≡ Menu

ASO vs UCI: The War Resumes

Amaury Sports Organisation (ASO) issued a press release today saying it plans pull all of its races from the 2017 World Tour and register them as HC-status events in 2017. This isn’t a technical matter of labelling events but a huge issue for the UCI’s World Tour and the design of pro cycling.

It’s a bombshell but the fuse had been lit a long time ago. ASO look aggressive for deploying it and the UCI looks negligent for not defusing it.

What races are involved?
ASO owns the following World Tour races: the Tour de France, Paris-Roubaix, Paris-Nice, Critérium du Dauphiné, Liége-Bastogne-Liège, Flèche Wallonne and the Vuelta a España. Expressed another way they comprise 61 days of 148 days on the World Tour calendar or 42%. In 2017 these events will be pulled from the World Tour. Here’s ASO’s statement:

Why?
ASO says it rejects a “closed sport system” and wants a “European model”. Conceptually it means opposing teams having long term licences, a bit like granting an NBA team a multi-year franchise, and wants a system more like you’d see in, say, a European soccer league, where the best teams get promoted and the worst relegated every year.

There’s much more to this than a squabble over the design of a promotion system, wider reforms have been publicly rebuked too. It’s all about who has the final say over the reform of the sport.

Is this news?
Yes and no. The announcement is big but it’s not new. Back in June we got the story of a leaked letter from ASO saying they’d pull their races from the calendar if the course of reform was not altered. Last week the UCI went public with its reforms so ASO has done what they said they’d do.

In fact the scenario may be a surprise but it looks inevitable. ASO said they’d react this way if things did not change and UCI President Brian Cookson has been saying “we don’t want to have a war” and issuing repeated pleas in media interviews but without getting ASO to buy into the reforms. The more Cookson talked to cyclingnews the more obvious it was he trying to go over ASO and appeal to others.

Reforms?
They started under previous President McQuaid and upon his election Cookson continued with them only at some point he decided to scrap a lot of them (smaller teams, fewer race days) and start again. The new plans have yet to be unveiled in any meaningful detail but last week the UCI said:

the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) and key stakeholders of men’s professional road cycling have agreed on the details of the reform.

With hindsight can we read the text above again and note it’s “the UCI and key stakeholders”, rather than the UCI and all stakeholders?

What does ASO’s move mean?
The UCI calendar has several tiers of races with World Tour at the top, then .HC, then .1 and .2 races. ASO say they will register their World Tour races on the HC calendar for 2017, one step below World Tour.

In strict regulatory terms the UCI rules say an HC race can invite up to 70% of the teams from the UCI World Tour and UCI Pro Continental and UCI Continental teams can be invited. This implies a maximum of 14 World Tour teams in a field of 20 – ASO wants fewer teams – meaning four World Tour teams spend July washing their hair, maybe more.

But this isn’t just about team compositions on the startlist. First, ASO’s move would give it more control over who it can invite and who it leaves behind. Second it devalues a World Tour licence. Why would teams pay for a licence that cannot guarantee them a start in two grand tours, two large stage races and two Monuments? Similarly why would other races pay to be on a calendar that nobody understands when they too could copy ASO and elect who can ride.

This could then generate second order consequences. Without an automatic invite a lot of notional World Tour teams will want to be in ASO’s good books in order to start the Tour de France. Some teams seem essential but others are replaceable and these weaker teams could feel compelled to race Paris-Nice and the Dauphiné but also the Criterium International and the Arctic Tour of Norway and bring their best riders along to woo ASO too. So we end up with the irony of ASO demoting their races’ UCI status yet possibly holding more power over the calendar and the teams. It’s worth noting that ASO’s move is still within the UCI rules, it is not threatening to walk away, just to undermine the World Tour from within.

Déjà Vu
We’ve been here before. In 2007 the UCI and ASO were at war over the Pro Tour and ASO decided to put Paris-Nice on the French national calendar instead of the UCI’s calendar.

If you decide, against the rules, to take part in Paris-Nice, you will be heavily penalised
– UCI President Pat McQuaid, 2007

The UCI replied that the top teams could not compete in this now local race but the race went ahead. The teams could not afford to miss this major rendez-vous and they were worried about upsetting ASO in case it meant no invitation for the Tour de France. So the race went on and the UCI looked foolish for issuing threats it could not follow-up on. This happened again in 2008 when ASO wanted the French agency the AFLD to conduct anti-doping – itself a proxy war over who managed anti-doping – and the UCI issued threats but had to back down again.

The circumstances were different but it shows the balance of power. Fast forward and today’s UCI President Brian Cookson reflects this. He’s said several times recently that the UCI may set the rules but it governs by consensus, not control, telling cyclingnews.com that “the UCI is the international governing body. And I say governing, not controlling.” We can add another headwind because the UCI has internal splits, it’s Management Committee has in recent times found Vice-President David Lappartient and Igor Makarov apparently taking opposing views to Cookson.

Teams
Are the teams caught in the crossfire? Some but remember the Velon group of teams have been cheerleaders and, according to some, even the architects of some of the UCI’s reforms so they’re not necessarily bystanders here.

Many team owners want longer term licences but most cannot afford to upset ASO. Even if the Velon teams teams decided to boycott ASO races the empty spaces in the Tour can be filled with lesser teams. Not ideal for ASO either but you’d still get a Tour with Nairo Quintana, Alejandro Valverde, Fabio Aru, Vincenzo Nibali, Romain Bardet and Thibaut Pinot and more. Yet how long would sponsors stick with Velon teams willingly avoiding the biggest races? Even if the sponsors stayed firm many riders would jump to teams happy to ride the Tour de France, everything else being equal a team that rides the Giro and Tour, the Tour of Flanders and Roubaix, is better than one that won’t. Nothing says the Tour will remain the sport’s biggest event for ever but if another race is to overtake it this will take years and years. ASO can wait while others cannot, knowing they own the keystone that props up the rest of the sport.

Sponsors
There’s no need to get too Machiavellian plotting boycott scenarios, the teams and sponsors have more pressing issues. The UCI’s plans for 2017 have been announced in a press release but there’s nothing more to go. So already any sponsors thinking about involvement in the “new” World Tour don’t know what they’re buying into but until now it’s been a matter of details, from the cost of a licence to the ranking system used. Today’s news threatens to blow the whole system for teams and races out of the water.

What’s next?
Presumably the UCI will respond but what can they say? The UCI has been riding in one direction having dropped ASO some time ago. Does Brian Cookson do a U-turn and pedal back to meet ASO somewhere? Not easy given Oleg Tinkov has already said “we need licences for at least five years, not just three” suggesting that diluting the three year system further makes reforms quasi-homeopathic. Thee UCI says it “remains committed to implementing the reforms” in other words it’s not in the mood to go back.

There’s time for the UCI and ASO to talk and resolve this so that the Tour de France is back in the World Tour for 2017. Yet the positions look opposed and entrenched so it’s not going to be over by Christmas. Indeed the more this drags on the more confusion there is over the status of team licences and the World Tour calendar for 2017 which imperils the project.

Which side to take?
Perhaps it’s worth being cautious here. This is not Star Wars with goodies and baddies, both sides have sensible arguments and unreasonable demands alike. The UCI looks foolish for announcing reforms that never had ASO’s approval, to the point where they reportedly sat silent in a World Tour seminar because they felt like it wasn’t worth adding anything given they were not being listened too yet this makes ASO look childish too.

