ASO events, which include the Tour de France and Paris-Roubaix, will feature in the 2017 WorldTour calendar despite the organisation declaring in late 2015 that it would withdraw the events from the UCI’s top tier in protest of proposed reforms.
The UCI confirmed on Thursday that the Professional Cycling Council had approved the 2017 WorldTour calendar and reforms, which ASO had formerly said were “characterised by a closed sport system”.
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But now it seems an agreement has been met, and the UCI will push on with the reforms that will see a number of events – probably including the Dwars door Vlaanderen one-day Classic – added to the calendar and the number of teams eventually reduced to 16.
The UCI also stated that teams would be given two-year licences and a (vaguely worded) ‘annual challenge system’ would be introduced, that will see the bottom team of the WorldTour and the top team in the Pro Continental rank challenge for a spot in the WorldTour.
“UCI WorldTeams will be given a two-year licence for the 2017 and 2018 seasons,” said a UCI statement.
“The number of UCI WorldTeams will be set at 17 for 2017, with the objective to reach 16 a year later.
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“From the end of the 2018 season onwards, there will be an annual challenge system, based on an overall annual sporting classification, between the last ranked UCI WorldTeam and the top Pro Continental Team to enter as a UCI WorldTeam in the following season.
In the event that a UCI WorldTeam drops out of the top tier, that team will have the right to participate in all the following season’s UCI WorldTour events, meaning that UCI WorldTeams will have stability for the three seasons 2017 to 2019.”
The statement also suggests that events new to the WorldTour will not necessarily have all WorldTeams present, with the UCI stating that it would propose a minimum of 10 to attend.
“This marks another important step in the reform of men’s professional cycling,” said UCI president Brian Cookson, “and I am very pleased that we now have our stakeholders behind what represents the future of our sport.
“I am delighted that we can build on the heritage and prestige of the UCI WorldTour, while also welcoming newer but already successful events taking place in and outside Europe. We are committed to continuing the consultation with all stakeholders on various details of the reform.”
Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme, who is also president of the race union the AIOCC, was quoted as saying: “I am delighted that an agreement could be found that will help the sport of cycling as a whole.”