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The organizers of most major races on the calendar have come to an agreement to reduce the size of the peloton in the grand tours and major classics. Instead of nine riders at the grand tours each team will be permitted to have only eight riders, while the eight rider teams in major one day races will be reduced to seven riders.
The General Assembly of the International Association of Cycling Race Organizers (AIOCC), RCS Sport, Flanders Classics and A.S.O announced the decision on Friday, November 25th effective for the 2017 season, although they are leaving the total number of teams unchanged.
The group has taken the action to try and improve the safety of the riders which had been highlighted in recent years with numerous motorcycle, press car and neutral support accidents. The decision to significantly reduce the amount of riders on the road was due to the amount of road furniture on race routes, according to the groups. While road furniture has been the cause of some accidents, the spate of serious accidents caused by race vehicles was not mentioned in the official announcement.
Reducing the size of the peloton has notably been called for by BMC Racing’s Jim Ochowicz, although he recommended reducing the number of teams competing, not the size of each team. This relates to the second reason the organizations gave for reducing team size – a desire to ensure one team can not dominate a race. With Team Sky’s recent Tour de France performances, this could reduce the effectiveness of the tactics employed by these power house squads.
Any discussion of how this could reduce the amount of riders employed by professional cycling teams was not addressed in the organization’s statement, but in this time of stretched budgets, if teams are required to race fewer riders, it only follows that they will likely reduce their rosters. It would be truly a shame if strategy to make professional cyclists safer ends up seeing many of them on the unemployment line.
Below is the joint statement.
A reduction in the number of riders for the RCS Sport, Flanders Classics and A.S.O. races
Following the General Assembly of the International Association of Cycling Race Organizers (AIOCC), RCS Sport, Flanders Classics and A.S.O have taken the decision to reduce the number of riders per team at the start of their races. The number of riders per team will thus decrease from 9 to 8 on the Grand Tours and from 8 to 7 on the other events.
This decision responds to two-pronged objective: the first being to improve the safety conditions for the riders with a smaller peloton on roads equipped with more and more street furniture. The second, which is a fortunate consequence of the first, is to make it more difficult to dominate a race as well as enhance conditions for events to offer better racing for cycling fans.
This decision will go into effect for the 2017 season, the number of teams will obviously remain the same.