Is Prudhomme thinking “ah, so cute” or is he plotting what wine to marry with grilled roo?

Summary
ASO’s decision concerns the 2017 calendar but there are be immediate effects. It’s superficially about the three year licences given to teams but really about the wider control over the sport.

This is a news bombshell but it’s neither unexpected, nor nuclear. ASO said they’d do this if the UCI didn’t change direction and now they’ve done it’ but haven’t gone all the way, the races will still be UCI events but just not World Tour so there’s a chance for rapprochement here. This distinction matters but at the same time it’s tiny, taking the Tour de France out of the World Tour is not an administrative decision but a declaration of war.

 

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • anonymous Friday, 18 December 2015, 4:21 pm

    This isn’t about promotion/relegation or the WT reform. It’s about taking down Cookson in the next election so they can install Lappartient or Chassot as UCI president. So no, this is not news. What will be news are the reactions from RCS and Flanders Classics.

    • The Inner Ring Friday, 18 December 2015, 4:23 pm

      Agreed, as said above it’s about control over the sport and Cookson’s weaker position is mentioned above too. He needs to work very carefully now.

      • Ferdi Friday, 18 December 2015, 6:19 pm

        Cookson should go anyway, at any rate. ASAP. He’s proved he simply doesn’t have the necessary judgment, whether on symbolic or substantial issues.

    • channel_zero Friday, 18 December 2015, 6:22 pm

      One of the out of place comments in the CIRC report is the claim Makarov controls a super-majority of UCI votes. I wonder how Makarov views Lapartient.

      I would argue the UCI’s price tag, both accounted and unaccounted offshore license fees, for classifying an event WorldTour went up and ASO refused to pay.

      • The Inner Ring Friday, 18 December 2015, 6:30 pm

        “offshore licence fees”, that’s quite a claim. Any evidence of this?

        ASO doesn’t get much back for paying to have the Tour in the World Tour, if anything the Tour’s inclusion in the calendar is what makes the rest of the calendar so prestigious.

        • Tad Cheswick Saturday, 19 December 2015, 2:14 am

          I think you mean “WorldTour,” Inner Ring. One word.

        • channel_zero Saturday, 19 December 2015, 4:47 pm

          Makarov made a very specific, public claim that the UCI was demanding a license fee, paid to a third party, for the title “Tour of Russia.” Apparently he had been trying to get a Tour of Russia onto the elite calendar. It would be a challenge to get a highly ranked event on the calendar in Russia in the best circumstances. It’s been too many years now, but I’ll see if I can find the article. This isn’t revolutionary. Bernie/F1 is known to have “license fees” that are paid to third parties for hosting F1 events.

          I agree with you that ASO gets nothing back for WT status. That’s why I’m guessing they decided to pay less for a lower category of event.

          It’s an interesting, almost intractable problem when one promoter so dominates elite events. The UCI spent the last decade demoting other events to consolidate around ASO, RCS, and the Belgian coop to attempt to emulate F1/FIFA. It’s the scorpion and the frog fable.

          • Rik VII Saturday, 19 December 2015, 6:45 pm

            Makarov made a very specific, public claim that McQuaid … now its Cookson.

          • Anonymous Saturday, 19 December 2015, 7:39 pm

            Makarov also supposedly paid to make up a secret dossier on McQ that was more than likely empty. Mak’s not exactly a pillar of morality.

    • XNight Friday, 18 December 2015, 8:17 pm

      I struggle to understand the political to-ing and fro-ing.
      One might assume that Chassot, as an ex-organiser of the Tour de Romandie, would be sympathetic to ASO / RCS.
      And yet, his recent statements were clear – he was in support of setting races and organisers in competition against one another where there was race days overlap.
      And, far from a European model, he was also clear that races may come and go and that new races (ie the desert) were to be welcomed as a new revenue stream.
      Or is this political posturing also?

      Which ever way you look at it, there will be change and reform anyway – be it UCI / Velon-led or ASO / RCS?
      There is much common ground between both stances, it seems to me..?

    • Rik VII Friday, 18 December 2015, 11:37 pm
      • Anonymous Saturday, 19 December 2015, 12:10 am

        I think “supports the UCI as an institution that is integral to the sport” may more accurate. But, I don’t think ASO wants to abolish the UCI or oust Cookson either. They have been very clear, even in translation.

        • Rik VII Saturday, 19 December 2015, 12:13 am

          I’ve copied only the title and linked the text below from velonews.com. It’s not my conclusion.

          • XNight Saturday, 19 December 2015, 9:30 am

            But, it seems to me, cycling fans are up in arms about new races (for new, read the desert) which are supposedly foisted upon the calendar by the UCI at the expense of older, traditional races.
            It’s not quite that simple ; ASO and RCS both have significant stakes in Qatar and Oman, and Dubai and Abu Dhabi respectively.

            There is no light and shade in this whole matter ; it’s grey.
            The key outcome – more top riders competing against each other at the top races – is in everyone’s interest. If some of the stronger teams (Sky, Astana etc) distributed their riders about better, instead of stockpiling them as super-doms in July, the calendar would look much healthier and the Giro and Vuelta would take on new life.
            This year looks better, and maybe the teams are getting the message (Nibali v Landa) but ASO’s stranglehold of top talent via its ownership of the Tour is the root cause of much of the problems, to me.

          • channel_zero Saturday, 19 December 2015, 4:58 pm

            Long ago, pre-Verbruggen, there were near-elite events that were run on the same weekend. Promoters competed against each other.

            During Verbruggen’s reforms, the UCI chose to do a “One premier event per weekend” strategy. Chassot and many other promoters had their high-ranking events demoted due to escalating regulatory costs that fattened the UCI’s revenues. Chassot’s event was one of the many losers.

            Now there are three elite international promoters, ASO dominates. The UCI is still the weakest force in cycling, but now actually has some money in the bank.

  • Shawn Friday, 18 December 2015, 4:58 pm

    Thanks for the analysis! I was wondering how this move to have greater control over which teams start its races contributes to ASO’s bottom line. After all, it’s not as though rejecting a few WT teams in favor of others will make their races more marketable. If it’s a political move to push Cookson out, what do they hope will be accomplished by installing Lappartient or Chassot? Is it primarily to force teams to bring their best to all ASO races, so these teams will be in the good graces for TdF selection? If other organizers follow suit, then ASO’s advantage will not be as great? Maybe the main target is Velon or any attempt of teams becoming organized?

    I cannot help but feel ASO’s unwillingness to negotiate or consider the health of the entire sport (including team viability and stability) is shortsighted and petulant.

    • Touriste-Routier Friday, 18 December 2015, 8:26 pm

      I think you may be underestimating how the power of team selection influences the race’s appeal to the public as a whole, which in turn reflects the value of sponsorship.

      By being able to pick the teams they want, race organizers can further orchestrate the human interest stories, and regional loyalties that lay the fabric of intrigue for the event. It also helps them mitigate chances for scandal, and having unpopular characters participate due to UCI mandate.

      • Shawn Saturday, 19 December 2015, 5:23 pm

        I guess that I’m skeptical that dropping a few WT teams (who do tend to be the strongest teams) and replacing them with either local or exotic second tier teams will add much to ASO’s bottom line. More likely they want to force WT teams to send their elite riders to the smaller ASO races. Also, by dropping the total number of teams (which they states is one of their goals), they would cut overhead. I have no ideas how much this might contribute to better profits.

