Shrinking The Peloton

Saturday, 26 November 2016

Less is more. Yesterday ASO, RCS and Flanders Classics announced in concert that they would shrink the team size for their events down by one. The grand tours go from nine riders per team to eight and the major classics from eight to seven riders. The race owners say it is to improve safety and enhance the sporting spectacle.

The number of invited teams will stay the same so we go from 9 riders x 22 teams = 198 riders to 8 riders x 22 teams = 176 riders for a grand tour.

Will it make a difference? Yes but it won’t be transformational. For safety the smaller peloton will have more room on roads which are increasingly clogged by street furniture and traffic calming. There will be fewer crashes, the arithmetic of fewer riders means fewer chances of someone sliding out on a corner or getting their rain jacket tangled in their rear wheel and wiping out. Beyond individual accidents the reduction won’t change the collective danger that much. A smaller bunch is a shorter bunch because whether there are 198 or 176 riders it is still essential to be near the front which creates the tension and fight for space. It does not follow that there will be eight crashes for every nine we had in the past.

For the sporting side the idea is smaller teams will not be able to control the race as well. Team Sky’s cycle catenaccio is highly effective for them but frustrates rivals and viewers alike who want pyrotechnic attacks rather than a high tempo procession. The move to shrink the peloton is already being labelled as “anti-Sky” but a move from nine to eight is incremental, not radical. If the rule applied to this year’s Tour then for Team Sky it would mean leaving out say, Nieve, only to still have Landa, Henao, Thomas and Poels in the front group at the foot of the final climb to tract Froome and deter rivals. It’s likely to hit smaller teams too, those with multiple ambitions in a grand tour, like top-10 on GC and a sprinter. Team Sky see their team reduced by one ninth while a squad with a GC outsider and a sprinter – like Lotto-Soudal, Orica or Katusha – may have to cut their sprint train by a quarter and perhaps they’ll feel this rule change more.

None of this is new: we’ve long had eight riders in stage races like Paris-Nice, the Tour of the Basque Country, the Tour de Suisse and the Critérium du Dauphiné (pictured). Are they more exciting? Maybe but it’s hard to measure. Team size is only one component of lively racing, another major factor is the status of the event. The Tour de France is a high stakes race where it pays to play it safe.

The Politics: the story goes that when French statesman Talleyrand died the Austro-Hungarian diplomat Metternich asked “what did he mean by that?“, that an action has an agenda. Last night’s announcement was sudden. Tour de France boss Christian Prudhomme has expressed an interest in smaller team sizes again and again since taking over the role of race director in 2007, indeed voicing a preference for much smaller teams, perhaps six or seven but of late he’d been saying it would need agreement from the teams and they were not on board. The move from nine to eight on the very same day the UCI announce the World Tour teams is another indication of how the sport’s rules can be confectioned at the last moment. No sooner are the teams confirmed for 2017 than the recruitment need for the major races falls. There appears to have been neither consultation nor consent.

The UCI? The announcement came in a press release issued simultaneously by ASO, RCS and Flanders Classics rather than the sport’s governing body the UCI. You may think the UCI determines the rules and you’d normally be right but a portion of those relating to the World Tour are the preserve of the Professional Cycling Council (PCC), a joint committee between the UCI and others including the teams and race owners. To confuse things more the relevant rule isn’t very well drafted. Here’s an excerpt from the rulebook:

2.2.003 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…

Special provisions for UCI WorldTour
In UCI WorldTour events, the number of starting riders per team is 9 for Grand Tours and 8 for other events. However, subject to prior approval by the Professional Cycling Council, the organiser may fix the number of starting riders per team at 7. The organiser shall request the permission of the Professional Cycling Council on or before 1st January of the year of the event.

So the rule says a “maximum of 8, 9 for Grand Tours” which implies an upper limit rather than a fixed level or a minimum; but read on and there’s a special provision for World Tour races which says “9 for Grand Tours” and then goes on to say the PCC must agree if the number goes to seven. There must be arguments behind the scenes already and this could rumble on in committees and even go to arbitration but will the teams and the UCI want to provoke the big races?

The teams have a right to be frustrated. Some have gone through expensive recruitment to build teams only to find they don’t need as much. You’ve probably read several pieces from riders saying they’re planning their objectives for 2017 and will sit down with their team managers around now to discuss things. Well some riders who might have been hoping for a role in the spring classics, a start in the Giro or a berth in the Tour are now bumped onto a reserve list. What will really annoy team managers is not leaving out one rider, it’s the systemic problem of a lack of consultation, many learned of this by email or social media last night like you did rather than being involved in the decision. The tone of the joint press release is unilateral and presented as a fait accompli.

Money saving? Yes but it’s incidental. When we say a team goes from nine to eight the accompanying support staff is unlikely to shrink much and there’s all the race crew to accommodate every night to if there’s a saving on the race’s hotel bill it’s not probably not significant enough to drive the decision.

Conclusion: going from nine riders to eight makes a difference but will we be able to notice it? We already have eight rider teams in other big stage races and the big budget teams dominate them too. The tactical element is incremental but the political aspect is certain as the major races unite to impose this sudden rule change leaving team managers fuming.

Update – 3pm CET: the UCI has issued a statement saying:

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

This shows the gulf between all parties who are now playing press release tennis, responding to each other via public statements rather than deciding on matters together.

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J Evans November 26, 2016 at 1:02 pm

The race organisers took their own initiative, because the UCI had done nothing (Prudhomme had mooted this idea as early as July). Presumably, with Cookson trying to ally himself with Velon, the UCI didn’t want this change, as the big teams would prefer to keep their dominance.

It’s a bit late for the teams and you can see why they’d be frustrated – but that’s down to the UCI’s inaction.

The dominance of the race organisers is not ideal (and I’d like to see a stronger riders’ union to protect their interests). However, I’d far rather see this than the teams deciding how things are done – as they will only seek to look after their own interests, which will not necessarily be good for cycling overall.

The race organisers’ intentions are also solely based on protecting their assets – the races – which therefore mostly has a good effect on cycling.

Cookson, meanwhile, never seems to do anything except talk himself up (motorbike safety: has he done anything or just ‘talked’? Motors in bikes, he seems to be actively pursuing a testing system that is not as good as it could be).

If the UCI is so hopeless then it’s good that at least the race organisers are making positive changes.

Hopefully, this will mean a (slight) reduction in the big teams’ dominance and the GC contenders will have to fight one-on-one more. If that does happen, hopefully a further reduction to 7 riders will follow (not holding my breath, though – but they can do this without a UCI rule change, it seems, so it’s a possibility). This would also mean that more smaller teams could be invited to the Tour and so the wealth would be spread a bit more, which is good for cycling.

RonDe November 26, 2016 at 3:34 pm

So basically you like selfishness from organisers more than from teams. Are they not also “looking after their own interests”? I guess you must regard the ASO as more righteous than Quick Step or Movistar.

J Evans November 26, 2016 at 6:07 pm

As I said: ‘The race organisers’ intentions are also solely based on protecting their assets’. So, yes.
I don’t think that’s in any way more righteous; just that, as I say, their assets are ‘the races – which therefore mostly has a good effect on cycling.’
And we’ve seen that with this decision.
As opposed to at this year’s Tirenno-Adriatico where some teams – armed with new powers from the new Weather Protocol – pressured the race organiser to have a stage cancelled the day before (as if weather forecasts are ever accurate – and these ones didn’t even agree with each other). This is bound to happen: teams are not neutral – they will use any power they have to help themselves. That won’t be good for racing.

