Livin' the Dream

Livin' the Dream

About Me

I am a sophomore at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, VA, majoring in journalism. My passion is cycling. I am a category 4 bike racer and my absolute dream would be to turn pro one day. My more realistic goal is to become a journalist for the sport of cycling and eventually move on to become a broadcaster for the sport.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Analysis: Professional Cycling Changing Part 1

This is the first installment of a two part series on how professional cycling will be changing drastically in the coming years.

            There was a buzz heading into December as everyone anticipated the release of the preliminary report of the reforms that are set to change how the professional cycling season looks. The Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI), cycling’s governing body, created a Reform Commission to work on changing the calendar of professional cycling in order to make the sport more “entertaining.” This massive transformation, which focuses on the top tier of the sport, the World Tour (WT), is set to take place in time for the 2017 season, though all we have are a bunch of rumors, as the UCI has not definitively confirmed anything. Recently, the President of the UCI, Brian Cookson, elaborated that the process is taking longer than expected. That does not sound promising and as the 2015 season looks to get underway next month, is it too late for these changes to be implemented in time for the 2017 season and are all of them necessary?


Here are the big changes expected as a result of the reforms, this not all of them, but the big ones. First, the number of riders allowed per team will be drastically reduced, creating a more “elite” peloton at the top end of the sport. The current number of riders allowed per WT team is 30 riders. The rumor mill is spilling out that 22 riders per team will be allowed after the reforms go into affect. As predicted the quite reduced number has received much push back from the top teams. Teams at the Pro Continental and Continental could see maximum rosters reduced to less than 20 riders. Secondly, the UCI would reduce the number of WT race days to 120 days, from roughly 150 WT race days this year. The thinking is that riders would be fresher throughout the season creating more exciting racing. With the reduced number of race days the goal is to make sure no WT races overlap (i.e. Tirreno-Adriatico and Paris-Nice overlap in March). Lastly, the number of teams in the top tier of the sport would be reduced to 16 (only 17 teams will make up WT this year, so this change will likely have no real affect).

Analysis of Changes

            It is much too late for the proposed reforms to be put into affect during the 2017 season. With a possible reduction of 22 riders per team, many people will be out of work in a heartbeat. The UCI should have begun for the 2015 season slowly reducing the number of riders allowed per team to reduce the influx of unemployed cyclists at the end of the 2016 season. Furthermore, Pro Continental and Continental teams could see even less riders allowed per team.

Secondly, I understand the entertainment standpoint of having the best riders compete against each other throughout the year, but the fact that they do not is what is so magical. It is exciting seeing the riders battle on the famous slopes of the Alps and Pyrenees and seeing them all of the time will make it loose its magic. Furthermore, it is impossible for a rider to hold top form throughout the year. They will select which races they do and target to win, just like they do now.

Lastly, the reforms drastically disadvantage the role of the domestigue. With the top cyclists supposedly going to head-to-head at most of the major stage races there will not be opportunities for domestigues to step into a leadership role, like their currently is will a long season. Also, with teams limited to only 22 riders, domestigues will be the first riders cut, as teams want to keep the riders that win them races. The irony is that the riders that will be kept cannot win without the domestigues.

            These next two seasons are going to be very intriguing as professional cycling is finally stepping into the 21st century. The reforms set to go into effect in the 2017 season are all ill advised. The problem is not the way the season is setup or how many race days there are. The problem is that cycling is “boring” too much of the public. The UCI clearly does not see this and that is why Velon, a group made up of 11 World Tour teams with a focus on “making cycling better,” is great for the sport ( Look for Part 2 in the coming days as I focus Velon, what Velon is, and how Velon is working to drastically change professional cycling.

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