The semi-autonomous Professional Cycling Council of the UCI, the sport’s world governing body, under David Lappartient, its new president, has agreed to begin testing a planned radical shake-up of road cycling’s top-tier annual UCI WorldTour.
Ten ProTour teams will voluntarily test the changes from the 2015 season, with the rest following suit in 2016 before full implementation in 2017.
The UCI said: “These two seasons of experience will enable the final content of the terms of reference to be established. The teams will be able to use this period to adapt to the new rules before they become an obligation.”
The UCI proposes splitting teams into three divisions, with the top division further divided into a group of 16 teams that would compete in 120 days of racing a year and a group of eight teams competing in 50 days of racing a year.
It said: “From 2015, the name UCI ProTeam will be replaced by UCI WorldTeam while awaiting a permanent name from 2017.”
The teams will also have to follow rules “that aim to change the culture of professional cycling in order to guarantee it is ethical. In particular, it is a question of obligations concerning the organisation of teams (composition and distribution of tasks), the preparation of riders (workload and care provided) as well as the employment and the certification of team personnel.”
The top tier is presently composed of 18 teams, with up to 30 riders, but the 16 teams in the new top group would be limited to a maximum of 22 riders. Only these 16 top teams (decided, as now, by a range of criteria, including administrative, financial, ethical and sporting ones) would be sure of gaining entry to the Tour de France, the sport’s blue-riband event.
The top group’s 120 days would comprise the sport’s biggest races, including the three so-called ‘Grand Tours’ (the Tour de France, Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a Espana), along with major stage races, classics and what the UCI refers to as “promising emerging events.”
The WorldTour presently comprises about 150 days of racing, so the reduction is set to involve cuts in the length of some existing races, for example week-long stage races being reduced to five days, as well as ditching some races, it is reported.
The second group of eight teams in the top division would compete in 50 days of racing a year, although those races have not yet been identified.