        • Anonymous Sunday, 20 December 2015, 1:16 pm

          I don’t think better profits in the motivation here. ASO is fighting for the personality of the sport. The UCI, implementing long term licenses alone, is creating a template for generic, formulaic, dumbed-down competition.

  • Ryan Davies Friday, 18 December 2015, 4:59 pm

    This is willy waving of the highest order and undoubtedly ASO’s is the biggest. The sporting criterion mentioned by ASO is nonsense, they’ve invited Bretagne-Seche these past two years to the TDF! It is not about the integrity of competition at all but about controlling the best product possible in the short term for their own interests. If we continue like this and cannot sensibly give and take a little there will be no stability for teams or most of the other race organisers. A great shame. The only way to prevent ASO taking a greater stranglehold on the sport is to have a very strong alliance between teams, riders, UCI and all other race organisers to block this attempted monopoly.

    • Anonymous Friday, 18 December 2015, 7:43 pm

      But, cycling has got on just fine for the last 100 years. I think the cry for stability is a red herring from the marginally successful.

      • Anonymous Friday, 18 December 2015, 11:25 pm

        “just fine”? Festina, unibet, postal, …….

        Hardly just fine.

        • Anonymous Saturday, 19 December 2015, 12:14 am

          I’m sorry, but at least in cycling the cheats are sometime caught. There are plenty of sports that don’t care, if that’s what you want. Because there isn’t a pro sport without cheaters.

  • BC Friday, 18 December 2015, 5:30 pm

    It’s a little rather difficult to understand how Cookson and the UCI have allowed themselves to be left in an embarrassing ‘no win’ situation, when the outcome was clear to everyone.

    These latest machinations over the WT would always required the support of ASO. It is easy to see why they were never going to be happy with their events being controlled to a certain extent by external factors and influences, and would therefore be unlikely to agree to these new proposals. I think we can safely ignore the ‘five year’ Tinkoff plan -In two attempts he has never gone the distance anyway. In addition, the French have always had a very different perspective and view of world cycling and their place in it than many other nations.

    The WT is a solely UCI invention which appears to bring with it many more problems than it solves – other than to fill UCI coffers. The quicker it is completely overhauled, with the good of the sport in mind can’t come soon enough.

    As an extra comment. I like the European model of pro cycling, which just happens to provide us with the most fantastic spectator supported events in the world.

    • The Inner Ring Friday, 18 December 2015, 6:04 pm

      I think we’ve had this argument before but the World Tour has its merits, teams can attract sponsors into the sport and to stay onboard knowing if they qualify for a licence then they’ll ride the Tour de France. It’s good for everyone. Also it’s not a big money spinner for the UCI, the fee income and more is helpful but small compared to other income sources.

      • BC Friday, 18 December 2015, 8:47 pm

        Sponsors can be attracted into the sport without the WT. I repeat a previous statement of mine that sponsors prepared to support teams on the scale of say FDJ, are critical to the long term survival of pro racing and should be welcome. The idea that 18 sponsors will each be prepared to invest 20 plus millions every year in team sponsorship, to be part of the WT flies in the face of common sense and economic reality. The smaller budget simply requires that top rider salaries are reduced to a level where they are sustainable in the long term, and that the top teams are then able to complete on a level playing field.

        Income to the UCI from WT teams may not be regarded by some as significant, but it is an extremely important source of revenue.

    • Larry T. Friday, 18 December 2015, 7:11 pm

      +1 If UCI insists on continuing the pointless World Tour it needs to be chopped down to 12 teams so REAL criteria can be defined and imposed. The stupidity of a team like Euskatel showing up at Paris-Roubaix was dumb then and is dumb now.

      • Paul Jakma Friday, 18 December 2015, 11:47 pm

        +1 too.

        The UCI should leave race organisation and promotion to the race promoters. Trying to take control of things that are ownder by and the bread & butter of others was never going to create harmony. The UCI should stick to other aspects of governance (e.g. racing rules, and so on).

        • Rik VII Friday, 18 December 2015, 11:53 pm

          The only races (sic) organized by the UCI are the world champinships. To ask the UCI to leave the organisation of the race calenders (sic) world and continental is like asking the NHL to leave organizing the National Hockey League.

          • ChrisFroomesBaby Saturday, 19 December 2015, 10:12 am

            Nonsense! The NHL owns the sport. The UCI does not. You’re comparing apples and oranges. The UCI effectively tries to organise things that belong to other people. It might be a good idea to procure their co-operation before you do!

            Cookson has always seemed off the pace to me. Good intentions aren’t enough. Does he have the negotiating skill? I doubt it.

          • Anonymous Sunday, 20 December 2015, 1:18 pm

            Have you seen his CV? No, nobody has…

  • cd Friday, 18 December 2015, 6:00 pm

    For the sake of the sport, it should probably just let ASO control the whole thing. They need to buy a few more races or enter into some partnerships and just take over. There needs to be one strong stakeholder to move this sport somewhere, and not the weak balkanized sport we have now. A strong ASO may even push the riders to unionize properly and exert their power in the future.

    • The Inner Ring Friday, 18 December 2015, 6:10 pm

      Let one firm take over everything and you have a monopoly, we’re almost there now but not yet. There’s a been a truce in recent years where power is spread around the sport, it’s by accident but means nobody is in overall control and the only way to advance is to get everyone in agreement. It’s a bit like a peloton where everyone can collaborate better than by trying to ride off by themselves. This atomistic structure can look messy but it means nobody can abuse their position (too much).

      • Cd Saturday, 19 December 2015, 5:27 am

        Yes but maybe we need a monopoly – that’s my point. The disjointed atomistic structure hasn’t amounted to much.

        • Anonymous Saturday, 19 December 2015, 6:27 pm

          this is the benevolent dictator argument which, in an ideal world, works. but, in an ideal world, so does democracy.

          In this case I think ASO is the lesser of the two, with the UCI wishing it was a dictator. And, not necessarily a benevolent one.

      • ChrisFroomesBaby Saturday, 19 December 2015, 10:17 am

        All it takes is a bored billionaire with a love for cycling. He could snap up the ASO and RCS for chump change since neither are really that big. Then we would see where cycling can go. For a pro sport cycling is not really in the big league when it comes to cash.

  • Augie March Friday, 18 December 2015, 6:05 pm

    Come back, Oleg, all is forgiven….

    And for the record, as kangaroo is red meat, you should pair it with a quality red wine, perhaps a full bodied Australian shiraz or cab sav.

  • Pelican VC Friday, 18 December 2015, 6:08 pm

    Do European competition laws apply to sport? Surely, as a business, these laws do apply – could the UCI take ASO to court for anti-competitive practices?

    Probably wouldn’t be a good idea – no doubt there’s enough tension between the two organisations as is, but ASO’s monopoly does sit very uncomfortably with me, as a fan…

    Wiki for EU competition law; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/European_Union_competition_law

    • The Inner Ring Friday, 18 December 2015, 6:13 pm

      Sport is treated as a special domain with exceptions from normal laws, look up “The Sporting Exemption” for the EU if you want more.

      • Pelican VC Friday, 18 December 2015, 6:33 pm

        Thanks, much appreciated.

      • Nick Friday, 18 December 2015, 7:02 pm

        Its exemptions are tightly limited though and only as necessary for sporting purposes – e.g., being able to limit a national team to citizens of a particular country. Rules limiting which teams can compete in which competitions are quite a good example: sporting bodies are allowed to limit numbers, so that fixtures can be organised, and set qualification criteria, but the implementation of those criteria can be challenged – both rugby and football governing bodies have been overruled by the courts when they tried to refuse the promotion of teams whose staidums didn’t meet certain criteria. The same considerations may have influenced the licence decisions on Katusha and Astana (though these weren’t strictly EU competition cases).

