The UCI today without fanfare published sweeping changes to its WorldTour regulations that roll back many of the reforms to the selection of the WorldTour teams and to the race calendar.
With the changes, the UCI created a catch 22 for new races on the WorldTour calendar. While the rules allow for the desired three-year licences that were part of the reforms, changes introduced today require events to maintain 10 WorldTour teams on the start line, despite the WorldTour team participation being entirely voluntary.
The UCI's new rules at the same time remove incentives for WorldTour teams to compete in the new races by basing the team rankings that are used to determine WorldTour registration for the next season only on events which were on the WorldTour in 2016.
The changes were introduced just weeks before the first new WorldTour event, the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race which, together with the Abu Dhabi Tour, Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, Strade Bianche, Dwars door Vlaanderen, the Tour of Turkey, Rund um den Finanzplatz Eschborn - Frankfurt, the Amgen Tour of California, Prudential RideLondon & Surrey Classic and the new Chinese race Gree – Tour of Guangxi make up the batch of new WorldTour races.
Keeping 10 WorldTour teams is less of a problem for long-standing events like Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Dwars door Vlaanderen, but will be a burden for far-flung events like Tour of Turkey which attracted just two WorldTour teams last year, and the newest race, the Tour of Guangxi.
The participation rules for the WorldTour were also amended to include invited Pro Continental teams and national team of the organising country, but with the caveat that the events allowing national teams would be determined by the Pro Cycling Council.
There has been no change allowing Continental teams to participate in WorldTour races, as was a major desire expressed by North American teams hoping to compete at the Tour of California.
The new regulations also put more of a burden on the WorldTour races to get the top teams to show up. All WorldTour teams are required to participate in the historic WorldTour races, but for the new events, racing is voluntary.
However, the races are required under the rules to invite all of the WorldTour teams, and only fill in the remaining spots after receiving responses from the WorldTour teams. If races cannot attract 10 WorldTour teams they risk losing their place in the calendar.
"Events registered on the UCI WorldTour calendar for the first time in 2017 and thereafter shall ensure the participation of a minimum of 10 UCI WorldTeams in their events," the rules now state. "In case of failure by one of these events to ensure the participation of 10 UCI WorldTeams during two consecutive editions, the registration of the said event shall be withdrawn from the UCI WorldTour calendar."
Major changes to UCI WorldTour rules
- Licences only last through end of 2018
- For 2019 lowest rank team is out unless only 16 applicants
- Added organisational standards to licence review including medical certificates for doctors and more.
- Team rankings for the next season WorldTour only consider 'historic' WorldTour races (on 2016 WT calendar)
- Team rankings will include Pro Continental signing's points from historic WT races
- PCC will decide how WT teams are chosen from 2019.
- New WorldTour races must maintain at least 10 WT teams each year or risk being dropped from the calendar.
- All WorldTour teams must be invited to all WT races, but aren't obliged to race new events.
More requirements for team registration
The UCI was forced to come to an accord with the ASO after the Tour de France organisers threatened to withdraw their races from the World Tour, and has now changed its rules to allow for the reduction in the number of registered teams.
The latest batch of edits temporarily retreats from the three-year licences which were a cornerstone of the WorldTour reforms in order to reduce the total number of teams in the top tier.
Teams can take some comfort in the regulation that specifies "For the 2018 season, all UCI WorldTeams applying for UCI WorldTeam status shall be considered to have satisfied the sporting criterion" - meaning they will not have to duke it out in the team rankings, but their futures in the WorldTour will no longer be guaranteed beyond 2018.
WorldTour licences granted at the end of 2016 will only be valid for two years, and for those granted at the end of this season, they will last only through the end of 2018.
The UCI rules state that the lowest-ranked team applying for WorldTour status for the 2019 and subsequent seasons will not be considered to have met sporting criteria for the licence, unless there are only 16 teams applying.
The UCI WorldTour individual rankings will now only take into account events which were registered on the 2016 UCI WorldTour calendar, but will include points from riders signed from UCI Professional Continental Teams in those races.
The UCI made a major change late last year to the WorldTour team rankings, and now considers the points of all riders in the individual WorldTour rankings.
The change was meant to "encourage better performances from the whole team because results achieved by all a team’s riders will be taken into account".
However, for any new teams applying for WorldTour status in 2018, only the top five riders in the individual rankings will be considered, making it far more difficult for any Pro Continental team to move up to the WorldTour.
In addition to changes to the rankings, the UCI also requires ethical, financial and administrative standards. For 2017 and beyond they have added a category of "organisational" criteria that include specifications similar to what the Astana team was required to meet under the ISSUL audit in 2015, and that were tested by several other teams in 2015.
Teams must now supply a full list of riders and other staff or doctors associated with the team, provide internal and medical rules, an organisational chart, methods for drawing up riders' training plans, communication procedures and a full CV, medical diploma and certificate of good standing for team doctors.
For the 2019 and beyond, the Professional Cycling Council will establish a system through which candidates for UCI WorldTeam status will be ranked.
As an exception, the duration of the licences issued at the end of the 2016 season shall be valid for two calendar years. In addition, any licence issued at the end of the 2017 season shall be valid for one calendar year only.