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RCS denies rumors of compromise on team cuts

Giro d'Italia director Mauro Vegni denies reports that race organizers have backed down on plans to cut team sizes for 2017 races.

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FLORENCE, Italy (VN) — Contrary to reports over the last 24 hours, RCS Sport cycling director Mauro Vegni says that nothing has changed in the debate over reduced pro team sizes. Vegni, who directs the Giro d’Italia, said it never came up at a UCI meeting in Spain Tuesday, and that the issue still needs to be confronted.

The big three organizers — RCS Sport, ASO, and Flanders Classics — issued a statement two weeks ago that they would reduce the number of riders teams may bring to their races in 2017. They said teams would consist of eight men (not nine) in the three grand tours, and seven, instead of eight, in the other races. They said they want to make races safer with a smaller peloton and also make them less scripted.

The UCI is against such a move. It said that it would not allow such a change for 2017 and that any decision must pass through its Professional Cycling Council, in which decisions are shared among teams, cyclists, and organizers.

Wednesday, Spanish newspaper AS reported that the heads of state agreed in a Tuesday meeting in Mallorca, Spain, to keep team sizes unchanged for 2017.

“No,” Vegni told VeloNews when asked if they discussed the issue or made a decision on Tuesday.

“What we had in Mallorca was only the UCI seminar for the WorldTour teams. It was just between the UCI, the WorldTour teams, and the WorldTour races.

“We just had a face-to-face like every year, but there were no decisions.

“We spoke of other things. Other issues take front stage with many new WorldTour races added to the calendar and the 2017 season starting soon.”

Race director Stefano Allocchio represented RCS Sport at the UCI’s WorldTour seminar.

RCS Sport and the other organizers want change after an année noire that saw Antoine Demoitié (Wanty – Groupe Gobert) die in a Gent-Wevelgem crash and Stig Broeckx (Lotto – Soudal) suffer brain damage in another.

If they cut teams by one, the grand tours would welcome 176 instead of 198 cyclists. A race like Gent-Wevelgem would see 175 instead of 200.

Such a rule change would affect not only the races of the big three organizers.

“If [UCI and PCC agrees to the change], they will do it for all races,” added Vegni. “Us three can decide for our races, but the UCI won’t make rules just for our races and not for the others. It’ll be an all or nothing decision.”

The reduction appears destined for 2018 or at least delayed beyond the start of the first big race of 2017, the Tour Down Under on January 14.

Teams criticized the proposal, or at least the timing of it so close to the start of the new season. Trek – Segafredo boss Luca Guercilena said, “A one-year time window is more realistic. It is too late now, because we are starting next week with training camps.”

Quick-Step Floors manager Patrick Lefevere explained that 100 cyclists could be unemployed by 2018 if the change goes through because the teams would need to hire fewer riders. Vegni said in a previous interview that would not be the case with such a busy calendar where WorldTour races overlap several times in the year.

Cycling’s stakeholders must still confront the issue head-on.

“The WorldTour is about to start, and there are many issues to sort out first before of team sizes. It wasn’t a theme in Mallorca,” Vegni said today.

“Nothing has changed since two weeks ago when we sent out our e-mails. We think the change is right and needed, but maybe they are going to say we lack time.

“There was no official communication Tuesday. Maybe they will do so for 2017, maybe for 2018, or maybe not at all.”