Salary caps, lower team sizes and draft for young talent - Romain Bardet shares his vision of turning cycling into a fair sport

Over the years, Romain Bardet grew from a young lad looking for his place in the peloton back in 2012 to an established pro with 10 victories, two Grand tour podiums and four stages to his name. Having witnessed the fast evolution of the professional cycling in recent years, the Frenchman has a lot to say about the current state.

When he remembers his breakthrough years with AG2R La Mondiale, he recalls a more level, fairer field of play, which he wants to see reinstated. "Looking back at the 2014 Tour, I felt like it was much more open, and it was easier to access the top if you were a good rider with good commitment in a small team," he says in an extensive interview for CyclingWeekly. And today? "There is a good chance that guys from the same two teams will make up the podium or top-five, and I find that a bit less interesting."

Money is a large factor behind the era of superteams like Visma-LAB, UAE Team Emirates or before them Team Sky. Bardet says it "makes them powerful and they can afford to have more leaders." He describes a situation where several riders with potential to be GC contenders themselves now put aside their ambitions to work for superstar leaders. All in turn for a bit of extra cash.

"You can have a rider with the power profile, but he couldn’t go to a lower-ranked team and say he’s going to win the Giro or the Vuelta a Espana. It wouldn’t happen. So right now we have a lot of riders who would, in other teams, be leaders, working for the best guys on the planet. Where is the competition?" he asks rhetorically.

Is there a solution? "A salary cap," he insists. "People say when big sponsors are keen to invest the money, we shouldn’t introduce a cap, but it works pretty well for the competition in French rugby. If we had a salary cap or a draft (as is common in US sports), we would be able to distribute the best riders more fairly across the 18 WorldTour teams."

It doesn’t end with a cap in Bardet’s vision for a fairer future. He has another proposal to prevent the same few teams from scooping all the biggest prizes. "We should go to Grand Tours with smaller teams – six riders in normal races, seven in Grand Tours, and overall team sizes no bigger than 20-25 riders." What’s his reasoning? "If you line up with fewer guys, you can bring more teams to every race, so there’d be more sponsors who can do the Tour, which means more money for all. The competition will be more open, as it will be much harder for teams to control the race."

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