov are folding and Bora are moving up ?

    So that makes 17.

    It would be quite damaging to relegateca DiData who won 5 TdF stages and are helping develop African riders.

    The whole calendar points system as well as TV and prize money needs a complete overhaul

    Look at the farce with the Worlds Team TT for instance

    Cookson should get some outside help in looking at the sport and overhauling.

  • Punter Monday, 10 October 2016, 7:27 am

    Maybe give Sky a dismissal from WT for few years to get their excuses aligned with circumstantial facts. This opens the field for better play. Clear out the rubbishy.

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