        In this case, though, I don’t see that ASO is proposing anything anti-competitive, simply by not participating in the WT. However, if it were to set rules requiring – rather than just encouraging – teams to compete in its lesser races at the expense of others’ as a condition of being invited to the TdF, then that might be at risk of being held to be anti-competitive if there was no sporting necessity.

    • ChrisFroomesBaby Saturday, 19 December 2015, 10:21 am

      The ASO doesn’t have “a monopoly”. What a silly statement. The ASO has some legally owned properties it wishes to retain control of which amount to 42% of the World Tour calendar. Which means it doesn’t own 58% of it. Monopoly? And how are they being “anti-competitive” anymore than the UCI which forces World Tour events to take all of their World Tour teams? As Inrng has stated, the move the ASO have announced isn’t even against the UCI’s own rules let alone the EU’s!

      • Pelican VC Saturday, 19 December 2015, 8:55 pm

        Thanks, much appreciated.

      • Nick Sunday, 20 December 2015, 11:49 am

        In deciding whether a monopoly existed, the EU would do more than count the number of races, but would look at things like the market for cycling sponsorship and the revenue of races. Given how the TdF dominates these markets, it wouldn’t be a huge surprise for them to hold that ASO has a monopoly (which need not be 100% ownership, obviously).

        • Pelican VC Tuesday, 22 December 2015, 12:16 pm

          “[ASO] can simply wipe $20 million and a hundred-something jobs off the map just because they don’t like you,” Vaughters said. “It’s a level of power that is, in essence, a monopoly in the sport. It puts them in a position of extreme unilateral power.”

          http://velonews.competitor.com/2015/12/news/vaughters-tour-gives-aso-a-big-edge-in-power-struggle_391559

          That’s what I was talking about. As you can no doubt tell, i’m not an expert in competition law, but I do believe ASO holds an excessive amount of power in the sport. They may well proselytise that they only have the best interests of ‘cycling’ at heart, but what they (& any other business) really care about is profit. What if ASO’s next CEO decides the current focus on anti-doping is hurting profits, and, like tennis, football, NFL, etc… simply decides to bury the doping story (easy to do – just don’t test anyone, & there won’t be any +’s), and instead put profits before a clean sport. We might then wish for a stronger governing body, whose motivations come not only from profit, but also from representing the various national federations around the world who elect them to serve the sport.

          Of course, like we see with FIFA, IAAF, ITF, NFL, etc… any one organisation holding all the power is usually a bad thing (from a fair, clean sport perspective, perhaps not from a ‘money’ POV) – hence why the current actions of ASO make me feel uncomfortable. It looks increasingly like they’re trying to position themselves as the de facto governing body of the sport – and since they don’t have to answer to national cycling federations, I (as a member of British Cycling, for example) and the rest of us don’t get any representation at the top table.

  • Nicosix Friday, 18 December 2015, 6:12 pm

    As I read some comments here, I fear I don’t agree with a lot of them.
    It looks like there is a schism between latin and anglosaxon’s point of view.
    What the UCI is trying to do is more of an american way of seeing sports with a closed league without any possibility of promotion/relegation. Some teams forgot where they came from as BMC for instance started low before getting into WT.
    Also there is a uniformation of races that is at stake. Remember what Velon was wanting to do with a stable 4-day races around the world? Is Formula 1 really the exemple we need to rely on?

    I understand that ASO was willing to go with the first reform plan in 2015. But it has all been changed since. And that’s what is the starting point of it.
    Is cycling only the WT? You know if you start being elistist, small races are going to dissappear and they are the core of cycling.

    I really like it the way cycling is organized now, with three layer of teams and 5 continental circuits.
    If you start cutting cycling from its base, you endanger all your pyramide.

    I’m not sure where Cookson is heading but don’t see ASO as the bad guy here. They are trying to save a little romantism which is why most people like cycling

    • Nick Friday, 18 December 2015, 7:06 pm

      European vs American rather than Latin vs Anglo-Saxon, I would suggest. Promotion and relegation have been part of British sport since at least 1892, when the 2nd division of the football league was formed.

      • Ronin Saturday, 19 December 2015, 12:07 am

        European vs. Anglo-Saxon is not inaccurate, since both Australia and Canada have closed leagues as well.

        But, this whole “open vs closed” comparison is nonsense anyway, since nothing in the any UCI proposals, so far as we know of them, takes cycling anywhere near an American closed system. The American leagues are closed because the owners of the teams own and rule the leagues. When you buy an NFL franchise, you’re not buying a license to play football; you’re buying an ownership share. Surprise! Team owners don’t relegate other team owners for poor performance. Instead, they try to address disparities with drafting systems and salary caps, just like in Australian Rules football.

        Giving a team three years in the top league, instead of one year, does not make a closed system. That’s nonsense from ASO, meant to make people feel creepy about an American system. Oh my God, the horror. Really, when ASO says they want an open system, what they mean is this. “It will be entirely open to us to determine which teams ride in the Tour.”

        • Matt Saturday, 19 December 2015, 3:41 am

          Agreed

      • Shawn Saturday, 19 December 2015, 5:38 pm

        In addition to Ronin’s accurate statement, one should consider the context in which a system of promotion and relegation makes sense, viz. geographically closed or national leagues. When you have a top league where all teams compete against each other and a second tier where the same happens, then ‘fair’ rules of promotion and relegation work well. However, in a global sport like cycling, where there are 2nd tiered teams on separate continents who rarely, if ever, compete against each other, how would you propose fair promotion or relegation? I cannot help but feel that this hope of promotion and relegation (and maybe ASO’s vision) is of a Europe-focused league where any chance to grow beyond that is not really supported.

  • Paulo Rocha Friday, 18 December 2015, 6:14 pm

    The sustainability of the sport is not measured by how much money or how stable is the World Tour and the ProTour squads, but how stable is the survival of the stakeholders in all levels of the pyramid.

    Professional cycling is not only “200 something guys” at the Protour, “20 something” teams and 3 or 4 races. Creating an island for the top tiers will only dry all efforts outside of it.

    Everything tends to gravitate around the Tour de France, but for the organizer (ASO) the sustainability of all the other races is also relevant.

    So, when everybody states that the best should be granted a spot in the Tour that does not make any sense for an organizer that is responsible for several races, because it will make all other races not important. In reality, the smaller teams make all other races much more entertaining to secure a spot in the Tour. How many times did we saw a Protour team racing an invisible Vuelta just because they have its place secured, when the wild cards are all day putting a very entertaing show for the fans. A race with the best cyclists can actually be pretty dull …

    • Anonymous Friday, 18 December 2015, 7:53 pm

      Well said. ASO is not just looking out for themselves, they have a a very reasonable position that is in the best interests of the whole sport; all the teams, all the races and all the riders.

    • The Inner Ring Friday, 18 December 2015, 8:16 pm

      That’s almost exactly what ASO’s Christian Prudhomme said today in this video clip: http://www.lequipe.fr/Cyclisme-sur-route/Actualites/A-s-o-retire-ses-epreuves-du-calendrier-2017-du-world-tour/617660 (French)

      • Joshua Tuesday, 22 December 2015, 8:17 am

        hmmm, maybe Paulo Rocha is Prudhomme’s pseudonym

        In the video, Prudhomme speaks about the 2017 and ASO’s freedom to choose its teams, as a fait accompli and not simply as a proposed plan. When I read about the announcement on Velonews and Cyclingnews, I thought it might be a gambit to force UCI to reverse the proposed changes, but the video clip makes it sound as if the decision is firm and final, in Christian’s mind anyway.

