ASO, cycling’s top race organiser with events including the Tour de France, says it will pull out of the UCI’s WorldTour for the 2017 season because it disagrees with the planned reforms.
Cycling’s governing body is trying to get all of the stakeholders in line for a change in the rules and structure of the calendar starting in 2017. It last met with diverse heads, including ASO, in Barcelona on December 5 and 6.
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ASO’s races include Paris-Nice, Paris-Roubaix, La Flèche Wallonne, Liège-Bastogne-Liège, the Critérium du Dauphiné, and cycling’s biggest event, the Tour de France. It is unsure if the Vuelta a España, owned by the ASO and organised by Unipublic, would be included.
The Amaury Sport Organisation explained it will instead register its events in the UCI’s Hors Classe calendar, one level below the top WorldTour series that began in 2005 as the ProTour.
“UCI has actually recently adopted, from season 2017, a Reform of the World Tour calendar characterised by a closed sport system,” read the organisation’s press release.
“More than ever, ASO remains committed to the European model and cannot compromise the values it represents: an open system giving first priority to the sporting criterion.
“It is therefore in this new context, and within its historical events, that ASO will continue to keep these values alive.”
What effect this will have on the UCI’s push to reform cycling starting with 2017 is unknown. The UCI did not immediately respond when Cycling Weekly called for comment on ASO’s move on Friday, but later released a statement.
At the summit meeting in Barcelona, the heads of cycling agreed to go ahead with sweeping changes to the WorldTour and its teams. The agreement would allow new races to join the top series and provide teams with three-year licence guarantees.
The UCI said it wanted to follow four principles for cycling: credibility, globalisation, engaging, and strengthening the pyramid.
Cycling director at ASO, Christian Prudhomme called the UCI’s reforms a “closed system.”
“We refused the closed system,” Prudhomme told the AFP news agency. “This will not affect the sporting level of our races. The champions will always want to participate in the best races.”
With its races out of the WorldTour, it is unclear under which criteria teams will be selected for races like the Tour. Currently, the organiser takes the 18 teams in the WorldTour plus four wildcard teams from the Professional Continental level.
It is also uncertain what ASO’s move will do to UCI President Brian Cookson’s plan to remodel cycling. Answers will likely come in the next months as the 2016 season starts.
Giro d’Italia organiser RCS Sport has previously expressed its interest in the UCI’s reforms. However, the sporting subsidiary of RCS Mediagroup is expected to change hands and be sold as early as Monday.