UCI calendar may lose Tour de France, other top races

PARIS • Tour de France organiser Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO) is withdrawing its races from the International Cycling Union (UCI) calendar in 2017, because of a disagreement over the reform of the calendar and the selection of teams.

It said yesterday that the reform of the UCI's World Tour means that the 2017 season would be a closed circuit whereas it wants a system based on "sporting criteria", meaning no team can be guaranteed a spot on the Tour de France and other top events.

The reform of the calendar, approved by the UCI, said teams would be handed three-year World Tour licences rather than the one-year permits until 2016.

ASO said in a statement: "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."

Organisers cannot select more than 70 per cent of World Tour teams in a "Hors Class" race, or 15 teams in the usual 22-team line-up for the Tour de France, the sport's most prestigious cycling race.

It means that World Tour teams could be omitted from the 2017 Tour line-up as the elite usually features 18 teams.

There is no risk of the Tour and the ASO's other major races not taking place but they will do so outside the umbrella of cycling's main calendar, which could lead to a potentially damaging split.

ASO owns the Tour de France, La Vuelta, the top-tier classics Paris-Roubaix and Liege-Bastogne-Liege as well as the one-week Paris-Nice and the Criterium du Dauphine.

In 2008, then-defending Tour champion Alberto Contador could not enter the Tour de France because ASO had not invited his Astana team following the doping scandals they were involved in the previous year.

Last year, 11 of the top-tier teams regrouped in a joint venture called Velon, seeking a bigger slice of the pie from organisers and a guaranteed three-year presence in the World Tour, which the UCI has now granted them.

The ASO and UCI were also at odds between 2005 and 2008, when the Tour de France organiser refused, along with its counterparts at the Tour of Spain and Giro d'Italia, to be part of the UCI Pro-Tour that later became the World Tour.

ASO's withdrawal is a massive blow for UCI president Brian Cookson as the governing body could lose its influence in the top races.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 19, 2015, with the headline 'UCI calendar may lose Tour de France, other top races'. Print Edition | Subscribe