Pro riders criticise Lappartient over race reform ideas

'This is the biggest joke I've ever seen' says Willie Smit

Several pro riders have publicly criticised David Lappartient after the UCI President set out his desire to loosen Team Sky's stranglehold on the Tour de France.

The British team won their sixth title in seven years in July through Geraint Thomas, with Chris Froome also finishing on the podium. The pair were well supported throughout as their teammates once again dictated proceedings in the mountains.

"They win, and they'd be wrong to do otherwise, but the public sees things differently, they want a show. Sky are like a football team that plays very well but without exciting its fans," said Lappartient.

"When the viewer sees eight riders of the team dictating the pace and locking down the race, they quickly change channels to watch a soap opera. The ball is in our court, it's up to the UCI to make sure that its races are attractive."

Lappartient called for a version of financial fair play, capping the payroll budget of teams in order to spread the best riders more evenly through the peloton, and also for team sizes in Grand Tours to be further reduced to six riders. He also questioned whether banning race radios and power metres could help make the racing, as he sees it, more attractive.

Lappartient was widely criticised for his comments, with several pro riders speaking out publicly on social media platforms.

"This is the biggest joke I've ever seen in cycling," wrote Katusha-Alpecin's Willie Smit, seemingly then making reference to the UCI President's public war of words with Sky manager Dave Brailsford. 

"Focus on making our sport a better place and create sustainability so that it benefits the sport & the people that have sacrificed so much for it, instead of having a personal feud!"

Lotto Soudal's Thomas De Gendt was rather more sardonic in his take.

"Only 65km stages, no training camps allowed, no dinners, no feedzones, only 2 bottles per day, max 2000 calories per day. Cyclists can't draft for longer than 20 seconds. Only 4 gears allowed. No brakes, F1 starts every day and pepper spray before each start."

Replying to De Gendt, Team Sky's Michal Kwiatkowski, a former UCI world champion, questioned whether Lappartient had a problem with dominance per se, or rather with Team Sky.

"Sagan dominance = exciting. Quick-Step classics dominance = exciting. BMC TTT dominance = exciting. Sky Grand Tours dominance = boring, so let's turn cycling upside down," he wrote.

"RCS does not promote Milan-San Remo through what they should do with first 250km of boring cycling. Instead they talk and promote the best things of this event and what's great in cycling."

UAE Team Emirates' Dan Martin, who was awarded the 'super combativity' prize at the Tour de France for his relentless attacking, also joined the debate. The Irishman suggested the UCI should do more to help those at the bottom, rather than restrict those at the top.

"Surely it would make more sense to help smaller budget teams get more money than to restrict income into the sport," he said. "Compared to football and formula 1 cycling is already a poor relation. More start money to smaller teams perhaps?"

RUNNING WITH WOLVES from Cyclingnews Films on Vimeo.

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