  • J Evans Friday, 18 December 2015, 7:16 pm

    Cookson’s UCI has created this problem and it has been exacerbated by their links with Velon. How has he let this shambles happen?
    The man is a calamity.
    And if he is no longer chummy with Makarov – who seems to have far too much influence in cycling – who does he have left?
    That said, ASO have gone a bit far here – negotiation would be preferable to a declaration of war.
    Do they want Lappartient (who also seems to have far too much influence in cycling) in charge?
    I can’t see how ASO don’t hold all the cards and although I don’t agree with them on everything, I’d still rather they were running the show than the UCI – and way more than I’d like to see Velon with any power.
    The UCI and the teams have only themselves to blame.

    • Anonymous Friday, 18 December 2015, 7:57 pm

      I believe that ASO has done far more than their fair share of negotiating.

  • PaulG Friday, 18 December 2015, 7:19 pm

    There is a precedent here…and it was the French……

    It started because Bernie Ecclestone felt that Sports Cars and in particular were getting to much publicity and taking the shine off F1….as he had the ear of the FIA (UCI of Cycling) he applied pressure…..

    The ACO (Organisers of the Le Mans 24 hour race) did not like what the FIA were proposing for Sports Car Racing….So they picked up their ball, and ran Le Mans outside of the jurisdiction of the FIA…..eventually, after a couple of years, the ACO got most of what they wanted. The FIA kept a loose control over Sports Cars, but the ACO were able to develop and grow the sport over the years for the benefit of all.

  • Anonymous Friday, 18 December 2015, 8:01 pm

    I’m with ASO. The UCI’s actions, this year especially, have been baffling.

  • Rik VII Friday, 18 December 2015, 9:08 pm

    Deja vu?

    In 2005 we saw a war between ASO, RCS and Unipublic against the UCI. UCI, in fact Vergurggen an McQuaid tried to create a business like Ecclestone did in F1. Fortunaly UCI lost this war.

    Now it’s more a battle ASO vs. Velon. ASO bought Unipublic. RCS isn’t allied with ASO any more. They made a contract with Velon. Flanders were never allied with ASO. The Tour of Poland strongly support UCI.

    And the UCI? Nothing to compare with 2005. No dictatorship. They don t even stick to their own better ideas. New Ranking system? Oooops, to early! No more overlaps between top tier races? Oh, we must scramble the eggs to make an omlette? Too difficult. The UCI is anything, senseless, rediculous, boring, but they are helpless, weak. At least they don’t want to create an UCI busines modell, as they fe closed UCI Cycling Promotion.

    So why anybody is in favour of the reforms but ASO. Because ASO, not UCI, ist the powerhorse of cycling. Fe. at Frankfurt the run a HC-Cycling race sibce he sixties. They tried to get Kittel on the start line. No, sorry, he started in England, where a ASO-event was held. The teams are afraid to lose the TdF-ticket and they want the TV-money – from ASO. Other events struggle to get TV-times, not TV-money.

    All stakeholders are talking about cycling values. Bullshit. It’s business. ASO prefers an “open system” till procycling is completly property of ASO. That’s not “open”. The rest want to avoid this scenario by adopting the american franchise system (F1, NFL, NHL …). Monopolism vs. oligopolism.

    Velon, RCS, Flanders, Tour de Pologne, UCI … all against the Tour de France. It’s unfair. No chance that ASO will loose the battle.

    The teams will do anything to start at the Tour – whatever they say. To avoid beeing excludes they will start with their top riders even at Yorkshire, Quatar, Fjörd-Norway … and they will sent their second bests to the UCI World Tour-Races. The three year licences for teams and organsisers are wothless. Velon voted against a promotion and relagtion-system that givs security for the best 16 out of 18. They will get a system where even beeing part of the best 16 don’t gives them a spot at the Tour – as in the nineties. Congratulations! Well played!

    • ChrisFroomesBaby Saturday, 19 December 2015, 10:34 am

      Of course, the game might change a little if the Velon teams came out and said they are sticking together and would act as a block, refusing, for example, to enter ASO races. Movistar vs Astana would get boring in a hurry. But they won’t. Its a dog eat dog world.

      The ASO hold the winning hand here. Quite simply, if you’re a pro cycling team you need to be in the Tour de France, the only race non-cycling fans (that’s basically everyone) have ever heard of.

      • The Inner Ring Saturday, 19 December 2015, 11:05 am

        Can you pick a better user name rather than “ChrisFroomesBaby” and “SirDaveBrailsford”? By all means contribute, just with a more original username 😉

      • gabriele Saturday, 19 December 2015, 7:37 pm

        “If you’re a pro cycling team you need to be in the Tour de France”. Plain false (or you should give a more exact definition of ‘pro cycling team’).

        “…the only race non-cycling fans have ever heard of”. Depends on *where*. Quite false in most parts of Europe and several other countries around the world.

        “…non-cycling fans (that’s basically everyone)”. Depends on *where*. Moreover, it depends heavily enough on your definition of *everyone*. Maybe a politician of a governing party might agree with you but, say, an epidemiologist wouldn’t at all. Or a sociologist. Or an economist.

        That said, I tend to agree with “ASO hold the winning hand here” 😉
        I just suspect that hand is not as winning as some 7-8 years ago, and that’s why they acted otherwise. Allowing a lot of room in terms of time and of mediation, when compared with suddenly taking Pa-Ni out of the UCI frame (but I can’t rememeber all the details of that story).

        I don’t know what to think about Movistar vs Astana… I’d tend to agree, even if maybe it could be better than the Movistar-Sky joint venture which bored lots of us during last July. Tinkoff vs Astana in May was fun enough, and, now that I think about it, the juvenile match Quintana (Movistar) vs Aru (Astana) in 2014 was pretty good, too.

        • Anonymous Sunday, 20 December 2015, 1:33 pm

          I don’t think there’s as much room and time as you think. Doesn’t ASO have to commit to 2017 status withing the next couple of weeks?

          I’m pretty sure that ASO’s announcement is a firm commitment. From here, the UCI will stand firm, capitulate, or concede something. And then the teams will respond. It’s going to be interesting.

          • gabriele Sunday, 20 December 2015, 8:02 pm

            I think that if ASO doesn’t apply there’s a whole year to negotiate, and if they eventually decide to have the TdF back in the WT nobody would say ‘no’.
            What I mean is that in 2007 ASO just slapped the UCI, now they’re saying: “the slap is coming, are you taking it or do you want to speak about it?”.

  • Anonymous Friday, 18 December 2015, 10:51 pm

    Quick question to Inrng ( or anyone else who can answer), I’m not picking sides here but what if the UCI decided not to grant HC status or for that fact any status to any ASO races. Then world tour teams couldn’t attend correct? And since the Tour is the only money maker, it would reason that ASO can’t maintain the races without the top riders.
    I know cycling isn’t like most pro sports leagues as it can’t sell tickets and such but should one owner have that much power? UCI is trying to say here are the rules, we all play by them while ASO is saying they want their own rules even if they don’t control the whole sport.

