Belgian National coach José De Cauwer is OK with new World Championships rules, but not with an increase in 'exotic riders'. The new rules that have been set by the UCI for the World Championships aren't to everyone's liking, even though they are aimed at promoting the globalisation of cycling, which has always been a traditional European sport. Whereas established cycling countries like Italy, France, Belgium, and Australia could send 12 riders to the World's in previous years, they are now limited to a nine man delegation. The whole of Europe has to shrink its squads, while other less successful cycling countries, like Brazil and Burkina Faso, can send more riders.
José De Cauwer is not contesting the new rule, but he raises the question about how this could possibly enhance the quality of the World Championships competition. Last year only 33 non-European riders took the start, this year there will be 65 in Madrid.
"In essence it doesn't make that big of a difference," De Cauwer explained in Het Nieuwsblad. "The most dominant cycling nations will have an equal amount of riders in the race. Twelve against twelve, or nine against nine: it doesn't bother me. I can't speculate on riders who 'could be' good though. No, they simply have to be good. Last year, I picked Van Huffel and Monfort because the parcours seemed to be suiting their abilities and because the World Championships were a great race for their development. That, I can't allow myself to do in Madrid.
"My colleague Ballerini says that he has to leave three good riders at home now; those are just the riders which are great to control the first part of the race. He's right about that. He will take Bettini and Di Luca for that. Not to help Petacchi directly but to fill the holes in the defence. That's why it's now up to us to glue a good Nuyens to the wheel of Di Luca and a strong Gilbert to that of Bettini. Yes, it will be different racing. The most economical as possible. And we'll be praying that we don't lose important players due to stupid bad luck. There's no spare men as it is."
De Cauwer argued that throwing relatively inexperienced riders into the World Championships is not the best way to develop them. "It's good to give those lesser cycling countries a hand, I admit that," he said. "But this is a bit over the top. Top riders like Arvesen and Schleck have to stay at home for guys that for sure will abandon the race after a handful of kilometres. Those riders from Burkina Faso for example; they had to be taken out of the race [an amateur kermis in Antwerp] after good 20 kilometres because they simply were too far behind. In the World Championships' race they can start all three of them. I have a lot of sympathy for those boys, but this can't be taken seriously any more.
"I don't see the purpose of it all either. The level needed to be raised they said. Pro Tour, professional approach, the best riders in the best races. Isn't that a goal for the World Championships then? It like that swimmer in the Olympics who barely made it to the other side of the pool. It's pure folklore. Less financially strong federations are almost forced to make unnecessary costs. What for? Let them prove first that they are worthy of a spot at the World's. Then I will receive them arms wide open."