Larry T November 26, 2016 at 3:35 pm

+1 I can see the teams being a bit miffed, but the rule says “before January 1st of the year of the event” so they’ve been informed. Deal with it. Will this end up like the 17 teams fighting for 18 places or will the organizers prevail? As usual, ASO (wisely followed by RCS and Flanders Classics) are the only adults in the room and the wailing and gnashing of (tiny) teeth has already begun via Vaughters and now Cookson and Co. I understand it might be too much to ask for these factions to calmly work together, but can they at least avoid stepping on each other’s d–k for a change?

RonDe November 26, 2016 at 3:31 pm

This will do nothing to change, for example, the Tour de France. Of Froome’s three wins, one was completed with 7 riders and one with 8. Only this year did he win with the full 9 finishing in Paris. I see the whole thing as more a power play than a genuine attempt at either rider safety or increased competition. And some of the more vocal team bosses (Lefevere, Vaughters) seem to be against it.

J Evans November 26, 2016 at 6:10 pm

But if there were 7 riders in a team at the start of the race, there will only be 5 riders if 2 pull out.
That could make a difference.
(So, it could increase competition.)

The teams complain they want more safety, but that’s mere lip service. Proof: this will improve safety (albeit only slightly) – and yet they are complaining.

RonDe November 28, 2016 at 2:16 am

Empirical evidence could be brought to bear on the safety question. Bald assertion without the supporting evidence is mere PR speak. If I’m in a pack of 176 riders instead of 198 the difference is so minimal as to be non-existent.

J Evans November 28, 2016 at 9:24 am

I said ‘slightly’ and I think being in a pack of 176 riders instead of 198 means you are slightly less likely to bump into each other.

But I don’t think safety is the primary reason to do this – I do think that’s a bit of an excuse tagged on to make it less easy for the UCI to disagree with this.
The primary reason to reduce riders is in an attempt to reduce the dominance of the big teams.

Hammarling November 28, 2016 at 11:29 am

Number of riders is probably the least contributative part when it comes to accident causes. Almost every other factor will have a greater impact.

You could have 1000 riders never crash if the road is wide, straight, flat, dry and the pace is slow. You could have 2 riders crash almost every time if the road is narrow, cobbled, wet, sharp downhil, twisty and the pace is a sprint.
Look at a time trial. 1 rider on the road, and they still crash because of other factors.

This is not a move for safety. This is a move to increase competition and lessen the controlling nature of the super-teams. Lets not call it anything else, because it isn’t a bad move to reduce the power of the super-teams in the top races.

Cilmeri December 2, 2016 at 1:40 pm

A bit late to these comments, but just to defend Vaughters. In the latest Cycling Podcast he states that he has no issue with the reduction per se, but the timing. If this was announced in March 2017 to come in for 2018 season then he’d be fine with it.

Given teams have sorted rosters and generally advised riders what their targets are for the season that seems a reasonable position for him to take.

BC November 26, 2016 at 3:41 pm

Ignoring the infighting between vested interests.
The reason given by the senior event organizers for these changes, safety, is clearly and patiently not true and unfortunately is similar to other claims over the last few years.. If it were safety driven, then attention would be first directed at the number and quality of moto’s and cars involved with their events, and the constant demand for riders to ‘be at the front’ at critical and often dangerous points of their races.
This move is purely about trying to make their events more attractive to spectators and the media. To introduce a bit of anarchy, unpredictability and suspense into the racing. And why not ? When a decent period of time has passed, and the race patterns have only changed imperceptibly, we can be sure that there will be the introduction of additional wild card teams.

Who suffers. The riders as INRNG has pointed out, support staff, sponsors – reduced visibility, WPT teams when additional wildcards are introduced and minor race organizers who are being pressurized to move their long established dates to make way for ‘the big boys’. Not much public comment on this last aspect, because it doesn’t fit the ‘safety’ agenda.

This will not end well !

J Evans November 26, 2016 at 6:13 pm

Hi BC, I don’t understand this: ‘minor race organizers who are being pressurized to move their long established dates to make way for ‘the big boys’’. How is this happening because of this reduction in team sizes?

J Evans November 26, 2016 at 6:17 pm

Ah, I had not read about Flanders Classics trying to hold Dwars door Vlaanderen in the slot currently held by the Three days of de Panne. A shoddy move.

AIGCP November 26, 2016 at 3:43 pm

No confusion over applicable rule; special/specific provisions prevail over general rule as per Art. 4 of UCI Preliminary Provisions to UCI Regulations. http://uci.ch/mm/Document/News/Rulesandregulation/16/26/46/PreliminaryProvisions-01.05.2014-ENG_English.pdf

BC November 26, 2016 at 8:00 pm

Appears the UCI don’t agree and have yet another rule up their WT sleeve !

Somers November 26, 2016 at 4:58 pm

I suppose we’ll know in a years time.

J Evans November 26, 2016 at 6:25 pm

Lefevere’s talking nonsense.
They announced more WT races and the teams were complaining that they didn’t have enough riders to cover these.
Now, when they’re told they’ll need fewer riders per race they claim they’ll have to sack some riders.

Strictly Amateur / The GCW November 27, 2016 at 3:44 pm

This is a good point to remember when considering this particular issue / drama.

One hand, less riders needed / other hand more riders needed.

But another legit issue is the late(ish) change, however it is not too too late and that complaint is inevitable no matter when it’s made…

On that note, wasn’t that an issue when there was mention of changing from 18 teams to 17??? The rule was made late in the deciding process and negatively effected team strategy on different facets?

-0-

While much of these issues controversy is due to “timing” I’m still waiting for the arbitrary & artificial rule keeping bikes at 15 lbs. to change and reflect modern bikes / progress. Why would this decision take any longer?

Answer: stakeholders who produce bicycles could be one obvious answer. -Not clean on many realms.

Kit November 28, 2016 at 2:37 pm

Why do you call the weight rule “arbitrary and artificial”? It’s plainly not arbitrary – it’s a very low limit, and you’d need to spend several thousand euros to make a bike that light. It’s artificial, but only inasmuch as any rule is artificial – that’s what a rule is for.
Why make it more of a constructor’s race instead of a rider’s race? We already have a position where the biggest money is winning the most races, by and large; why make the buying power even bigger?

The Inner Ring November 28, 2016 at 2:59 pm

You can buy a bike under the weight limit without finding anything too exotic or expensive these days. At a guess an XS-size Canyon Ultimate or Trek Emonda frame with Shimano 105 could weigh under 6.8kg. What we see in the pro peloton is weight added back to the bike with €2000 deep carbon rims, a €3000 power meter and more expensive electronic gears with their heavier battery pack.

Talk is that the weight rule seems delayed because of the disc brake trial, the industry wants to see these models in the pro peloton but they’re heavier so it’d be a harder sell if put in contrast with lighter bikes.

Kit November 28, 2016 at 3:26 pm

Hm, that seems very light, but I accept that – but as you say, a cheap XS frame might be fine, what about the bigger ones? I’m 6’2″ which isn’t huge (Erviti I know is the same) and I don’t think I’ve even hired a bike under 6.8kg. Isn’t there an argument to set the weight limit at the very biggest frames so a rider’s height isn’t a problem? Froome is 6’1″, I don’t see why his bike should weigh more than say Oscar Freire who weighed about the same?

