Rohan Dennis has weighed in on the controversial decision to reduce Grand Tour team sizes from nine to eight riders in 2017, saying it might actually be counterintuitive to more exciting racing.
Sophie Smith

Cycling Central
3 Dec 2016 - 5:17 AM 

Organisers of the Giro d’Italia, Tour de France and Vuelta a España have jointly announced the reduction that is focussed on safety but partly designed to challenge the dominance of big budget teams at their events and so enhance entertainment.

“It can have a positive effect on the race in the fact it could make it more exciting, but it could also make it more boring,” Dennis told Cycling Central. “People will be more inclined to keep their energy in reserve as they’ve got one less guy.

“It all depends on the mentality of the team and the way they race.”

Grand Tour organisers ASO and RCS, in conjunction with Flanders Classics, publicised the reform in a joint statement earlier this week, to the apparent surprise of the UCI and objection of some WorldTour team managers. The statement also advised squads for the collective’s other races would be cut from eight to seven.

The UCI in its own statement a day later effectively denounced the position of the stakeholders, clarifying no such changes were planned for 2017 with its Professional Cycling Council (PCC) having the last word as to regulations.

“It does open it up in the sense...Sky, for example, they do ride the front and they’ve got one less guy to ride for three weeks, which makes a huge difference. It will also help out the smaller teams,” Dennis said. “But you would have to be very specific about what you’re going there [to Grand Tours] for.”

Sky in all of its four Tour de France victories has designed a squad solely around one yellow jersey hopeful, an effective strategy that the team size reforms, Dennis has said, may help and not hinder.

“In a way makes it easier to have a team fully committed to one objective, you can’t have three guys going for stage wins, or the sprints, and then have one guy going for GC and expect to win,” the Australian time trial champion added.

“It makes it a lot more cut-throat in that sense that you go there for one thing or the other. Whereas now you somewhat get away with maybe having one or two guys going for a couple of stage wins and still be up there for GC.”

The move if ratified could impact on Dennis’s 2017 plans given the Tour de France stage winner has tentatively asked his BMC Racing team for a free role at the Giro d’Italia next year.

“I’m not against it but I’m not really for the timing that they [the International Association of Cycling Race Organisers] have done it,” he said. “A lot of teams have put in plans at least in pencil, some in pen, and they should have given the teams more warning.”

Reforms and new regulations the PCC has approved are due to be released before the 6-7 December UCI WorldTour seminar in Spain. There has been no further indication as to whether it will ratify the team size reductions publicised by stakeholders.