Procycling - - Prologue - Edward Pickering is hav­ing a month off as edi­tor of Pro­cy­cling mag­a­zine

It looks like we’ll have teams of nine at the Grand Tours and eight at the Clas­sics in 2017, af­ter the or­gan­is­ers’ late and clumsy at­tempt to re­duce num­bers was protested by teams and over­ruled by the UCI. The de­ci­sion was an­nounced in late Novem­ber, af­ter most teams had fi­nalised their ros­ters and planned their cal­en­dars. It isn’t sur­pris­ing it went down badly.

It’s a shame it was so han­dled so badly, be­cause the fall­out be­came po­lit­i­cal and so an in­ter­est­ing de­bate – whether fewer rid­ers would be a good idea – was lost in the noise.

The idea is that hav­ing fewer rid­ers per team should make races safer. Rid­ers will still take risks and en­counter bad luck but a less crowded road is a safer road.

The more sub­jec­tive ar­gu­ment is that it will make races more ex­cit­ing. It’s a com­pelling one: I’m im­pressed by Sky’s abil­ity to lock down the Tour de France but don’t find it ex­cit­ing. I like the Tour of Bri­tain be­cause its six-rider teams en­sure a high level of un­pre­dictabil­ity. How­ever, the Tour isn’t sud­denly go­ing to ex­plode into an­ar­chy be­cause the teams have eight rid­ers. I’ve seen both bril­liant and bor­ing rac­ing with nine-rider teams, so it’s not an ex­act science. The 1986 Tour, one of the best ever, had 10-rider teams, as all Tours had since 1974. Be­fore that, there were a cou­ple of years with 11-rider teams, and only 132 rid­ers in to­tal. Rid­ers fin­ish Grand Tours on their knees: smaller teams might make that worse and flat­ten the ac­tion.

Nev­er­the­less, I think it’s worth a try. It just has to be planned with the teams, and an­nounced a lot ear­lier than Novem­ber.

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