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UCI teams, races reach agreement on WorldTour calendar

Cycling’s major players appear to have brokered a compromise deal over long-running differences for 2017 calendar reforms.

A two-day meeting in Barcelona, which included representatives from cycling’s major teams and races as well as the UCI and riders’ representatives, found common ground and avoided a possible showdown between the sport’s major stakeholders.

According to a statement released Tuesday by the UCI, the group focused on what was described as “four guiding principles” of “credibility, globalization, engaging fans, and strengthening the pyramid.”

Based on the press release alone, it was difficult to get a complete picture of what happened during the two days of talks, but the latest round of negotiations appears to placate concerns of major race organizers, who last month largely rebelled against an earlier outline of calendar reform set to be introduced in 2017.

“This reform respects existing rights, ensures stability for organizers and teams, and encourages stakeholders to work together, ultimately reinforcing the credibility and integrity of cycling,” UCI president Brian Cookson said in a statement. “I am pleased with the level of collaboration that has been demonstrated over the past two years, and I am now looking forward to the implementation of these changes in the same spirit.”

It appears the existing WorldTour calendar will remain intact, with a calendar running from the Santos Tour Down Under in January to the Giro di Lombardia in early October. The latest round of talks includes three-year licenses from 2017-2019 for existing WorldTour events, with the possibility to expand the calendar with new events from existing second-tier calendars, such as the European or American schedules.

“The existing calendar will be used as a base, but with the possibility of strategic growth to enhance the season,” the statement read. “Greater stability will be achieved by registering existing UCI WorldTour events for an initial three-year period (2017 to 2019). Events from the tier below will be able to apply to join the UCI WorldTour.”

A new committee, called the Professional Calendar Working Group, will be administered by the UCI and will include two representatives each from the AIGCP (teams) and AIOCC (event organizers), plus one observer representing the riders.

That confirms a retreat from earlier proposals of reducing the WorldTour calendar to fewer events and implementing a more streamlined calendar. There was also no reference to another plan recently promoted by race organizers to reduce the number of riders during major stage races from nine to eight.

Also, the latest agreement reconfirmed a previous ruling to allow for three-year WorldTour licenses to run from 2017-2019 for 18 top-level teams.

“I am convinced that this reform will enable us to showcase the best of men’s professional road racing,” Cookson said in a statement. “Road cycling’s strengths lie in its variety, its season-long narrative, its accessibility to fans and its global nature. The UCI WorldTour needs to embrace these strengths and effectively promote them while celebrating the richness of the season and the performances of its actors.”