    • Touriste-Routier Friday, 18 December 2015, 11:07 pm

      ASO is not saying they want their own rules. All they are saying is that they don’t want to be part of the WorldTour, which is voluntary, not mandatory.

      Theoretically, the UCI could deny ASO any permits, but would the National Federations where the events are held reject them? I don’t see the FFC saying”non”. Of course without UCI sanction, they would theoretically lose the participation of WT & PC teams (according to UCI rules), and under a National sanction (from a UCI affiliate), they would only be able to host races with Conti (and/or Elite Amateur teams).

      But I wouldn’t hold my breath. The UCI needs ASO more than vice-versa. Arguably, the top teams need ASO (Le Tour at least) more than the UCI. The quickest way for a full scale anti-UCI rebellion to occur would be for the UCI to bar teams from participating in the sport’s marquee events.

      • Anonymous Sunday, 20 December 2015, 1:43 pm

        Let’s be clear, the top teams Want ASO for much more than TdF: Dauphine, Fleche, L-B-L, P-N, P-R, TdL’Avenir, Oman, Qatar, Vuelta. A lot of the top riders have at least two of those races on their want to win list.

    • Rik VII Friday, 18 December 2015, 11:14 pm

      UCI Rule: 1.2.019 No licence holder may participate in an event that has not been included on a national, continental or world calendar or that has not been recognised by a national federation,
      a continental confederation or the UCI.

      In theory that would be the end of the Tour de France. In reality that would be the split of procycling. No good idea for the UCI.

    • Anonymous Friday, 18 December 2015, 11:54 pm

      The UCI has no god given power. It isn’t in the position to allow or forbid anything (they can try, but they have a whole lot of legal battles on their hands): They are there, because people (the national federations, meaning in the end: people riding and racing bikes) allow them to handle their business for them. Not more. It is by a consensus of free will and not by law, that they are allowed to speak and act in their name.

      If ASO decides they want me to ride the Tour de France all by myself-then I can do that and they are allowed to welcome me. If ASO wants to run the the race with teenage riders on tandems – they can do that.

      It would not be an UCI-approved race, but that is all. The UCI, in the end, means not much. If riders/races/teams decide to not to be part of it anymore-then they can do nothing about it. If ASO-races were not UCI-races, UCI can only dish out fines or refuse/recall licences for riders that are taking part-good luck with that! Fast enough more races would leave the UCI and the riders would have enough non-UCI races to make a living.

      Cookson got what he went for-he can’t complain now or act surprised. For months ASO was ridiculed, played, left out, with the back against the wall- did they really think this would have no consequences? Especially after Abu Dhabi. Corruption isn’t always about money being payed and the UCI openly let themselves get corrupted by VELON and RCS. It still makes me angry, that this race got shown in TV, while other – good- races can only dream from afar. A race which didn’t even exist a few months before. Unbelievable.

      My only wish is that people make up their own mind, get their own infos, verify infos and don’t fall for the “good side”/”bad side”-game. Don’t fall for the fearmongers inside the WT and certain mediaoutlets, who should be ashamed, because they don’t report anything, they just try to influence their readers. But also don’t fall for the idea that ASO are saints and should take over the sport. Of course they have their own interest at heart-JUST AS THE TEAMS. They all want power.

      But -after taking my own advice and making up my own mind – in this case I am with ASO all the way, even if I have to watch teenagers riding around France on tandems for 2 years.

      • Anonymous Saturday, 19 December 2015, 12:57 am

        What’s the problem with Abu Dhabi generally, and that the race was shown on TV? All they did was create a new race. What’s the down side of that? Did teams get paid to show up? Of course they did. Did they get paid more than it cost them to participate? Probably not. Is it different with any .HC or WT race? It’s not. Did that run afoul of any rules? Nope. Kudos to RCS for creating something new. Can you explain what you think Velon and or UCI did that is corrupt?

        • SirDaveBrailsford Saturday, 19 December 2015, 10:43 am

          They took the Arab cash. Where there is Arab cash corruption is never far behind.

          • Anonymous Saturday, 19 December 2015, 4:02 pm

            C’mon! Where there’s cash, corruption is never far behind.

        • Nick Sunday, 20 December 2015, 12:01 pm

          It clashed with Paris-Tours. Which belongs to ASO.

        • dave Monday, 21 December 2015, 4:30 pm

          by tacking the end-of-season UCI gala onto a newly created desert race organised by RCS, the UCI appeared to be cosying up to RCS and snubbing ASO (and it’s historic European race that clashed) ?

          The whole Abu Dhabi UCI Gala stank something rotten to me (not the anonymous OP).

    • routedusud Saturday, 19 December 2015, 10:39 am

      Such a move would split cycling. Teams would have to choose between sticking with the UCI or participating in the biggest advertising slot (and therefore sponsor-pleasing slot) the sport provides, the Tour de France. Depending on who chose the ASO side this might then induce other organisers to ditch the UCI too. Remember, even Cookson himself says they govern the sport rather than controlling it.

      • gabriele Saturday, 19 December 2015, 8:15 pm

        Just as a sidenote: “biggest” ad-slot doesn’t mean favourite or most meaningful.
        I’m pretty sure that while several current cycling sponsors wouldn’t be unhappy to take part in the Tour, at the same time they have long proven that it’s not something they really need to be motivated to invest in cycling.
        Lots of sponsors through time have find an adequate dimension for them to put some money into cycling year after year without needing their team to get to the Tour… or to be visible there. As I said, I’m sure they wouldn’t dislike it, either, but for someone it just doesn’t matter so much. For example, due to market reasons. That used to happen a lot in the past, and, although the *Krisis* generated a lot of white noise and changed the setting, I’m sure it’s happening now and will happen in the future, maybe in different proportions.
        In Italy or in Spain the local GTs often have way better viewing figures and media exposition than the Tour, especially in recent years, both among cycling fans and (which is perhaps even more important) the general public. If you’re interested in those markets, the cost/benefit could be way more promising than getting all the way up to the Tour. Also note that it’s not only about local firms – which might be suffering: it works for a lot of European brands (especially French, but also German, Dutch, Swiss…) which have started seeing how they can suddenly get better penetration in markets once occupied by local producers. Even if those markets are depressed as such, they’re actually fast growing markets… for those who had zero/reduced presence there. And cycling is especially good at this.
        I don’t know in detail the Belgian/Netherlands situation, but I’m confident that there’s a number of investors which can find a profitable sponsoring niche albeit the TdF is the farthest though from their mind. The whole CX thing is just an example…

  • Lanterne Verte Friday, 18 December 2015, 11:06 pm

    If the ASO races no longer have WT status will the WT teams be able to sue the UCI because the team license has been devalued?

    • Rik VII Friday, 18 December 2015, 11:16 pm

      I’m not an expert in swiss law, but I don’t think so. The licence gives the right to participate in WorldTour-races, not to participate in ASO-events. And: Till today anybody who apllies for a licence from 2017 knows, that the ASO not apllies.

      • Rik VII Friday, 18 December 2015, 11:56 pm

        FROM today … uuuups.

  • RocksRootsRoad Friday, 18 December 2015, 11:24 pm

    I thought the maximum length of an HC Category race was 200km. There goes a quarter of P-R?

    • Rik VII Friday, 18 December 2015, 11:32 pm

      UCI Rule 2.3.012: … * Except prior permission of the UCI management committee.

      To avoid a split the management commitee will give a permission.

