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Cookson hints support of shortened Vuelta, eight-man teams

UCI president Brian Cookson hinted he might back eight-man grand tour teams and a reduced Vuelta a España. In an interview with La Gazzetta dello Sport, Cookson called such changes as a “natural evolution” in cycling.

“I personally believe that the Tour and the Giro should remain three weeks, but it would not surprise me to see a two-week Vuelta,” Cookson told La Gazzetta. “For a possible reduction from nine to eight riders per team, I am favorable to decrease the total number of starters, but I think it should be the organizers and teams to determine what is best.”

Cookson’s comments suggest there could be a shift about changing the length of the Vuelta, and reveals a possible olive branch toward Tour de France owners ASO, which is threatening to remove all of its properties from the UCI World Tour going into 2017. ASO also has been pushing for a reduction of the number of riders per teams in grand tours from nine to eight as part of an long-running dispute over proposed reforms to the cycling calendar for 2017.

Cookson also confirmed there are ongoing negotiations with ASO to try to avoid a complete break with the powerful French race organizer that also owns the Vuelta and other major races, such as Paris-Nice and Paris-Roubaix.

“I think it would be a mistake,” Cookson said of a possible split. “I am talking to ASO managers and I prefer not to go into details, but I am confident. I think we’ll find a solution in the end. Anything is possible. There are at least 20 events interested in joining the World Tour, so there is a lot of potential for growth.”

Cookson – who confirmed last week he would seek a second, four-year term as UCI president in elections in 2017 – also said the UCI remains vigilant against possible “motorized doping,” saying 1,000 bikes have been checked for banned mechanical assistance.

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