Newly elected UCI president David Lappartient said he would like to see Grand Tour teams reduced even more, but Dimension Data team principal Douglas Ryder is unconvinced.
According to Cycling News, Lappartient said he would like to see teams reduced to six riders in an effort to increase safety while encouraging exciting racing.
Grand Tour teams have already been reduced from nine to eight for next season and Ryder felt further reductions could have serious consequences.
“If you look at BMC, Quick-Step and Sunweb, they’ve reduced their rider rosters from 28 to 24, so from those three teams you have 12 riders who have lost contracts and now don’t have a chance of riding on the WorldTour.
“These riders get pushed from the first division to the second, and second division riders get pushed to the third because there simply aren’t that many teams,” he explained.
Despite Dimension Data only downscaling by one, Ryder theorised African cyclists were those who could feel the change the most as it would possibly be them left off the team sheet.
“At something like the Tour de France, you want to bring the best team and if teams reduce further and further, more than likely it’s the African riders on our team that would lose out and not get the opportunities.”
He acknowledged that Lappartient statement was still up for discussion, but felt it was something that would receive a great deal of pushback from the AIGCP, an organisation who look after the interests of many pro teams.
A further negative, said Ryder, was that teams would be forced to limit their racing strategies.
“Not every team is like Sky, who go all in for the overall win. There are teams that go in with a dual strategy to try go for the GC as well as stages.
“Already, just by reducing the teams, some are saying they can only go with a single strategy. They’d have to decide on one focus only.”
While Ryder agreed that smaller teams could potentially make for more exciting racing, he said it would limit opportunities for teams.
“Every team would go in with a single strategy and that would be sad.
“For example, if we went in with Louis Meintjes or Mark Cavendish, we could have taken both of them to something like the Tour de France, but, with a smaller team, we’d potentially have to leave one at home.
“That’s a big decision to make and puts a huge amount of pressure on the rest of the team because if something happens to that guy then you’ve lost your whole plan.”
Ryder added it was not simply numbers that controlled a race, it was also quality. On that point, he said teams with bigger budgets would always dominate.
“The teams with the strongest riders and biggest budgets will always have an abundance of riders at the front.
“Will there be less control in the racing? Yes, of course.
“Will that make it more exciting? Yes, it potentially could, it could make it very unpredictable too, but there isn’t one team who dominate a single race from start to finish anymore.”
He was also sceptical of whether a smaller peloton would be safer. He said because of the “transport evolution”, it was often the course that put riders in danger.
“It’s not that the riders are reckless, it’s that there’s more stuff in the way and the riders still go super fast. Time will tell, and reducing it by one rider might give an indication, but I’m not sure it will have an impact on safety.”