The Inner Ring November 28, 2016 at 9:06 pm

I see your argument but my response was partly to show how the original weight limit of 6.8kg today is arbitrary in that it doesn’t account for frame size and so creates distortions, especially for smaller riders.

Larry T November 30, 2016 at 3:00 pm

“Arbitrary and artificial” is the essence of sport. Otherwise guys in the 100 meter dash could use a top-fuel dragster and the TdF would be a motorcycle race. ALL of the rules are arbitrary and artificial by definition. The very fact that anyone can buy at a (some would say) reasonable cost a bike that is right at the current weight limit is why I want the rule to stay right where it is. Those deep-dish wheels, power meters and the other expensive claptrap add nothing to the sport either in sporting challenge or entertainment for fans.

DJW November 26, 2016 at 6:27 pm

Appears a fait accompli given the position the three organisers have though, according to velopro.fr, UIC are not yet prepared to accept the changes as announced.

http://www.cyclingpro.net/velopro/road/la-reduction-du-nombre-de-coureurs-par-equipe-pas-encore-actee

Given the weak UIC position is this just the formal protest which will followed by (qualified) acceptance? It is also hard to imagine that the proposed changes will more than marginally improve safety and racing. If the two most powerful, best funded and most single minded teams – Movistar and Sky – prioritise as now they will continue to dominate whether with nine or eight.

Patrick November 26, 2016 at 8:43 pm

a classic example of why the UCI always struggle to do anything. despite all the criticism they cop here and every other forum, its not (solely) them sitting idle. they govern by consensus rather than by dictation. unfortunately on most of the big issues in cycling at the moment we have a standoff between the race organisers and the teams (with riders often another viewpoint but with less power). hence the UCI gets pushed and pulled but can never get agreement to do anything.

so we have a fundamental problem with the way the sport is run. we need some sort of governing body with power to do what is decreed best for the sport (albeit not unchecked power). the uci does not have that so currently, the organisation with the power to control things is the ASO who happen, as J Evans says, to have the health of their events as their primary motive which serves as a proxy for the health of the sport, albeit focused on a portion of the sport.

BC November 27, 2016 at 12:01 am

I don’t think consensus is always the way the UCI operates. One of the undercurrents rumbling on in the sport at present is the WT. A UCI construct from its birth. It is one of the conflicts being exposed yet again by the organizers in the current dispute. There are genuine concerns from event organizers (and many others) about the UCIs absolute control over this aspect of the sport. Not only do their proxies choose the present 18 teams – suddenly 18 instead of the agreed 17 – follow the money. The UCI not only decides in which events these nominated 18 teams will compete in, but itself nominates the events and in addition ensures the rules give the UCI full control. That is not consensus.

Until such time as these important issues are addressed and resolved the sport will continue to lurch from one crisis to another.

Safety was never the issue here, and it is to be regretted that it has once again been dragged into disrepute to further other agendas . There needs to be some head knocking and an acceptance of the fundamental problems by the three main parties involved, and how best they can be resolved. As I said in an earlier post, no one will come out of this with any credit. The best everyone can hope for is a long lasting resolution to the obvious financial conflicts.

CA November 28, 2016 at 7:40 pm

EXACTLY

The UCI doesn’t operate by consensus. They try (often with the best of intentions) to push their own agenda, regardless of whether that is the best thing for cycling.

Also, just as frequently, the UCI is desperately trying to hold on to their place as cycling’s oversight body. Often the ASO goes over their heads so the UCI struggles to keep it’s place at the table.

Safety is a huge issue, but this is really only a political battle between the UCI and ASO – let’s be clear on that point.

CM November 27, 2016 at 5:54 am

Decisive from the AIOCC but with scant regard for the teams’ business plans. The reform seems a recipe for more conservative riding across the board. But if the organizers stop knocking riders off their bikes and out of their races with too many motos, broken awnings, poor barriers etc., perhaps the frontline races themselves will be contested by just as many numbers on each team as have been up to now. It will not harm Sagan’s green jersey aim.

It’s not a way to run a whelk stall, let alone elite professional cycling. To summarily cut the number of eligible riders in all frontline races less than 8 weeks away from the start of the season must be stupid. The decision knocks-on throughout the racing team structures to contracted development teams, equipment sponsorships and logistics commitments. Thus one may say that, at a stroke, the businesses of the racing teams have had 11 percent redundancy –or a forced over-spend- injected into their budgets. I wonder if Mr Prudhomme would like the teams to decide for him today that his salary has been slashed by an equivalent amount in January. It might put a crimp in his holiday plans next year.

Some might argue small mercies, since of course a couple of weeks ago, from the UCI side, none of the teams knew and one or two of the teams were very unsure if they would be allowed to ride in WT events at all.

But it takes some cracked logic to argue that reducing the size of the peloton makes things safer because there are fewer bike riders around for the motos and cars to hit. On that basis one of the safest options would be to have races with no bike riders in them –just the motorized cavalcade touring the route. Though even then there might be the odd fatality caused by falling awnings or poor barriers dished up by the race organizers.

From a rider’s point of view I should think the idea of safety in numbers might appeal. If I was the lone rider on a stage with all those cars and motos around me I might reason the risks to my safety had just gone up a notch or two compared with when I was one of a group of nearly 200 riders.

On the other hand to make the rider pool smaller inevitably concentrates strength in depth. Thus in the races themselves it follows the juggernaut teams, already packed out with champions, become relatively stronger still as a result of the change. Clearly the surfer teams looking to win sprints and odd stages with fewer stars, lose some of their capability by being a helper down. That said, a one-man team like Sagan may see his Green Jersey aims improve, since he has reduced competition. A funny thing –numbers. Hilarious when cycling administrations get hold of them.

If one can make the great stretch to put the incompetence of the race organizers aside (and ignore the frenzy induced in the riders to avoid any amount of course hazards), then overall it follows that the reduction in riders is a recipe for more conservative riding for the remaining racers left on the road since they will have to compensate for being a man down in their teams.

Depending on one’s mood this sort of stuff generates a sardonic smile or outright laughter.

Ecky Thump November 27, 2016 at 8:10 am

Some interesting points.
BC’s point above about the UCI’s power is a touch incongruous too; what power they do hold is more than balanced by that wielded by the ASO, RCS etc – at a stroke they could remove their privately-owned races from the WT calendar.

On the balancing act required to govern professional cycling, I liken it somewhat to the different political systems of Anglo-US countries as opposed to a more European approach where proportional representation is more common place. The Anglos ‘like’ someone to ‘win’ / control, whereas the European model is more about negotiation.
Each approach has it’s strengths and drawbacks of course.

I realise that this comparison is a very simplistic generalisation, but I do feel there is some truth in it.
Consensus does work, because it is in everyone’s ultimate interest that it does. But it can be a slower, more painful journey to its destination.

J Evans November 27, 2016 at 10:37 am

BC – Great post. (27th 12.01am)

CM –

‘The reform seems a recipe for more conservative riding across the board’ – Why? If, say, Contador sees that Sky are weaker, isn’t he more likely to attack? Also, might Sky be less able to TTT their way through the entire Tour?

There are new WT races, which many teams were complaining that they didn’t have enough riders for. Now, if this reduction happens, they’ll have more spare riders. Surely, they can’t logically complain about both of these things.

