It's not the first time that the ASO and the UCI have not seen eye-to-eye over the top-flight race calendar

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Just as we were all easing into the pre-Christmas weekend, the Amaury Sport Organisation sent us a surprise present: it is going to withdraw all of its races from the 2017 UCI WorldTour calendar.

That means that some of the most prestigious cycling events will be absent from the top-flight professional cycling calendar: Tour de France, Paris-Roubaix, Paris-Nice, Liège-Bastogne-Liège and the Critérium du Dauphiné.

This brings about a serious feeling of déjà vu. Ten years ago ASO were in a long-running dispute with the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI), threatening to pull its events from the forerunner of today’s WorldTour, the ProTour.

>>> ASO pulls Tour de France and other races from the UCI WorldTour

ASO argued – quite reasonably, in fact – that its races had survived quite nicely before the UCI came along with its ProTour and its rulebook, thank you very much. Put simply, then as now, ASO did not want to be told how to run its events and who to invite to them.

The spat between the event organiser and the sport’s governing body rumbled on for several years, eventually leading to ASO’s events (and the Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a España) being removed from the ProTour and put into a separate ‘Historical Events’ calendar. Sound familiar?

>>> UCI responds to ASO’s withdrawal from WorldTour

Eventually, the disagreement was smoothed over and the utterly confusing separate ProTour and Historical race calendars were again merged as the re-branded WorldTour in 2009. Seven years later, and we’re back to square one, with ASO saying that it wants to register its races as a level below WorldTour in 2017, in essence to avoid having them run under WorldTour rules.

How can the WorldTour teams expect to attract solid sponsorship and survive without the guarantee that they are automatically invited to the Tour de France? It’s hard enough to attract money into the sport even with that guarantee in place, let alone without it.

>>> Cycling bosses agree on reforms to WorldTour from 2017

Thankfully, there are now 12 months for the two parties to get together and attempt to come to an agreement. The UCI needs to listen carefully to ASO, and ensure that its WorldTour reforms can include measures to appease ASO. And ASO needs to consider the requirements of teams and fans in addition to preserving the integrity of its events.

All of this could be a bit of sabre-rattling from ASO to make their standpoint very clear, or perhaps it genuinely means it has had enough of the UCI’s way of doing things.

Either way, a WorldTour calendar without the toughest, most prestigious and best races is a nonsense, and one that will also potentially cause a split between the UCI and the top teams, and severely damage professional cycling in the long term.

  • Mike Cope

    Simple question ..who s run their respective ” businesses”the most professionally over recent years ….little doubt ..its ASO …sorry ,but Mr Cookson has said many sweet things , but where’s the real result ?.

  • Mike Prytherch

    Political rubbish… the TdF is awesome, but if it was run with no top teams with the top riders it wouldn’t be so awesome, likewise cycling wouldn’t be the same without the TdF, so they both need each other, so stop throwing your toys out of the pram and just get on with it, children.

  • ummm…

    The article says nothing about the specifics of the disagreement, but possibly that information is confidential? Did I miss a couple of articles? Anyway since I only have the following facts: governing body and race sponsors have a hair pulling fight this is what I’ll say to both; who cares, i can still ride my bike. Don’t really care what happens to the dopers and their pimps. Ye reap what ye sow pro cycling. Everybody dropped the ball and the sport is suffering because the business of it can’t get it straight. MTN Qhubeka and that team of diabetics etc. at least have a purpose that inspires. THe rest b*tch and moan about how hard life is for them but in the end they decided to work for or run companies that just look at the profit margin and thats it. Way the world works, but nobody comes to my office and pats me on the back when I’m having a bad day generating wealth, so who cares about these guys. Really would have been nice to get some SPECIFICS about the conflict the article is writing about. C’est la vie. Grow up cycling. I’ll go take my medicine now.