Tour de France organisers ASO have effectively plunged the sport into chaos with the news that they have decided to remove all their events from the UCI’s WorldTour calendar, effective 2017.
The move comes after the UCI recently implemented its WorldTour reforms and underlines ASO’s resistance to the three year licences implemented for teams and races.
“Amaury Sport Organisation has informed this day Union Cycliste Internationale [that] it has opted for the registration of its events on the Hors Classe calendar for season 2017,” said the French organisation in a statement.
“UCI has actually recently adopted, from season 2017, a Reform of the World Tour calendar characterized by a closed sport system.
“More than ever, A.S.O. 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 A.S.O. will continue to keep these values alive.”
The move effectively means that the 18 WorldTour teams will no longer have the right of participation in ASO events, returning the sport to a system whereby ASO has sole say in which teams can take part in its events.
The company has been accused in the past of acting to preserve its commercial interests and influence, and to veto anything that it believes threatens its dominant position in world cycling.
It also resisted the original WorldTour, known then as the ProTour, leading to years of battles with the UCI. These battles included blocking the Unibet team from competing in its races, a move which eventually caused that team to collapse.
A compromise was later reached and the French company placed its events back on the calendar, but this has now been undone once again.
The ASO WorldTour races are the Tour de France, Vuelta a España, Paris-Nice, Paris-Roubaix, Flèche Wallonne, Liège-Bastogne-Liège and Critérium du Dauphiné. These are some of the biggest races on the calendar.
The WorldTour system is based on the concept of having the top teams in the top races, creating a stability for the sport as those teams known that they will ride events such as the Tour de France.
This stability in turn enhances the ability of those teams to secure long-term sponsorship, ending a year-by-year existence which creates fragility within cycling.
With its events instead on the European calendar, ASO will have full say in which teams can take part and returns to the dominant position it had.
For the teams, though, things have just got a whole lot less certain.
Also see: UCI says agreement has been reached on WorldTour reform
UCI says it ‘remains committed to WorldTour reforms’ despite ASO’s rejection
More to follow soon..