• Will smaller team numbers in races lead to more safety and exciting racing? (Getty)Source: Getty
In a surprise announcement the big players in professional cycling have agreed to a long argued for change to team rider numbers in races.
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Cycling Central
26 Nov 2016 - 7:32 AM  UPDATED 26 Nov 2016 - 7:52 AM

The sport has been inching toward a number of substantive changes over the past few years as it seeks to reinvent itself and create a more sustainable business model for events and teams.

Tour de France organisers ASO, RCS Sport (The Giro d'Italia), Flanders Classics (Tour of Flanders) took the decision to reduce the number of riders per team starting in 2017.

Between them, the three organisations own 17 of the 37 World Tour races, including the top one-day classics.

The number of riders per team will decrease from nine to eight in the three Grand Tours and from eight to seven at other events.

The decision was taken in order to improve the safety of the riders who ply their trade on roads equipped with an increasing amount of street furniture.

The second factor was to reduce the dominance of a single team in races (lets call it the Team Sky rule) and to hopefully encourage more open racing.

It will be interesting to see the reaction to this move by other stakeholders and importantly the teams themselves. This change may have a number of unforeseen consequences, including a future reduction in employment prospects for riders.

Jonathan Vaughters, the boss of Cannondale-Drapac, immediately voiced his displeasure at the timing and effect of the mooted change.

"I don't disagree with the concept of smaller teams," he said on Twitter. "But letting us know after our planning and rosters are well in motion is not considerate."

The International Cycling Union is also attempting to reduce the number of WorldTour teams, but that has proved a more difficult challenge and has been delayed to 2018 and beyond.

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