The decreased number of riders might mean that the riders in the large teams will be relatively stronger, but how much weaker is that 9th choice rider than the other 8? I’d guess not much. (And isn’t a smaller team more likely to have a significantly worse 9th man?)

I’d have thought the resultant fatigue of having to work that much harder with one fewer person would have a far greater – weakening – effect on a team (especially once riders drop out, as they usually do).

Ecky, the Anglo way simply isn’t democracy – the Tories won less than 39% of votes at the last election, but took a majority of seats in parliament. (Under a fair system, where every vote counts equally, the UK would have a Tory/UKIP/DUP coalition government. I said ‘fair’, not ‘good’…) But I won’t sully this site further with base politics.

RonDe November 28, 2016 at 2:31 am

They won’t work harder. They will all just take it that much easier. Do you actually watch races or are you too busy commenting on every cycling forum there is to notice what happens on the road? Take the recent Vuelta. In one fatal stage (for Froome’s hopes anyway) basically the entire peloton sat up and rolled home at whatever pace they liked. They should all have been DQ’d. Safety in numbers means they weren’t. The TDF is basically one big take it easy ride because the stakes are so great no one dare risk getting it wrong.

Somehow you seem to think one rider less makes everyone forget these realities. It doesn’t.

J Evans November 28, 2016 at 9:27 am

I don’t think that just because teams have one less rider they’re suddenly going to stop racing.
And, as you’ve noticed, this year’s TdF wasn’t exactly full of attacking vim anyway.

noel November 28, 2016 at 10:37 am

‘The TDF is basically one big take it easy ride…’ geez RonDe, that’s a big call (unless you’ve actually ridden the thing of course). Every pro I’ve ever heard talk about the Tour is all about ‘it’s another level’… ‘the tour is so stressful’…’it’s 198 guys on their A game’…’even the dull days are full gas’… etc etc.
They may neutralize each other and make it look easy, but I’m not at all sure it is.

Anonymous November 28, 2016 at 10:38 am

Are you seriously suggesting that with one rider less teams will simply take it easy?
Perhaps you struggle to actually see the races you watch through your Sky goggles.

Rodrigo Diaz November 28, 2016 at 7:06 pm

erm… for the vuelta example, you might be forgetting the handful of lads that were going gangbusters at the front… made possible because Sky missed it. Maybe you’d like to edit to “most of the peloton except for a crucial handful of contenders who were very aggressive from the beginning of the race and escaped Sky’s control”?

Make it teams of 12 and be you’d be sure that someone from the leading team makes it. Make it 5 and it’s almost sure they ‘d miss some of the attacks and lead to a less controlled race.

CA November 28, 2016 at 7:46 pm

Ronde – not even close to accurate. These riders will ride even harder thinking there is a chance to attack the strongest teams. I think you’re misunderstanding how bike racers behave. By nature they are hyper-competitive and will do what is necessary to win.

In the Classics, smaller teams will potentially be able to crack Quickstep (glad we don’t have to say Ettix-QS anymore) and BMC’s strength in numbers by attacking.

In the GT’s, every non-Sky team will try to isolate Froome. Plus, the other favourites will have less depth to rely on too. I would not be surprised if the races are more open.

Regarding safety – this issue is too complicated to judge.

Sam November 28, 2016 at 10:26 am

Sardonic smile from this quarter

J Evans November 28, 2016 at 11:24 am

Ubiquitous passive-aggressive snipe from your quarter.
Some people seemingly can’t have a conversation without making personal remarks.
I’d probably do better not to respond in kind – take a leaf out of Larry T’s book and simply ignore such people.

Sam November 29, 2016 at 12:26 pm

I have absolutely no idea what you’re talking about. But it might be worth taking a deep breath and understanding that people post with their own views and opinions. Its not all or even part about or at you. Jesus.

J Evans November 29, 2016 at 1:04 pm

Thanks. Glad we agree.

ShortsNL November 28, 2016 at 12:17 pm

CM – nicely written but your points are not watertight

-Extra financial pressure on teams on redundant staff -> disagree, they simply have more capacity now to ride additional .HC and .1 races. It just requires them to do some better planning, but ultimately they can get more exposure out of their current team.

-“Crooked logic” that reducing peloton size means less riders to be hit by motos -> It’s not just motobikes that are a safety risk, nor street furniture. You are incorrectly dismissing peloton density as another cause of crashes, next to motobikes/street furniture. The peloton size by itself is also a safety risk. See the crashes that have happened over the last few years by the madness in the peloton to be at the front during a sprint stage with disagree, the opposite will happen. Now teams who can field 9 good riders are as strong as teams who can only field 8 good riders, and only a little bit stronger than a team with 7 good riders and 1 bad rider. A smaller peloton also means a relatively stronger (less weak) breakaway compared to the peloton.

In general, smaller teams are no bad thing at all for a race, just look at the very good racing the WC and Olympics give us each year.

BC November 27, 2016 at 9:07 am

Ecky. The point about the UCI was in response to an earlier post by Patrick who considered consensus was the mode operand i of the UCI. I agree completely with you view about the power base of the major promoters – it is patiently self evident, and probably to a lesser extent the influence of the WT teams. It is why we are where we are. It is not consensus politics but an ongoing power struggle which is not doing the sport much good.

Until such times as recognition and agreement can be reached, this unfortunate state of affairs will continue.

channel_zero November 28, 2016 at 10:45 pm

If the UCI wanted to weaken ASO and RCS, they could. Change a few rules and add some other promoters. But, they’ve chose to commit to ASO and RCS. That commitment was made very many years ago, probably back to McQuaid’s first term.

J Evans November 29, 2016 at 10:58 am

I suspect that in that scenario, the end result if the UCI didn’t back down would be:

UCI comes up with rules ASO/RCS/FC don’t like.

ASO/RCS/FC leave UCI and start new federation.

Teams have the option of going with ASO/RCS/FC and competing in all the races that make all their money. Or siding with the UCI, which has nothing except the WC and the Olympics (neither of which they really care about/make any money from).

In the very unlikely event that the teams sided with the UCI, it would then be down to the riders to decide to stick with the teams and whatever new races there would be or move to the new teams that would surely spring up in the ASO/RCS/FC federation and ride the races that have historic importance.
The fans would – at least for the first few years – stick with the historic races, so the riders would want to be in those (and what rider would choose some new grand tour over the TdF?)
Even in this unlikely scenario, the UCI and the teams who stuck with them would be left with a load of races no-one cared about. With no top riders in them.

But the teams would never stick with the UCI – they too would go with the historic races that people care about. If they did, it would be suicide.

ASO/RCS/FC and the riders are the ones who actually hold any power.
But the riders need to work together as a group, which they have thus far failed to do.
The teams only have power as long as they can hold on to the riders – most of whom are on short contracts.
ASO/RCS/FC have the races.
The UCI would be left with nothing (because the IOC would soon go with the new cycling federation that would form around the ASO/RCS/FC) but a meaningless stripy jersey.

The UCI under McQuaid fought ASO tooth and nail. And lost.

Anonymous November 29, 2016 at 11:39 am

I once made a thought experiment to come up with a really different way to run cycling. Not only with a way to divide the existing money differently, but with a genuinely new way to run it and to scale the powers more fairly. It is not easy. Came up with this:

Teams, as we know them now, are forbidden to hire riders and have sponsors. Teams still exist, but the riders hire the teams who provide soigneurs, ds, help with legal stuff etc. Riders speak directly with the races and sponsors and get paid by them. Riders either form a riding group at the beginning of the season and ride as this group the races or at a race riders get put together in groups to ride the races. This would delete one problem the riders have: Right now they can’t really support their own agenda, because they have to support their team’s agenda.

