In 2012, the elite men's teams will be limited to a maximum six riders for the Nature Valley Grand Prix, one of only five races on the USA Cycling National Racing Calendar for men.
The race's Executive Director David LaPorte said the decision was made after consulting with USA Cycling Managing Director of National Events Micah Rice, who says fielding smaller squads offers benefits for both the race and the teams.
"The races will be more dynamic and exciting, providing a more compelling experience for the spectators," De LaPorte told Cyclingnews. "That builds the fan base, which is our top priority. More fans means more sponsors which means more and better teams and events. That's the very definition of growth."
Rice supported the idea, saying in addition to improvements in race quality, the limits will be good for the teams. "Smaller team sizes will also reduce the travel costs for the teams, a factor that played a big role in the development of the 2012 USA Cycling National Racing Calendar (NRC) and National Criterium Calendar (NCC)," Rice said in a race press release.
The change was welcomed by some domestic team managers, including Jamis-Sutter Home director Sebastian Alexandre. "Reducing the team size will make the racing even more exciting for the fans. For the teams, it will be fun racing, that is for sure. With smaller squads, the teams and riders will have to carefully plan their race strategies and the overall lead could change after every stage. It will be a really big show."
LaPorte said the reduced team size will only apply to men's teams. The women's race will continue to have a maximum team size of eight.
"Team size has not been a factor in the women's race," LaPorte said. "The last time the overall winner was on a full team of eight was 2006. If we reduced the women's maximum team size, all we'd be doing is forcing them to leave their development riders at home. One of our goals is to build women's racing and excluding their future stars would have the opposite effect."
The 2012 edition of the Nature Valley Grand Prix will take place June 13-17.