Tour de France organisers ASO threaten to split with UCI over calendar reform delays

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In a move which is evocative of the big spats with the UCI in the last decade, Tour de France organisers ASO have threatened to remove their races from the UCI calendar next season if certain conditions are not met.

ASO, which organises the Tour, the Vuelta a España and several shorter stage races and one day events, is dissatisfied with a lack of progress in the UCI’s calendar reform program, according to Reuters.

The agency cites a source close to the UCI’s management committee as saying that ASO has sent a letter threatening the withdrawal.

It is understood that the main issue is that it wants to ensure that major race dates do not overlap.

Currently a number of top races either clash or are very close together on the calendar, such as ASO’s Paris-Nice and the Tirreno-Adriatico event run by the Giro d’Italia organiser RCS Sport.

This means that the top riders much choose between one or another, although all of the top teams do participate as both events are WorldTour contests.

ASO’s push for a more distinct calendar is presumably due to its desire to have the top riders at its races.

Were a split to occur ASO would continue to run its events but it would not recognise the WorldTour rules deeming that the sport’s top 18 teams get an automatic entry. It would mean the organiser could invite whichever teams it sees fit to do so and, potentially, to impose demands on teams who want to ride the Tour de France.

Previously ASO and the UCI clashed when the WorldTour’s predecessor the ProTour was introduced in the middle of the last decade. They objected to the compulsory invitations for the top teams.

A compromise was eventually reached over the matter, although that agreement meant that the UCI had to abandon the leader’s jersey it had previously awarded to the top rider in the ProTour/WorldTour classification.

According to Reuters, the Professional Cycling Council voted in the calendar reform this week but this was not validated by the UCI management committee, causing the current crisis.

The agency states that the committee has been putting pressure on UCI president Brian Cookson to sack the current director general Martin Gibbs.

It is thought that he has been behind the departure of a large number of former staff from the UCI. Sources previously told CyclingTips that there is a tense mood within the UCI, with some employees feeling under pressure.

One source claimed that Gibbs rather than Cookson has been making many of the major decisions since the latter took over as president in September 2013.

Responding to the news, the UCI told CyclingTips that the reforms are moving closer to agreement.

“The Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) has been working for many months on the reform of men’s professional road cycling in a spirit of openness and collaboration with all stakeholders,” it stated.

“There is a general consensus on the direction towards which the reform should be driven. We are hopeful to finalise soon our discussions with all stakeholders whether races organisers, teams, riders, around a project that will restore the credibility in our sport, promote the sport in both existing and new markets, make the cycling season understood and attractive to fans and recognise the UCI WorldTour as part of a larger and interdependent system.”

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