Try this thought experiment for yourself. There are probably many different ways to do it, I haven’t thought about.

J Evans November 29, 2016 at 12:17 pm

Very interesting. (Confusing too, but that might be interesting anyway.)
Especially if you’re the UCI or a team…
Potential problem: Could it lead to an Armstrong-type rider having far more sponsorship than anyone else and thus buying far better support than anyone else can afford?

Anonymous November 29, 2016 at 3:06 pm

Of course you won’t delete the fact, that some riders are better than others, some are more marketable etc. You’d need rules for that, just like you need rules for the competition now. But alone the fact, that a race needs a peloton of say 120 riders, would dilute that. They simply can’t pay one rider that much more, because they also need the others. You’d also need a system where riders and races commit to each other at certain stages of the season (say every 3 months), to give the riders a steady income and the races a solid base to plan.

The payments would go something like this:
Riders get paid by races, sponsors (to a degree, the sum can’t be unlimited. The most money must come from races)
• Teams get paid by riders for their service
• Races get paid the way they are now, only that the sponsors from teams are now also freed up for them. (This would also be a safer bet for sponsors re doping, because it isn’t race A that is doping, but rider A).. There are all kinds of possibilities: Maybe more fans want to support a local race financially, when they know the money goes directly to the riders and their money brings them a great peloton and racing?
• Antidoping gets paid by federations, races &the riders riding races. With a minimum always to be paid, but if there are more doping cases, more must be paid/done (This would also have the effect, that maybe riders really stop tolerating doping, cause it is their money, that is spend on it)

Of course no method is perfect. People are people and will always look after themselves. This was only a thought experiment to look, with what I can come up with, if there is a different possible way at all. Nothing is set in stone – or without possibilities to exploit.

J Evans November 29, 2016 at 7:05 pm

Really interesting stuff. What people can come up with when they open their minds up to ‘What is the best way to do this?’, rather than asking the wrong questions.
Thanks.

Yoav Tzabar November 27, 2016 at 9:24 am

I suppose it saves one hotel room per team.

Ferdi November 27, 2016 at 10:57 am

I wonder to what extent this move is retribution for the “apparently security-motivated” extreme weather ranting, and other rider-originated challenges to race governance.

Rik VII November 27, 2016 at 11:46 am

Ok. The important organizers are telling the world on 26th november, wich rules does apply next year in their races. The teams are complaining taht it would be nice to know that not that late. The UCI responds that there are rules to follow set by the UCI.

Another example how amateurish cycling is managed. Not only by the UCI. I like the reduction of the peloton. But on 26th november? As an unilateral decision? Puh.

Almost any year we see this chaos. The situation for 2017 is that nobody – at least the public – knows
* how many starters will be in the races,
* if TJ Sport will get a licence and could / have to start at the TdU in january,
* the participation rules in the new WorldTour-events,
* how the ranking system will work in 2017
etc.pp.

The Inner Ring November 28, 2016 at 9:01 am

It’s astonishing, isn’t it. As you say we still don’t know the participation rules for the World Tour yet and the rankings system is not confirmed and the points awarded will matter so much and it all starts in just over six weeks’ time.

Megi November 27, 2016 at 12:42 pm

The reduction from nine to eight riders in the Grand Tours must be detrimental to riders’ health. This year the peloton in at least one Grand Tour has made its opinion quite clear more than once on the demanding nature of the course as a whole by simply not racing for periods. I vaguely remember one day when the “gruppetto” consisted of everyone except the breakaway and came in half an hour back.
With only eight riders to share the load, will we have more “off” days as the riders try desperately to avoid riding themselves into the ground, or will the Grand Tours route managers respond by reducing the overall workload?

RonDe November 28, 2016 at 2:35 am

Correct. Some people think less riders will suddenly mean everyone turns into a kamikaze racer. Wrong. The opposite is true. There will be agreements in the peloton not to race and take it easier. There is still one thing organisers don’t control and that is how riders race.

Anonymous November 28, 2016 at 9:28 am

But apparently you do.
What makes you so certain that what you say will happen?

Megi November 28, 2016 at 11:48 am

There’s plenty of evidence to support RonDe’s statement. Remember the early season peloton that went under a motorway bridge in desert country and didn’t come out again until the race organisers accepted the riders’ statement that it was too hot to race? What about the Dauphine a couple of years back when the team leaders agreed before the stage not to race down the Col de Sarenne back road from Alpe d’Huez on the grounds it was too dangerous?

J Evans November 28, 2016 at 12:01 pm

But those are entirely different circumstances.
They were specific safety issues.
Whereas this would be overall fatigue. And what happens if riders are too fatigued? Usually, they drop out of the race – they tend not to keel over.
Then you would have even fewer riders in a team and the possibility for lone attacks to be successful is increased (although that still doesn’t mean anyone will).
Also, many races have fewer riders per team (Eneco, WC, Olympics, Tour of Britain…) and it doesn’t prevent racing.
It seems unlikely that if Sky have fewer riders in the coming Tour, someone like Contador will not seek to take advantage of that, but will instead agree to take it easy in order to negate this change.
There is no actual proof of what will happen – only time will tell. It might happen like you say or it might – as Prudhomme hopes (along with many others) – produce a less tedious Tour.

Anonymous November 27, 2016 at 12:52 pm

Reduce the number of MOTORBIKES!!!!

Didi November 27, 2016 at 11:14 pm

Why? Do have to offer any statistical data about how much crashes are caused by motobikes and how much happen without them?
No? Quelle surprise..

I can’t stand that premature motobikes are the cause of all evil in cycling redderick anymore. It’s just naive to think the sport will be less dangerous without them. Those who cry the loudest for moto ban are the same to cry for more tv coverage and complain about missing pictures cause not everyone at a mountain finish has a moto with them.

J Evans November 28, 2016 at 12:04 am

All those photographers on bikes: greatly reduce the number by having about 5 and they have to share the photos with everyone. Yes, photographers will lose their job, but that’s how it goes.
People keep talking about motorbikes because they keep crashing into riders, twice now with tragic consequences. I don’t think that’s being premature.

ShortsNL November 28, 2016 at 10:41 am

Didi, you bring up the classic argument to the table that demands scientific evidence, and proceed to immediately dismiss his point because the lack of it.

Let me give you your piece of scientific statistical data. A professional cyclist has died this season, in a WorldTour race, after being hit by a motorbike.

How valuable is his life for you? Does this count as an argument? But it’s only one example right? Well, that’s the point. We have reached the situation where a person has died because of it. Time to review and adjust.

The Inner Ring November 28, 2016 at 12:08 pm

Please note the post mortem was inconclusive, the pathologist could not determine whether it was his crash or the subsequent collision from a motorbike that proved fatal for Demoitié. It may be distressing for the Demoitié family to false or mistaken accounts of his last moments, please handle comments regarding him and the incident with sensitivity and accuracy.

