The International Cycling Union (UCI) has announced that its management committee has approved the key principles for reform of the top level of men's professional road cycling.
The announcement follows two sometimes agonising years of dialogue and consultation with stakeholders across the world of cycling, and signals the first step of delivery of UCI president Brian Cookson's promised reforms.
The UCI has been criticised by various elements of the cycling community for failing to reach an agreement on the future direction of men's road cycling's top tier series - the UCI WorldTour.
ASO, the owners and organisers of the Tour de France and other cycling races across the season, are believed to have presented stubborn, often belligerent opposition to all manner of proposed changes during the consultation process.
Speaking to SportsPro in April, amid criticism for lack of concrete action, Cookson promised that the first step of the reform process would be signed off by the time of the UCI Road World Championships in Richmond.
True to his word, the latest announcement was made following this week's meeting of the Professional Cycling Council during the competition in Richmond.
Though detailed changes have yet to be agreed upon, the structure for reform set out by the UCI is at least a start. And, as yet at least, there has been no public opposition from any key stakeholder across cycling.
Top of the list of changes is a move to add stability to the top-level team structure. Three-year UCI WorldTour licenses will be granted to a maximum of 18 UCI WorldTeams for the 2017 to 2019 seasons. These licences will be granted based on ethical, financial, sporting, administrative and organisational criteria. At present, licences are awarded on a very similar basis, but without the clear three-year term.
The UCI has also developed the teams' internal operational requirements - known as the Cahier des Charges - which will be mandatory for all UCI WorldTeams from 2017. These requirements will centre on ten key rules - already trialled this season - designed to ensure that riders are properly supported and supervised.
The UCI has also declared that a 'limited number' of new races will be added to the UCI WorldTour calendar from 2017. The application process will open later this year, but this element of reform is likely to prove controversial as existing races must also go through the process and it should mean that some current top-level races will lose their status.
“These are important changes that will help to further enhance men’s professional road cycling and aide its global growth and development. I would like to thank all stakeholders for their positive and constructive approach to this reform process. I believe that the measures announced today will help to bring greater stability and growth to men’s professional road cycling while also opening the door to greater technological innovation and fan engagement," said Cookson.
“By implementing these key reforms, the UCI is sending a strong signal to cycling fans, broadcasters and commercial partners about the continued improvements in the governance and organisational structures of our sport. This is an important moment for professional cycling and another major step forward as we continue to restore trust and credibility.”
A framework has now been put in place for changes to be implemented in time for the 2017 season, but the discussions on what those changes will ultimately look like is far from over.