      😉

      • Rik VII Thursday, 24 December 2015, 2:54 pm

        Silly me:

        Cookson: ASO can’t pick and choose which rules apply to them – UCI president points to limited maximum distance of HC races http://www.cyclingnews.com/news/cookson-aso-cant-pick-and-choose-which-rules-apply-to-them/

        They really want to start a war?

        • Anonymous Thursday, 24 December 2015, 3:13 pm

          It’s not just Cookson, the UCI should probably just be abolished. This current administration will reverse all the good that has come from Aigle.

          • J Evans Thursday, 24 December 2015, 7:17 pm

            ‘All the good’?

          • Anonymous Thursday, 24 December 2015, 8:14 pm

            First international sport government to implement the bio passport and the whereabouts rule, i believe. Of course, the “one hour window” rule modification was it’s undoing.

        • DMC Thursday, 24 December 2015, 3:17 pm

          Rik VII – for sure, it seems like the UCI wants to start a war. I can’t see them winning this war at all.

          If Cookson insists on enforcing these rules to the letter, I think it’ll play out with ASO pulling their events from the UCI. Drug testing will be funded by the French Federation, bike and other rule testing will be enforced by the ASO, and the Tour/P-R/etc. will go on as planned.

          The next step is ASO could potentially operate for good like this. The UCI really has very little practical function.

          • Anonymous Thursday, 24 December 2015, 3:25 pm

            I think RCS will join ASO

          • DMC Thursday, 24 December 2015, 3:48 pm

            That would be an interesting development. I think you’re on to something.

            If that happens, UCI can lose it’s power position for years to come. Unfortunately that would be really bad for Cookson’s legacy.

            Then, if RCS joins the ASO, what’s stopping Flander’s Classics and other organisers joining them? In fact, I think they’d all be financially better off without the UCI, as all have to pay a very large licensing fee to the UCI each year.

            Cycling could operate like this:
            ~ Race Organisers set a playbook with rules and regulations to follow
            ~ WADA and the national federations handle all drug testing (current situation)
            ~ WADA would operate the biological passport
            ~ Race Organisers set the races and police the races (this is almost the current situation, the race organisers pay the commissaires, but they don’t give them the licenses yet)

          • Anonymous Thursday, 24 December 2015, 4:19 pm

            Cookson’s legacy is probably not going to look pretty. But, I will say that he is so smug and so comfortable being completely wrong headed that he is either an imbecile, or he knows something about the balance of power that we do not.

          • Rik VII Friday, 25 December 2015, 10:42 am

            Btw.: A real stupid statement of Cookson , cause fe the ASO-race Parsi-Tours 2015 was held in categorie hc on a distance of … 231 km. Paris-Brussels and any other race with a traditional route were allowed to race over 200kms. And that shouldn’t apply for Paris-Roubaix and LBL?

          • The Inner Ring Saturday, 26 December 2015, 9:39 am

            Indeed. Cookson says “Have they looked at all the rules? The maximum distance for HC events is 200km, so are they going to shorten Paris-Roubaix or the longer Tour stages” only he seems he’s the one that hasn’t looked at his own rules.

            He is correct that HC races are capped at 200km but that is for new races, the tradition is that older races may exceed this just as you show for Paris-Tours. Also the rule says exemptions can be made (although of course the UCI could say no). Also the 200km limit only applies to one day races, those “longer Tour stages” can be up to 240km long under the current rules, regardless of whether it’s World Tour or HC.

          • Anonymous Saturday, 26 December 2015, 12:30 pm

            After his recent statements regarding this and the Verbruggen agreement I wonder why others at the UCI haven’t stopped him from speaking beyond controlled the talking points.

          • Rik VII Saturday, 26 December 2015, 10:14 pm

            To be ecactly:

            UCI rule 2.3.002 (one day races)
            … 1.HC … Maximum 200 km* … * Except prior permission of the UCI management committee.

            UCI rule 2.6.008 (stage races)
            … men elite and under 23 (continental circuits, classes HC, 1 and 2) 180 kms [average] 240 kms [max per stage]

            So: Fe. Paris-Rouboais as an 1.HC-race needs a permission as Paris-Tours already have; the Tour would in the rules as a 2.HC-race without any problems.

          • Anonymous Sunday, 27 December 2015, 1:16 am

            If he makes it until 2017, shortening Paris-Roubaix would surely gain him a lot more friends and supporters…

        • J Evans Thursday, 24 December 2015, 7:27 pm

          Cookson seems determined to prove correct those who say he has no idea what he’s doing.
          Not only has he come up with this knowledge of the rules days after everyone else was saying it, but if he does go down this route all the way, he’s clearly going to destroy the UCI.
          Can he not see that the UCI has nothing?
          ASO has the races – what is the UCI going to do to stop them doing what they want with them?
          And the riders, the teams and the sponsors will all want to ride the Tour. Which means, if there is a split, RCS and Flanders Classics will also have to leave the UCI in order to get the top riders competing in their races.
          Of course, the most likely end result of this is Cookson’s forced resignation or, most likely of all, yet another humiliating climbdown.
          He is so gumptionless that he thinks that Velon will support him in this – no, they will use you to try to get themselves more cash and then they will dump you as soon as you fail.

          • Anonymous29 Saturday, 26 December 2015, 6:17 pm

            I think Cookson should be removed from his position as fast as possible. Surely the federations or anyone has the possibility to? It isn’t that he still is in the first three months of his presidency. He had enough time and all he has done-looking from the outside and judging from the little the public gets told these days – he has made things much worse. The secrecy, the disregard of everybody who isn’t following by foot, the use of the media to make politics (he is the goddamn president of a goddamn tiny sport federation. Make rules for cyclingfootball, seek money for children races, speak at schools-that is what I want him to do! Not plotting and scheming and bullshit!) and the way he is clearly publically preferring some teams, some organisers, some nations is simply too much for me. Btw: To me the whole question about HC-rules vs WT-rules is none: In the rules and regulations there are clear rules what a Grand Tour looks like – and the Tour de France stays a Grand Tour, even if it would be on the national calender. Right? So the HC-stuff doesn’t come into play anyway.

    • Swifty Tuesday, 29 December 2015, 2:09 am

      Inner Ring,
      Fascinating blog. I’m curious, in your opinion did ASO overlook the 200km HC limit when they made their move? When do you think Cookson himself realized he had this card to play?

      If things deteriorate further and the UCI dig their heels in – perhaps only granting an exemption for Roubaix for example but not the Tour – how much of an impact will that have on the design of the Tour course? Surely it will limit ASO’s options when it comes to selling villes-étapes status. Longer transfers? A less geographically cohesive Tour? Can ASO get around it by going back to the old days of having both morning and afternoon stages? Is it 200km per day or per stage? Any loophole in the wording? Any chance they can have someone at the International Bureau of Weights and Measures change the definition of a meter? And then change it back again in August? 😉

      Keep up the great work!

      • The Inner Ring Tuesday, 29 December 2015, 9:15 am

        Cookson’s got muddled by his own rules, the current UCI rules say Tour stages can still be up to 240km long without permission if it’s an HC race.

        So no worries for ASO here, indeed the more it comes down to bickering over race length then the more it’ll be a bizarre argument over race length and the rulebook rather than the vision for the sport.

        • Swifty Tuesday, 29 December 2015, 12:11 pm

          Yeah, I only saw your tweet about the correct distance after I posted. Prior to that I was just going off the Cookson quote in the Guardian article:

          “I don’t think their move is a helpful one and I wonder if they’ve thought it through properly. Have they looked at all the rules? The maximum distance for HC events is 200km, so are they going to shorten Paris-Roubaix or the longer Tour stages? They can’t pick and choose which rules apply to them if they want to be part of the sport.”