Didi November 29, 2016 at 2:13 am

One rider died. Tragic but that’s now statistical evidence for what exactly? Did he die cause there were too many motobikes in the race? If you reduce the number of motobikes in a race to 5, every one of this five still could cause an accident. Even one moto can cause an accident. Wouter also died in a race, no motobike involved. I see dozens of crashes a day, some severe, and in almost none of them are motobikes involved.
What I blame is that some single incidents are totally overhyped as if motos are the cause of all evil.
Every safety discussion has this hypes, this descent is too tricky, this too long and this corners too near to the finish. Yeah. let’s get rid of all these dangerous courses and you’ll still see horrible crashes on wide roads and harmless descents. You’ll see crashes in 200 rider pelotons and in 30 rider groups. 99% of them without a moto……but ban them and get happy.

Anonymous November 29, 2016 at 11:11 am

Didi, how dare you to bring facts or reason into this and to demand to really look at things and talk instead of shouting? How dare you to think there is something besides black and white. And how dare you think there can be something like no evil, guilty part in this???!!! When we all know, that there always must be guilt!!! Tv, papers and opinion pieces tell us this the whole day in huge letters!

Fun aside, I totally understand what you mean, but I fear a real, sensible discussion, that is fair to all sides, is impossible these days. Or maybe the internet is the wrong place for it.

bottlcaps November 27, 2016 at 4:55 pm

While I think it is laudable that the promoters of the major races are seeking to reduce the problems that congest many races to the point of dangerous conditions, it’s not the number of riders “per team” that is causing problems, its too many riders on unsuitable parcours.

Reducing the number of riders “per team” is not the answer and opens up a loophole as it allows, down the line, for the race promoters to add MORE teams.

Larry T November 27, 2016 at 5:44 pm

bottlcaps – I know what you mean. I thought a better idea was a dozen top-tier teams (with some real, enforceable requirements to get in) + 6 wild-card teams 18 X 9 = 162. But since the feral children at UCI, Velon, etc. would seemingly never, ever agree to such a plan, the adults (ASO, RCS, etc.) had to settle for the next-best-thing 22 X 8 = 176. I think they’ll have a tough time adding more teams due to their claims of a smaller, safer peloton and it just might turn out to be more interesting racing than my 18 team idea. And they can point out to the UCI that their ridiculous WT calendar will be a bit easier for teams to deal with as a result of needing fewer riders at each event – something they should be pro rather than con?

Strictly Amateur / The GCW November 27, 2016 at 6:29 pm

Larry T
I like it: “the feral children at UCI, Velon, vs. the adults (ASO, RCS, etc.)”

-0-

-and they’re going to continue to go from 18 teams to 17 or even 16 next year? Or does the lower 8 rider count in grand tours negate that?

Bemused November 27, 2016 at 10:14 pm

+1 for the feral line

Larry nailed it.

Othersteve November 27, 2016 at 6:59 pm

It would appear to me that it’s just playing chess with one less chess piece over a long stage race. All have to abide by the same rule. Perhaps it may provide a few more surprises as lesser teams will have more to gain executing on a calculated gamble?

We shall see

Nick November 28, 2016 at 12:29 am

Happy to see how this pans out in practice, but so far as timing is concerned, I note that ASO and RCS were able to announce the routes of the Tour and Giro about a month ago, so it’s strange they couldn’t announce the team sizes then too. Though I don’t think the route of the RvV has been confirmed yet?

The Inner Ring November 28, 2016 at 8:52 am

The announcement came just as the AIOCC, the umbrella group for the races, held its annual meeting which helps explain the unilateral coordinated announcement.

Nick November 28, 2016 at 12:33 pm

Indeed, though perhaps a better time to announce it would have been at the previous PCC meeting, at which the teams and UCI had also been represented.

jc November 28, 2016 at 1:42 am

What a mess. This has far more to do with the completely broken model of pro cycling than improving the races.

For the TdF & Giro it will not make a jot of difference to any teams simply focusing on the GC. It will affect the sprinters as it will be much more difficult to organise a team with both sprint and GC ambitions. Yet it is the sprint teams that add most to the interest of the races in the early stages.

The justification that it will make things safer for the peloton is spurious at best. The main risks to the riders comes from incompetence of the organisers (in the last couple of ASO races have featured dangerous road furniture, collapsing inflatables and the farce on Ventoux) reducing slightly the size of the peloton is very unlikely to make accidents any less likely. It will reduce slightly the chances of a random wipeout, though not enough to stop the recent tactics of the GC folk mixing in with the sprints as a way of avoiding time losses. If they are really concerned about that look more seriously of having a “GC” finish line a few kms before the actual finish line on sprint days (I know this has “iisues” but so does this proposal).

Until the structure of pro cycling is reformed (unfortunately very unlikely) to ensure there is a governing body that actually sets the rules and the income from TV is shared between the teams and the race organisers this sort of political jockeying is going to continue ad infinitum to the determent of the riders and the fans.

The Inner Ring November 28, 2016 at 8:51 am

The call to share TV revenues often pops up but there’s just not much money to share. Even if ASO and RCS decided spontaneously to share half of their profits with their teams (TV, sponsorship + venue hosting fees) we get to around €1 million per team, helpful but it doesn’t change much.

A look at the numbers at http://inrng.com/2014/01/problem-revenue-sharing/

jc November 28, 2016 at 11:49 am

But there is real potential for growing those numbers. At the moment there is little reason for the race organisers to push particularly hard to get more money from the TV folk. If the TV income goes up so will the pressure to share that income, something the race organisers are loath to do. I realise that outside of the TdF not many of the races make a profit but given the potential audience they really should. In most cases the race organisers make a tidy living even if the races themselves do not and there is a very cosy relationship with the TV companies. Unfortunately this really is not sustainable. The teams and riders they employ, who are the main attraction after all, are reliant upon sponsorship which makes it very difficult for any long term sensible planning.

Most if not all other professional sports are paid for by the people who watch (either in stadia, through TV subscriptions or by simply watching the advertising displayed in the breaks). Until cycling can sort something along these lines power plays between the teams, race organisers and UCI are inevitable to the detriment of all.

The Inner Ring November 28, 2016 at 12:12 pm

Certainly the cake can be grown to make slicing it up more attractive but that would take a long time and so it was more to point out that as of now the idea of revenue sharing isn’t the solution others may take it to be.

I should revisit the revenue sharing post sometime to put in some new numbers from ASO and RCS.

Larry T November 28, 2016 at 2:39 pm

jc- We’re all fairly familiar with the VELON manifesto here. My question for these folks is the old “and the problem is what exactly?” ASO has TV money from decades of (mostly) careful management of their main property, LeTour while most of the other races struggle to survive. Pro cycling trade teams (other than during the period when Desgrange tried to destroy them, part of that careful management of LeTour?) have existed for decades. But only in the last few decades have the terrible problems VELON whines about been an issue. And those problems pretty much dovetail with two other issues – continuing doping scandals (starting with Festina) and the European economic crisis. Before these two disasters seriously impacted pro cycling, there was no VELON, so their ideas about “fixing” the sport comes off to me as mostly a money-grab. I think for them it’s part desperation and (they think) part opportunity, when the real problem is the two issues I described above combined with the insane cost increases brought about by the silly World/Pro Tour requirements. While ASO didn’t do as much as they could have with the doping scandals, they’re pretty much blameless on the other two issues.
The only adults here are those same folks who carefully managed their main product through thick and thin – LeTour/ASO. RCS and Flanders Classics have seen the light and climbed aboard. The sooner the riders and UCI realize this and climb aboard (while working to have a say in the running of things) the better.
I don’t write this any fan of French hegemony but more from simply acknowledging the wisdom and success they’ve demonstrated – which is how/why they have the money (and power) the others covet.

jc November 29, 2016 at 1:53 am

I am sorry but this is nonsense. If you want to have professional sport the folk actually playing the sport (or riding the bikes) are the folk who should make most money out of it. I doubt anyone wants to have the ludicrous excesses of the Premier League but the current situation where a few people make a comfortable living organising races without actually paying the riders is not acceptable. You dont have to be a trade organisation on behalf of the team managements to see that the way things have been done for years does not work and is not a way forward.

