In a joint announcement Friday, Tour de France and Vuelta a España organizer ASO, along with Giro d’Italia organizer RCS Sport, said they will reduce the number of riders allowed per team at major races. For the three grand tours, teams will go from nine riders to eight. Other major races, such as Ronde van Vlaanderen, which is organized by Flanders Classics, will reduce team sizes by one, down to seven riders each.
The written statement from the General Assembly of the International Association of Cycling Race Organizers (AIOCC) cited two major reasons for the change: “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.”
The decision immediately drew criticism on Twitter from Cannondale – Drapac boss Jonathan Vaughters. It appears that the AIOCC did not provide any advance notice of the changes.
In July, BMC Racing director Jim Ochowicz called for a smaller peloton, but he was adamantly opposed to reducing team sizes.
“You cannot ride a grand tour [with] less than nine riders,” said Ochowicz. “You have some teams that are already down to six riders [in the 2016 Tour]. They’re on their knees right now. They may not even have five riders for the team time trial on Sunday. … Reduce the number of [race] days, and you can reduce the number of riders.”