Representatives from the top pro teams told the UCI they will not accept a proposal to drop the number of WorldTour teams from 18 to 15.

Representatives from top pro teams delivered their message Wednesday to the UCI during a meeting in Madrid: 18 WorldTour teams and three-year licenses.

The team’s lobby — AIGCP — said its members would not accept a UCI reform push that could trim the WorldTour league from 18 to 15 teams by 2020.

On Wednesday, members of the team’s group huddled with members of the UCI, race organizers, and the rider’s association to discuss the UCI’s ambitious reform package it hopes to have preliminary approval for as soon as this month.

Richard Plugge, vice president of the AIGCP, described the stakeholder’s summit as a “good atmosphere” and said UCI president David Lappartient was mindful of the teams’ posture.

“The UCI listened carefully,” Plugge told VeloNews. “I think Lappartient got the message we wanted to send.”

The focus of the meeting was an update on progress of the UCI’s reform plan set for 2020. There is a lot of fine print in a 47-page dossier presented to teams in June, but Plugge described Wednesday’s meeting as an open dialogue about larger, more pressing issues facing teams.

Officials from the UCI said Lappartient would speak publicly about the plan in a press conference during the upcoming world championships in Innsbruck.

“The UCI acknowledged that many teams are fighting for survival,” Plugge said. “They agreed to start a dialogue with us on the economical model and bundling rights, and that is an important development for us.”

Plugge said the teams sent a strong message to the UCI that it wanted to maintain the current status quo of 18 WorldTour teams as well as initiate a larger discussion of how to restructure cycling’s current business model.

“Lappartient is looking for dialogue and trying to get things done in the right way,” he said. “Let’s hope he can do it. We need the UCI to work with us, not against us.”

The team’s association has been raising the alarm about the UCI’s reform plans following an update in June on the cycling federation’s sweeping plans.

While teams agreed with parts of the UCI’s vision, the teams are worried about key components of the plan that include a reduction of the WorldTour teams and a new points system that could lead to a relegation/promotion system similar to soccer’s football leagues. The plan would also include a new qualifying system for the grand tours that could allow up to five Pro Continental teams and two more wild-card invitations to be handed out by race organizers.

Former UCI president Pat McQuaid said this week the current structure of the plan gave too much to the organizers and weakened the position of major teams.

“We made it very clear that if points are the only way to survive as a team, you will risk losing credibility and lose the trust of the fans again,” said Plugge, alluding to the specter of doping. “If a team has to fight for points to exist, you put them in a corner where you don’t want it to be.”
 
What’s next? The Pro Cycling Council will review a UCI proposal during the upcoming world championships. If approved, it would go to the UCI management committee for further review and a possible vote in Austria later this month.

While the final details of the plan remain to be worked out in the coming months, Plugge said the teams are hopeful their ideas will be incorporated into an updated version of the plan that will be presented to the PCC before the end of the month.

“We are looking for a sensible way to move forward,” Plugge said diplomatically. “And [the teams] want to play a role and bring our commercial expertise to the table. The teams are more united than ever.

“Let’s see what happens,” Plugge said. “The ball is in the UCI’s court.”