I thought Oleg Tinkoff was a complete ego maniac who liked far too much the sound of his own voice but he was correct to say the existing model is broken. It is only in the past few decades that professional sports people of any stripe have had a proper share of the money their hard work generates (see Bosman ruling in professional football). Cycling is well behind the curve. The “pay to ride” case is only a small example of the paternalistic attitude that still pervades cycling.

I dont underestimate the huge amount of work it takes to organise the TdF or even a one day bike race. The costs do often outweigh the income but the needs of the riders (most of whom are not on top dollar contracts) really do need to be pushed to the fore and if that means less money to pay Christian Prudhome et al so be it.

Anonymous November 29, 2016 at 11:01 am

jc, Usually I wouldn’t say to anyone his/her opinion is nonsense, but as you think that’s fine, I gladly concur: This is nonsense. The races ARE, like the teams, the ones who make the sport. Organising and running a race is one part of the sport. They are as important as the riders riding it. It is time we stop this childish “But they are more important” “No, they are.” No, teams are more important, cause when nobody rides these races, they won’t exist”. Well, if nobody organises these races, nobody is going to ride them. Organising a race is much more than running it the day the race is on. So I think it is time to stop fighting about who is more important or deserving and give everybody their right. Both sides are equally important for the sport. Both created it in their own way.

The following is no answer to you, but a general comment to the allegedly broken business model in cycling: I can’t hear the fairytale of the “broken business model” any longer. Broken compared to what? To the nba or f1? Well, thank god, is all I can say. Look behind their facade and see an ugly picture. I won’t even start with the nfl and the many violent crimes their players commit and the many broken athletes the nfl leaves in it’s wake. Look at that and see something that damages many- except the owners and a few lucky ones, who make it through it unharmed. That honestly can’t be what we aspire to be? F1 has problems to find race organisers outside oil states any longer. Pay to ride? That is the norm in f1. Ever wondered why?

Broken compared to Volleyball, Handball, table tennis? I tell you, they would gladly have cyclings money, many events and tv time. That “broken business model” has become a phrase that gets often used without thinking or proof. Something to silence others. Propaganda. Then throw in some tales about the riders finding no team (well, they are unemployed, like millions around the world. Like many other athletes from all sports, too) or have a bad salary, also like millions around the world. Then evoke the picture of the poor, exploited worker against the big, mean companies and every sensible discourse that hasn’t tabloid character about the real problems gets killed.

There are no easy answers to complex situations. And surely the race organisers aren’t the evil greedy people, who have a nice, lazy living on the back of others, you make them out to be. They fight for what they built, just like the teams fight for what they think is right. And behind the scenes it is a fight and no side is free of fault. Not the teams and not the race organisers. Everybody plays the card they think they have. But at least the races aren’t trying to run the teams, like some teamowners, who want to run the races and don’t care about the damage they do to get what they want (I guess that is why Larry T., like me, feels the race organisers at least act a bit more adult than some teamowners, that are by now caught in their own emotional world and unable to be constructive, fair or objective).

Why do some think cycling is broken? Because it doesn’t generate the kind of money they dream about? Well, maybe they should stop dreaming. Broken, because it can’t pay millions to some riders AND also pay others handsomely? Well maybe then some should simply not be paid millions. Broken, because not every latest gadget or scientific advancement can be afforded? Well, why should it? No fan really cares or tunes in to see, if they ride mountain A faster than the riders did 10 years ago. What counts is the comparative strength of a peloton.

As long as the teams don’t think the riders are their best and most precious asset and continue to exploit them as good as they can, they can’t demand anything from anybody. And anyway: When the teams want money from races, they also have to shoulder the losses the races make and the money some races pay to be on tv. Right? This only would be fair, right? Right now races pay the teams money to race, the price money and hotels. This of course has to stop then too, right? And of course the teams should have to pay some of their sponsor’s money to every race they do, because through the races they get the opportunity to showcase the sponsor. Right? Would only be fair, right? If not, the races can surely demand that the teams showcase the race’s own sponsor in the race, if the race organisers have to give the money they earn through the races to the teams. Would only be fair, right?

The structural problem is that the uci has, in an attempt to control everything, their fingers in everything. With that no side has souvereignity of their own area and the result is that all sides feel threatened, powerless, hard done by and angry. Like jealous siblings they look to the uci parent and cry foul about what others have, because “I want that too!” The structural problem is that teams spend their money on trainingcamps, physiosogical this or that instead of riding races. As long as riders like Aru or froome can get paid nicely to train the whole season for a handful of races, the money can’t be too thin. These days even riders that are no teamleaders spent 4 weeks in trainingcamps and altitude-tents in the middle of the season to hit their “peak”. That is insane. But it seems teams can afford that…

The structural problem is the inequity, that exists in cycling. Teams with 7M are expected to race teams with 30M. That this can’t work and generates problems, especially the feeling by some, that the system is unfair and that they can’t get enough money, must be visible to everybody. Broken? Movistar exists for over 20 years. Even in the real world many companies don’t make it that long. The french teams also exist for a long, long time. What is broken with that?

I am so tired of the teamowners who complain about cycling, cause it simply isn’t what they want it to be (and hopefully never will be). Well, if it isn’t what you want, then leave. Make something of your own. If you want something that exists primarily to make money, go create it. Best wishes, honestly. But stop poisoning and destroying something for millions and whole generations, because it isn’t what you like it to be. I am glad cycling isn’t run by anyone, but by all together. I am glad that at least some in cycling still see it as a sport. That is one of the reasons, why I am a fan for a long time now. It is what sets cycling apart from some other sports for me. And although I really love cycling, the moment this changes, I will no longer support it. Even if this would mean cycling heartache for me.

Sorry for being long, not on the topic of the piece and for being a bit harsh, but I simply can’t hear it anymore (while being aware, that mine is also only an opinion. But this is the whole problem: We have two philosophies clashing and this will either result in divorce or compromise, but seldom/never unity). Feel free to delete it, if it is too long.

J Evans November 29, 2016 at 11:16 am

jc, in your earlier post, you said:
‘At the moment there is little reason for the race organisers to push particularly hard to get more money from the TV folk. If the TV income goes up so will the pressure to share that income, something the race organisers are loath to do.’
Do you really think that the race organisers are deliberately not making as much money as they can?
And that they’re doing this – cutting off their own nose to spite their face – just so they don’t have to share any increased income?
And you’d prefer if fans had to pay more money to watch races just so there was more profit? Why would you choose money over sport for all to watch?

Cycling, as Larry says, has existed for a century and more.
The obsession that some have with money is indicative of our societies’ similar obsession. This is sport – the object is not to make money. Or it shouldn’t be.
The likes of Velon are desperately trying to grab more cash – that’s their only priority.
However, that cash isn’t even there – cycling just isn’t that popular and as the Inner Ring has pointed out, there isn’t that much money to be shared out from the race organisers.
There isn’t some untapped bonanza of TV cash. For instance, if cycling was worth that much money, Sky would be showing it in the UK – as they do with the more profitable sports – not Eurosport. And I’m thankful for that, as otherwise I would have to pay much more to watch it (and I’d have to pay Murdoch for the privilege).
Why would you choose to make it so much more difficult for poor people to watch cycling? Just so that relatively wealthy people can make more money?
The riders do have some power – if they work together – and they could use that to improve their pay and conditions.
That will not happen if cycling is dominated by the big teams of Velon. They would keep the money for themselves, same as ASO do.

