UCI reduces Grand Tour teams to 8 riders for 2018

WorldTour calendar remains 'substantially the same,' although FIFA World Cup forces Tour de France move

Grand Tour rosters will be reduced from nine to eight riders next season, and pelotons in all UCI races will be limited to 176 riders as part of changes approved Thursday by the governing body's Professional Cycling Council (PCC).

The PCC also agreed to leave the WorldTour calendar "substantially unchanged," with the Tour of Qatar falling off the list and the Tour of Turkey moving to October. The Abu Dhabi Tour will expand to five days, the UCI announced the changes on its website.

Other announcements included a change of dates for the Tour de France in order to avoid conflicts with the 2018 FIFA World Cup. The race will move back one week from the original dates, which will affect other races in the second half of the calendar. The full UCI men's road calendar, including races at .HC, .1 and .2 levels, will be published in September.

The PCC considered safety issues when deciding to reduce the size of team rosters and pelotons. The issue arose last year when Amaury Sports Organisation (ASO), which owns the Tour de France and co-runs the Vuelta a España, came together with Giro d'Italia owners RCS Sport and Belgian one-day organisers Flanders Classics to agree to limit the number of riders teams can field in races.

The organisers proposed limiting Grand Tour teams to eight riders and other events to seven, but the UCI balked at the proposal, telling all three groups that they could not independently change cycling's rules. The PPC's decision today makes the Grand Tour proposal official.

Safety was also the driving force behind a test at the Tour de Suisse that revised the protocol for the calculation of time gaps for a split in stages expected to have bunch sprint finishes to three seconds rather than one.

The revision is "intended to address the issue of increased stress and risk during Grand Tour bunch sprints, while retaining the sporting integrity of the sprint and stage," according to the UCI statement about the changes.

The revised protocol will be tested again at the Tour de France next month.

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