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UCI approves reforms for men’s pro cycling

The UCI announced new steps Tuesday in its often-heated reform effort of men’s professional road racing that will be in place by the 2017 season.

Following two years of sometimes rancorous discussions between the major teams, organizers, and the UCI, Tuesday’s announcement is seen an important breakthrough in the ongoing negotiations to create a new framework for professional men’s road racing moving forward. While Tuesday’s announcement highlighted important procedural changes, it appears that some of the more controversial ideas that were creating divisions among stakeholders — such as shortening the length of grand tours or the introduction of a relegation system for struggling teams — are off the table.

The UCI’s Management Committee announced four key changes Tuesday: The governing body will alter its WorldTeam licensing requirements, introduce stricter anti-doping protocols, expand the WorldTour calendar, and reform the rankings system.

“These are important changes that will help to further enhance men’s professional road cycling and aid its global growth and development,” said UCI president Brian Cookson. “I would like to thank all stakeholders for their positive and constructive approach to this reform process. I believe that the measures announced today will help to bring greater stability and growth to men’s professional road cycling while also opening the door to greater technological innovation and fan engagement.”

The key points:

1. Three-year licenses will be granted to a maximum of 18 UCI WorldTeams for the 2017-2019 seasons. With longer-running licenses, the UCI hopes this will encourage investment and offer increased stability in team structures. Licenses will be granted based on ethical, financial, sporting, administrative, and organizational criteria.

2. Those 18 teams will have to adhere to mandatory anti-doping protocols, beginning in 2017. Termed “Cahier des Charges” by the UCI, 10 rules will aim to ensure that all riders are properly supported and supervised. The UCI didn’t specific what those 10 requirements would be, but it said that the system was successfully trialed in 2014.

3. As for the calendar, the UCI announced that a limited number of new races will be added to the UCI WorldTour, starting in 2017, with an application process opening later in 2015. Current rules will be maintained for existing UCI WorldTour events, but new rules will be set for new races. What races? It’s likely that some and perhaps all of the races in the Middle East could be added, and maybe additional events in North America.

4. The UCI also announced that individual men’s rankings will become universal across all events from the top to the third tier, largely reverting to a ranking system that was in place before the initial ProTour efforts began more than a decade ago. The nations rankings will also be universal based on the individual rankings of the top-eight riders from each country. The UCI WorldTeams Rankings will be based on UCI WorldTour events only, while the second-tier team rankings will be based on UCI WorldTour and second-tier events. Details of the reformed system will be finalized in advance of the 2016 season. The UCI may also consider individual specialist rankings for the top climber, top sprinter, top one-day rider, and top stage racer.