• The Abu Dhabi Tour is now a fixture on the cycling circuit. (Getty)Source: Getty
Stuck between the rock of expanding the sport globally and the hard place of dealing with entrenched stakeholders, the International Cycling Union (UCI) has opted to give everyone what they wanted, at least to 2018.
Cycling Central
10 Nov 2016 - 9:13 AM  UPDATED 10 Nov 2016 - 9:23 AM

Cycling's world governing body in tandem with the Professional Cycling Council (PCC) approved revised new WorldTour regulations which will ensure team numbers stay at 18 until 2018.

“We are pleased that a new set of UCI WorldTour regulations have been agreed," said UCI president Brian Cookson.

"We welcome the robust changes which bring about clearer guidelines in relation to team licensing and provide greater financial stability for UCI WorldTeams, as well as expanding the series globally in a sustainable manner.”

The UCI had intended to reduce with immediate effect the number of WorldTour teams to 17, but that option became unpalatable with Dimension Data likely to lose its place while newcomers like Bahrain-Merida (Vincenzo Nibali) and Bora-Hansgrohe (Peter Sagan) win places on the strength of the points held by its rider acquisitions.

Relegating Dimension Data to the second tier when it has riders like Mark Cavendish, Edvald Boasson Hagan, Steve Cummings and Daniel Teklehaimanot on its roster would be a public relations nightmare for the UCI.

The South African based outfit perfectly represents the globalisation efforts of the UCI and is a standard bearer for how the sport could develop outside of its European strongholds.

It could potentially miss selection for the big WorldTour events under the new rules. Recognising this the UCI and PCC delayed implementing its plans to gave teams time to prepare for a later cull.

"Since the commencement of the UCI WorldTeam registration process for 2017, it has become clear that there are 18 candidates for UCI WorldTeam licences. With this in mind, the PCC has decided that for the 2017 and 2018 seasons, a maximum of 18 UCI WorldTeam licences may be issued," the UCI said in a statement.

"In the medium term, the ambition is to strengthen the competitiveness of elite level and therefore to set the maximum number of UCI WorldTeams to 17 in 2019 and 16 from 2020 onwards, with a working group tasked to study this and a number of other topics.

The UCI had also expanded the number of WorldTour events which teams were compelled to enter, but the financial burden of running for a fully global calendar proved unworkable, so participation became voluntary.

"The PCC debated further participation rules for events newly entering the 2017 UCI WorldTour calendar and agreed that those events should invite all UCI WorldTeams but participation would be voluntary," the UCI said.

The UCI also moved to simplify the rankings system with a focus on a single points scale.