This year’s Giro d’Italia, Tour de France and Vuelta a España will have an increased field of 23 teams and 184 riders after the UCI approved the presence of an extra wild card team in a one-off measure due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the sport.
The size of the Grand Tour pelotons had been reduced to 22 teams of eight riders each in recent years in an attempt to reduce the risk of crashes and to improve rider safety. The 19 WorldTour teams are all automatically invited to the Grand Tours, with Alpecin-Fenix also assured of a place after topping the ProTeam rankings in 2020.
Allowing 23 teams in 2021 will also avoid some difficult decisions for the three Grand Tour organisers. In a team announcement today, Tour de France organisers confirmed all three French ProTeams – Total-Direct Énergie, Team Arkéa-Samsic and B & B Hôtels p/b KTM – would ride the 108th edition, which starts in Brest, close to the headquarters of the three teams.
All three Spanish Pro Teams – Burgos-BH, Caja Rural and Euskaltel-Euskadi – are likely to now secure places at the Vuelta a España, while an extra place for a team also helps the organisers of the Giro d’Italia, who faced leaving out at least two Italian ProTeams.
The Eolo-Kometa ProTeam created by Alberto Contador and Ivan Basso are expected to secure a wildcard invitation to the 2021 Giro d’Italia after stepping up to ProTeam level, leaving Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec, Bardiani-CSF-Faizane, Vini Zabu-Brado-KTM, Gazprom and Team Arkea-Samsic fighting for the final places.
The UCI confirmed the extra place in the three Grand Tours while announcing a number of decisions taken by UCI Management Committee on race and rider safety, donations to the CPA rider association and bike cities.
“Following the request from the three National Federations concerned (France, Spain and Italy), the maximum number of riders at the start of the Grand Tours was exceptionally increased to 184 from the usual 176,” the UCI said.
“This increase of eight riders will enable organisers, if they wish, to invite an extra team to their event under the wildcard system. However, the number of riders per team at the start of the Grand Tours will remain set at eight.
“This adjustment, applicable in 2021 only, will offer several teams and numerous riders extra opportunities for competition at the highest level in a period which has seen them significantly reduced.”