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UCI's Weak Rejoinder: Smaller Teams

CN's Gregor Brown caught this note from la Gazzetta that over in the saner wing of the UCI, a counterproposal was made to the Grand Tours: accept Pro Tour teams with eight-man squads.

This is an encouraging development, if only because it shows the Pro Tour still trying, or perhaps "finally listening," however you want to put it. Eight-man squads are the Pro Tour's way of getting their numbers down enough to where the Grand Tours could have room for five or so wild cards. It's also motivated by the Pro Tour's desperation to avoid contracting down to 15 or so teams -- a process that looks as tricky as Baseball's poisonous contraction idea a few years back.

That said, it won't fly. Here's the Giro's Angelo Zomegnan:

"The idea was proposed three years ago but then the UCI rejected this proposal. The key point remains that the ProTour does not have to be a closed system, for this we have proposed 18 teams in 2007 and 16 starting in 2008. 25 teams, also for reasons of security, are too much. I believe in cycling for elite, not for elitists."

That last line is a stupid grand tour talking point, but he's otherwise on point. Sean Kelly was asked about this when he visited Seattle last year, and responded that it's hard for teams to function like teams with less than ten riders. You can't control the race like teams want to, etc., something that rings true when you think of how in 2006, with 9-man squads, there always seemed to be several teams battling to own the tip of the spear. If they ever went to 8-man squads, the logical response would either be clandestine alliances, or total chaos. The former is intriguing, but not the latter.

Anyway, at least there's talk on a substantive level going on.