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Stakeholders to square off for more reform negotiations

Cycling’s major stakeholders sit down again this week to try to hash out long-running differences over planned reform of elite men’s road racing.

Finding common ground between race organizers, teams, and cycling’s governing body hasn’t proven easy, and the UCI WorldTour Seminar will be the focus of a two-day meeting in Barcelona to try to hammer out something that’s agreeable to all parties.

In an op-ed piece posted Sunday on cyclingnews.com, UCI president Brian Cookson outlined his vision of what’s on the table in Barcelona. As he’s done since he was elected president in 2013, Cookson stressed consensus over confrontation.

“We know we can’t make the reforms that are needed on our own. We need the support of the organizers, the teams, and the riders,” Cookson wrote. “I think there is a pretty wide consensus among the stakeholders who will gather in Barcelona on Monday. Each stakeholder has their own interests and assets to protect, but we can all become stronger by working together.”

The latest sit-down comes on the heels of a dramatic snub by race organizers last month of a broad outline that was approved during meetings of the UCI Management Committee held during the Richmond road world cycling championships.

In September, a blueprint for the 2017-2019 seasons was adopted, which included three-year licenses for WorldTour teams. It was largely viewed as a compromise document, with some of the most controversial elements off the table, including a major reduction of the international calendar, redistribution of TV rights, or a delegation and promotion system for teams.

Race organizers, however, voted 77-6 in a meeting in Hamburg, Germany, last month to reject that document. The international association of race organizers (AIOCC) also backed the controversial idea of reducing the number of riders per team in grand tour from nine to eight, something organizers say will improve safety in the peloton.

There was no immediate comment from ASO, owners of the Tour de France and other major races, but Vuelta a España director Javier Guillén said organizers wanted more input on the reform effort.

“The motion reveals that no one is in agreement with the reform as it is outlined in the latest document, and calls for the UCI to reopen negotiations,” Guillén told the Spanish sports daily Marca. “The organizers are not looking for a war, but rather dialogue. I don’t know if there’s a rush, but instead of installing something that is worse, maybe it’s better to stay with what we have.”