The WorldTour calendar released by the UCI for 2017 is unacceptable. Interestingly, they haven’t officially announced the participation rules. It’s just impossible for a team of 30 riders to take part in all the 37 races of the new series.
We – the teams – had a meeting with the governing body before the start of the Tour de France. Everyone, including teams like BMC and Sky, said they wouldn’t be able to take part in so many races. There was a proposal of a draft system that would enable all WorldTour races to secure a minimum of 12 ProTeams, with compulsory participation for all ProTeams in the three Grand Tours and the five Monuments. It suited everyone, teams and organizers. Now we hear that only the new races won’t be mandatory but still, ten teams out of seventeen will have to take part. It’s simply impossible.
The calendar doesn’t make any sense, with three WorldTour events clashing one week after the Tour de France: San Sebastian, RideLondon and the Tour de Pologne. We’d need forty riders to do it, but budgets can’t be increased just like this in a few weeks. There’s no way I’ll skip some races in my country! Sponsors in cycling need their local exposure too and it’s part of our duty to support local races as well. Looking at the calendar, I'm very surprised and disappointed that Paris-Tours seemingly isn't considered a great race. Teams haven’t been consulted before this calendar was established and there’ll be kind of a revolution. I expect some talks to take place in Rio during the Olympic Games.
In the past two years we’ve cooperated with the University of Lausanne to improve the organization of teams and to take all possible measures to avoid doping. Among the many recommendations was that a maximum of 80 days of racing per year for each rider should be imposed. The cost of the study was €350,000. We in the cycling community have all contributed and now, for some obscure political reasons, we should forget what the scientists have come up with? Certainly not!
The improvements in running of teams have some downsides, though. In the mind of many, training has become more important than racing. Riders sometimes are reluctant to take part in a one-day race because it would disturb three days of training. But their job firstly consists of taking part in competitions: it’s odd that it gets occasionally forgotten…
It’s now time for the Olympic Games. I don’t have fond memories of my only participation, in Moscow in 1980. It was a three-day trip and we went straight back home after racing. No atmosphere. But this time around I’m looking forward to one race: I probably would have watched the mountain bike event anyway but with Peter Sagan in contention, it’s what excites me the most. This rider is simply exceptional. But I guess we all love what he does.