Grands Tours organizers reduce number of riders from 2017

PARIS (AP) Grands Tours organizers have decided to reduce the number of riders at their races in a move aimed at improving safety and increasing competition.

The Tour de France, Giro d'Italia and Spanish Vuelta organizers said in a joint statement Friday that the number of riders per team will decrease to eight, instead of the nine currently at their three-week races.

The decision taken by ASO - which organizes the Tour de France and Vuelta - RCS Sport and one-day races organizers Flanders Classics will come into effect for the 2017 season. It will also see a reduction of riders at the other races they organize, with teams reduced to seven riders instead of eight.

Following a meeting of the international association of cycling race organizers, they said they want to improve safety by reducing traffic on roads and make it more difficult for a team to dominate a race. The numbers of teams per race will remain unchanged.

The organizers believe that reducing the number of riders will help open up the races so that they are less controlled. Three-time Tour de France champion Chris Froome's Sky Team has been the dominant team in the peloton recently, locking down the race in the mountains and reducing suspense at cycling's biggest race.

''This decision responds to two-pronged objective: the first being to improve the safety conditions for the riders with a smaller peloton on roads equipped with more and more street furniture,'' the organizers said in their statement. ''The second, which is a fortunate consequence of the first, is to make it more difficult to dominate a race as well as enhance conditions for events to offer better racing for cycling fans.''

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