Ferdi November 30, 2016 at 10:07 pm

+1 to Anonymous

RonDe November 28, 2016 at 2:42 am

“Safety” is an utterly spurious reason especially when you see some of the dumb finishes with 90 degree turns, road furniture and the rest in the last 3 kms. They should clean their own houses before deciding to butt heads with the teams and UCI.

J Evans November 28, 2016 at 9:34 am

But those finishes are often much more exciting. Yes, they’re more dangerous, but that’s bike racing – staying upright and getting yourself in the correct position on a difficult parcours is part of being a sprinter. That skill is what sets apart the Sagans and Cavendishes from the Kittels and Greipels.
Motorbikes seem to be the cause of the most serious accidents – it’s not peloton size or parcours of finishes.

Othersteve November 28, 2016 at 5:55 pm

J E, I think that Stetina might not agree with you! Sprints in a one day race I would agree, but GC guys getting clipped trying to make up time in a GT? Not a viable position.

J Evans November 29, 2016 at 7:11 pm

I should have been clearer: I meant twists and turns – not unprotected bollards, etc.

Didi November 29, 2016 at 2:17 am

“Motorbikes seem to be the cause of the most serious accidents”
Everything seems, who cares if no one shows facts and numbers to back that up. It’s only important what some *feels* Welcome to the postfactual world. Hail Donald.

J Evans November 29, 2016 at 7:10 pm

That’s right: I said ‘seems’ because I wasn’t claiming it to be a fact.
The two most serious accidents in the last few seasons involved motorbikes. I’ve suggested above how I think motorbike numbers could be reduced. That might help, so it’s worth trying.
(Accusing people of being like Trump really is the internet’s new ‘You’re like H*tler’ – used by the lowest common denominator as a meaningless put-down.)

Sam November 28, 2016 at 10:23 am

Agreed, RonDe. There’s some really lax and dangerous lack-of-care going into some of the finishes we see

DJW November 30, 2016 at 4:32 pm

The street furniture and traffic calming are so universal – at least in France, that the only way of avoiding obstacles at critical moments is to avoid stage finishes in towns and villages. That does not sound like a good idea. Races should avoid the worst and the races accept the least bad while adding what protection they can. Taking times 3kms before finish for GC would further confuse a sport which many find already hard to understand.

For motos, the near misses need to be reduced if the accidents are to be reduced. Watching the Vuelta, Tour, LBL… they are numerous and could be limited by avoiding the overtaking of riders and limiting moto numbers. If the photos and TV pictures are less good then we just have to accept that.

Stu November 28, 2016 at 9:54 am

I was really hoping (but not really expecting..) the smaller teams would mean more wildcards, since the general consensus seems the safety effects would be minimal, it’d be nice if the organisers just said it was an anti Sky rule so they could shoehorn some more wildcards in there.

Jonhard November 28, 2016 at 12:12 pm

Race finishes have a massive impact on safety. An unmarked bollard in the last 3km is a problem for 50 riders, 100 or 150.

All this is more about cycling politics than races if you ask me.

The Inner Ring November 28, 2016 at 12:26 pm

There’s a review process on with the rider’s union trying to push for the 3km to have a full risk assessment so all these hazards can be identified and dealt with. This should make sense and the larger races can incorporate it although it brings legal consequences with it, the liability could fall on the race now.

Ecky Thump November 28, 2016 at 12:20 pm

It’s interesting, and not surprising I suppose, that everyone is concentrating on TdF.
But, lest we forget, this measure does include RCS’ and Flanders Classics’ races too.
Have their races been a problem?
I would venture that probably not – the Flanders Classics have seen some excellent racing and a real mix of winners from Pro-Conti up to the major teams. The strongest team, Etixx, have been undone by aggressive racing and inventive tactics. The only major gripe has probably been some of the parcours on particular races.
Likewise, the Giro. Held up as an example of what the TdF should be. Granted that Sky have not put their A team out to this, but one could say that Astana more than any other major team have benefited from team strength But did the Giro have a problem as such – probably not, some excellent and aggressive racing again.

So, two points really –
1. some of the responsibility for the lack of action in the TdF must go to other teams / riders. It is possible to be aggressive and inventive to overcome one strong team (La Vuelta also showed the possibilities too);
2. interesting that ASO have been able to rope in RCS and FC when it is true to say that the latter two’s races have not been so adversely affected by a single team’s strangulation.

The Inner Ring November 28, 2016 at 12:24 pm

Your second point is interesting because in the politics behind the scenes the race owners have been competitors and at times had differing views, now the three major event owners present this news together and openly over the heads of the UCI.

It’s messy now, neither the UCI nor the teams are necessarily against going to eight riders, it’s the sudden one-sided announcement that’s stung them.

Graham November 28, 2016 at 3:12 pm

I can’t see this having an impact on the GC very often, one of Sky’s most dominant performances was with Cavendish in the team…. now I wouldn’t accuse him of being dead weight and above working for a leader but he wouldn’t be anyones top pick for that role.

Unless a top team loses a bunch of riders to a freak crash this will only hurt teams trying to succeed on more than one front.

CA November 28, 2016 at 4:20 pm

….. wow…. once again cycling does drops the ball. I’m not questioning the merits of 8 or 9 (or fewer) riders per team. But cycling as a group can’t make decisions or changes without causing so much drama. This sport is worse than the Young and Restless.

Good thing it is so rich that sponsors and paying customers won’t be turned off… wait a second… don’t sponsors leave the sport all the time and some riders at the highest levels make $0 per year? Oh right, of course….

This sport can’t do anything right.

CA November 29, 2016 at 4:24 pm

Inrng – is any analysis or stats available to show the safety level discrepancies between races with 8 or 9-riders per team?

It feels like all stakeholders are giving theories as to why their opinions make sense, but nobody is backing up their statements (or at least hiding their analysis).

The Inner Ring November 29, 2016 at 5:01 pm

Not seen anything. It’d be hard to compare, riders regularly say the Tour de France is more tense and there is less room in the peloton. It’s not easy to control for team size/peloton size.

CA November 29, 2016 at 5:13 pm

Agreed, any analysis wouldn’t be perfect. But, some analysis would definitely help. It always feels like UCI / ASO are running through the dark with a blindfold randomly shouting things at each other.

Even a basic comparison of crashes in the Dauphine per stage to the Tour per stage over time to look at frequency of crashes.

OR, better yet, use the Vuelta as a test-Grand Tour and drop team sizes to 8 (teams are usually stretched really thin at this time of year anyways) and compare crash frequency/severity to the Tour.

Obviously, no statistic or analysis is perfect, but it helps. The current way of decision making is ridiculous.

Owen November 29, 2016 at 11:13 pm

None of this is new: we’ve long had eight riders in stage races like Paris-Nice, the Tour of the Basque Country, Hope it will be a good year,

The Inner Ring November 29, 2016 at 11:33 pm

True, which explains the “None of this is new” paragraph heading in the piece above 😉

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