Worldtour races are getting smaller. For 2018, the UCI is restricting team sizes to eight in Grand Tours and seven for smaller races. It’s all in the name of safety, but how will it affect the riders and race tactics? And will it put an end to the dominan
The young Austrian pro rider, Lukas Pöstlberger, was thawing out in his hotel room after a cold and snowy day at the Tour de Romandie last April when there was a knock at the door. In walked his Bora-hansgrohe sports director with some news: ‘You’re riding the Giro d’italia.’
It started in eight days, but Pöstlberger, who had never ridden a Grand Tour before, was thrilled. ‘It was like a present from the team,’ he says now.
The next week was a blur as he returned home, packed his bags and left for Sardinia. His mother went too. When he was 13 years old he had told her that one day he would ride a Grand Tour, and she said that if he did, she would go in support. Despite the late notice, she got time off from her job and left for Sardinia in the family campervan.
She had the perfect vantage point too, 100 metres before the line, as the peloton swept into Olbia at the end of Stage 1. They jockeyed for position as they entered the town’s narrow, twisting streets, and on one tight corner, as some touched their brakes, one rider emerged a length clear: Pöstlberger.
He had been near the front to help his team’s sprinter, Sam Bennett, but Bennett’s instruction was clear: ‘Go for it!’
Glancing under his arm, that’s exactly what Pöstlberger did, and somehow he held on to cross the line alone for the win. Thus, the last name on the start sheet for the 100th Giro claimed the race’s first pink jersey.
Had it been this year, however, Pöstlberger would almost certainly not have been there to seize that opportunity in the first place. That’s because for the 2018 season, team sizes in the three Grand Tours have been reduced from nine to eight, and in the Classics from eight to seven, ostensibly for safety reasons though many suspect that it is really an effort to loosen the Team Sky stranglehold on the Tour de France.
Cut down to size
The case of Pöstlberger might seem like a quirky footnote, but it’s more than that. A young rider of promise, he was unproven before his surprise Giro success, and he