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Ochowicz on UCI points: ‘It’s a step backward’

BMC Racing boss Jim Ochowicz says that although the new UCI points rules are simpler, they will burden the peloton's domestiques too much.

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Not everyone is pleased with new UCI rules changing points allocation inside the men’s peloton. BMC Racing manager Jim Ochowicz blasted the latest version announced Thursday, calling it a “step backward.”

“This is going back to the 1990s. This is a step backward,” Ochowicz told VeloNews. “That [rolling calendar] system didn’t work before. There was way too much risk, it was too much stress on the riders, and now we’re right back to it.”

Points allocation is always a messy business, and no system is perfect. The UCI has tried various methods over the past decade or so after ditching the “rolling calendar” idea that was largely reintroduced this week for 2017. Each system has its wrinkles, and some critics said latest version used until 2016 was weighted too heavily at the top of the results sheet, meaning that the top points-earners were disproportionately valued, because only the top-five of each team determined its WorldTour ranking. That meant some hard-working riders didn’t earn any points at all, and were thus perceived as somehow less valuable.

The rationale behind the newly revised system is that points will be more fairly distributed across the peloton, and that points from all UCI-sanctioned races will be calibrated into a season-long, rolling ranking systems.

On one side, that sounds great, but for Ochowicz, it pulls the rug out from underneath the WorldTour teams.

“It changes a lot of things in the peloton, and we are still absorbing the rules, and how they will affect us,” Ochowicz said. “We are a team who wants to win the team classification, or at least be in the top-three, so how do we manage that? It’s going to complex for every team.”

Ochowicz highlighted a few concerns of his own, and said that having points so deep in the results sheet — down to the top-60 — will create a new set a problems, including putting renewed pressure on riders to score points for an otherwise anonymous result that he said has no real bearing on the outcome of a race.

“It puts a tremendous amount of pressure on the riders,” he said. “Now they’re counting every single rider and every single race. You’re going to have the whole peloton with points. Before it was top-10, and it was easy to keep track of. And the guys who didn’t have to finish the race for result, they could do their job 100 percent, then relax and go to the bus. Now they have to race for points, and for what? It just doesn’t make sense.”

Teams had already been informed of the rule changes, so Thursday’s announcement didn’t come as a surprise to anyone. When VeloNews spoke to Ochowicz at BMC Racing’s team camp earlier this month, he was already aware of what was coming down the pipe.

Ochowicz cited Milano-Sanremo as an example of how the new points system will dramatically alter the workload for riders in the middle of the pack.

“Usually, the guys who did the work on the Cipressa, they don’t even ride the Poggio. They ride down the coast road to the team bus. Now there are points for 60th place,” he said. “Now they have to go up the Poggio because they’re the 35th or 50th rider, and the DS just went by and said, ‘You’re racing for 60th! There are points!’ … Normally they would be recovering, staying safe, and now they have to race all the way to the end, and it’s for nothing. There’s just no point.”

Ochowicz’s opinion was only one among the WorldTour league, but he also couldn’t hide his annoyance at how he says rules seem to be hastily made and applied. The UCI has various committees that discuss and consider significant rule changes, yet Ochowicz insisted that teams need to be further engaged.

“They never seem to consider the people working on the ground. They call it a ‘working group,’ but we basically get rules thrown on our lap,” he said.

When asked if the idea of reducing the grand tour rosters from nine to eight for 2017 will eventually be introduced, he countered: “I have no idea! Look, I am not against the reduction of riders, it’s just that it’s December when they tell us. I have 28 riders on my roster, so if that’s the case [reduction], I only need 24. I am carrying four extra riders, at 200 grand or plus a pop, plus staffers, that’s costing my team $1 million because I have way too many riders for eight-man, seven-man rosters for the races. Multiply that by 18 WorldTour teams, that’s a lot of money.”