NEW Brief­ing: team sizes in fo­cus

The ra­tio­nale and im­pact of smaller squads

Cycling Weekly - - Contents - James Shrub­sall

You prob­a­bly know by now that the UCI has agreed to cut team sizes from nine to eight in Grand Tours, and im­pose a max­i­mum of seven for other in­ter­na­tional races. The of­fi­cial rea­son for do­ing this is rider safety, al­though some in the sport be­lieve that it is at least partly to try and loosen Team Sky’s stran­gle­hold on the Tour de France, while oth­ers point to more ex­cit­ing rac­ing as a key ben­e­fit.

So much for the po­ten­tial ben­e­fits. But after the dust has set­tled on this new-look pelo­ton, what will the fall­out look like?

Will a lot of rid­ers lose their jobs? Yes, in a word. Be­cause while teams will only be re­duced by one rider in any given race, each team has dif­fer­ent squads for dif­fer­ent races, plus a va­ri­ety of back-up rid­ers, so it’s not a case of sim­ply re­duc­ing a World­tour ros­ter by one. Some teams will lose three or four, but then some will stay the same and some — Bahrain-merida and Trek-segafredo — are ac­tu­ally go­ing to be gain­ing a rider. With three teams still to con­firm their ros­ters for next year, the known net loss to the World­tour pelo­ton is 21 rid­ers, a num­ber that’s likely to in­crease.

So who’s for the high jump? Quick Step boss Pa­trick Le­fe­vere makes no bones about it: “If I take five rid­ers less it won’t be the big stars, it’ll be the old guys, the cheap guys,” he said. “Cheap isn’t a good word… but it won’t ac­tu­ally change my bud­get mas­sively.” It’s a sit­u­a­tion, he agrees, that means teams are less likely to take a chance on young tal­ent — a sen­ti­ment echoed by Can­non­dale-dra­pac boss Jonathan Vaugh­ters when he spoke to Cy­cling Weekly last week.

What about team staff? Will teams have to lose them too? Not all teams will lose staff mem­bers. Mo­vis­tar, for ex­am­ple, is launch­ing a women’s team for 2018 and has ac­tu­ally opted to add a staff mem­ber — a new me­chanic. But not all teams are in this po­si­tion, and there are ex­pected to be sig­nif­i­cant num­bers of staff made re­dun­dant. Le­fe­vere pre­dicts that for ev­ery five rid­ers lost, at least four staff will need to go. The num­ber of staff out of a job will be roughly equiv­a­lent to the num­ber of rid­ers — it’s a sig­nif­i­cant tally.

Surely though, it’s worth it for safer rac­ing? That’s hard to dis­agree with, but are there less painful ways to achieve greater safety? City-cen­tre race fin­ishes, with their road fur­ni­ture and traf­fic, are a prime can­di­date for im­prove­ment in the eyes of many, in­clud­ing Le­fe­vere and Gianni Bugno, pres­i­dent of the pro cy­clists’ as­so­ci­a­tion (CPA), who said: “This op­er­a­tion is only in­tended to re­duce the costs for the or­gan­is­ers and the teams. It’s a cost-cut­ting op­er­a­tion at the ex­pense of the rid­ers.”

Quick Step boss says it’s not just rid­ers who will lose their jobs

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