          That’s a pretty embarrassing gaffe from the president of the UCI. ASO must be having a right old chuckle at Cookson’s expense.

          I honestly can’t see any downside to their decision then. Going HC has only enhanced their ability to divide and conquer the world tour teams. I’ll keep watching the chess match with interest. Cheers!

  • fedegu1 Friday, 18 December 2015, 11:52 pm

    Sincerely Tour is not cycling.
    France is Cycling. BELGIUM IS CYCLING.
    EUSKADI FLAGS IS CYCLING.
    Cobbles are cycling.

  • Harry Garden Saturday, 19 December 2015, 12:34 am

    Is the uci still in charge of doping testing for aso races? If so we know what we can expect

    • Rik VII Saturday, 19 December 2015, 10:58 am

      In 2008 ASO had taken Paris-Nice out of any UCI-circuit and ran it as an event of the french association FFC (simply illegal to run an international race in a national calender – as IMO UCIś attempt to include the ASO-races in the former ProTour against ASO’s will was illegal too).

      2017 ist oviously diffrent: ASO only said that they will not apply for the UCI WorldTour 2017 and ask for a categorization as “hors categorie” of the UCI Europe Tour 2017. That’s similar to the current status of the Tour of California (UCI America Tour, hors categorie).

      It’s a struggle of power. But it’s no breakaway. On the other hand: UCI said, that they’ll go on with or without ASO, wich means other as 2008 they don’t try to incude ASO-races against ASOs will.

      To make a long story short: The Tour remains an UCI-race, under UCI-rules, esp. anti-doping-regulations.

  • KGB Saturday, 19 December 2015, 3:51 am

    Would this move by ASO allow them to reduce the maximum number of riders per team in the Tour?

    • Rik VII Saturday, 19 December 2015, 7:31 am

      Yes:

      UCI Rule 2.2.003 The number of starting riders per team shall be set by the organiser, with a minimum of 4 and maximum of 8, 9 for Grands Tours. … Special provisions for UCI WorldTour
      In UCI WorldTour events, the number of starting riders per team is 9 for Grand Tours and 8 for other events. However, subject to prior approval by the Professional Cycling Council, …

      Grand Tour as a part of the UCI World Tour: strictly 9 per team; outside from 4 to 9.

      • Anonymous Sunday, 20 December 2015, 1:47 pm

        Nice job with the rules for this thread.

  • ocaz Saturday, 19 December 2015, 7:45 am

    Please forgive my ignorance but what is to stop someone just copying those races albeit without the history? What do ASO own exactly the image, name etc?

    This reminds me of when their was a split in darts, when relations broke down between the players and the governing body. Players wanted reform the outdated BDO ignored them and they split off and formed their own world championships. When ch turned out successful as all the top players basically jumped ship.

    Could this be a chance for riders the gain power? After all the Tour de France or any incarnation of it will only be seen as the exclusive event if the best riders compete in it.

    • Rik VII Saturday, 19 December 2015, 9:28 am

      Well, ASO owns the whole trademark and they’ll sue anybody who uses name, image etc.pp. without permission. And why not: Try to produce your own prdoducts and sell them Coca Cola, Kellogs flakes, Dolce & Gabbana, Trek Bikes wihout permission …

      • Rik VII Saturday, 19 December 2015, 9:29 am

        read : sell them AS Coca Cola …

    • Rik VII Saturday, 19 December 2015, 10:07 am

      May be you can copy just the idea an organize a three-weak-race in july called “Trois Semaines de France”. If the UCI gives your the permission you would have an UCI-race. If the UCI gives a WorldTour-label your in the WorldTour.

      Mh. Actually it’s not that simple to create a GrandTour. ASO and RCS have 100 years experience to do that. So the only player who coul do that is might RCS. But beeing lacalized ist an advantage. Even ASO did not maede their own 3-week-race in Spain or bought the trademarl Vuelta a Espana. They bought the organizer Unipublic, so they have the local experience and contacts included.

      I think if RCS try to make such thing they risk to going bancrupt. Any other organizer in cycling shouldn’t even think about it. Anyone outside cycling should start with organizing a criterium, a grand fondo or something small to learn how road racing works or better stay outside.

    • SirDaveBrailsford Saturday, 19 December 2015, 10:49 am

      Is the Tour an “exclusive event”? Every year some of the top riders don’t take part. I don’t see how the riders gain any power from this. Their interests are all individual. Only very few can win the biggest races anyway. Their interests are not aligned with riders down the peleton’s pecking order.

  • Fourlegs Saturday, 19 December 2015, 11:11 am

    The wife and I just got back from our first tandem training ride for the 2017 TdF. Hope the 200k limit applies.

    • gabriele Saturday, 19 December 2015, 7:11 pm

      😀

      • Othersteve Saturday, 19 December 2015, 8:29 pm

        Gotta love it, reality break

    • Anonymous Sunday, 20 December 2015, 4:58 am

      Very cute!

  • MattF Saturday, 19 December 2015, 11:39 am

    For those with some understanding of the game of cricket, they will be fully aware of the ‘disruptive’ and thoroughly revolutionary impact of Kerry Packer’s World Series Cricket. Could something similar occur in pro cycling? Too
    right it could.

  • gabriele Saturday, 19 December 2015, 9:21 pm

    As for now, I really struggle to stick with one side or the other.
    Yet, a couple of thing should be observed.

    First, as I wrote above, it’s interesting to consider how this ASO move is different from 2007’s. Does that mean anything? Are they less sure of their strength? Or are they just more open to negotiation? Or haven’t they got any intention to negotiate, but they’re just hoping to create a new setting which would be even more favourable for them?
    The 2007 Pa-Ni decision left no room for anything else but a wall against wall, and things really couldn’t go on any longer like that (nor did it make sense): having an “illegal” situation couldn’t be borne through the years. OTOH, the subsequent split of the “historical races” could crystallise in sort of a different order, even if eventually there was no need to get there. The current ASO position isn’t as conflictive as the Pa-Ni case – and it looks like getting some positional advantage in a chess match rather than setting a whole different order of things.

    The second thing that came to my mind is that when we speak of “the sport”, it’s sustainability, the struggling teams and the likes, (new and/or big) races making money since the sponsors prefer them against the teams because of the doping risk and so on, we’re a little WT focused. Most of us, at least – me included.
    I don’t have the figures at hand – maybe inrng posted them some time ago? – but if I’m not wrong Pro Conti teams are back again in a growing trend. And while the more successful races are still making money, or at least working, lots of the smallest ones are in a tight spot, even more so outside the male/elite sector. Meanwhile, the bike industry is making more and more money, prices are on the rise again… and the amateur races are living a boom that in some countries is next to a bubble.

    I feel that when ASO speaks of its worries about the whole pyramid of cycling, it’s mainly an excuse. However, they touched a sore spot. Most of what I’ve read about UCI reforms (I must admit I haven’t spent much time on it, hence once again I might deserve proper blame for that attitude) didn’t look very engaged with a full or deep vision of the sport in its whole, complex architecture, it was more about making stabler the top of the cake in itself (someone else wrote something like this somewhere around here). I sense, indeed, sort of lack of a *holistic* perception: but if they tried to make it work in a more organic way, maybe a bit more bottom-up?
    Maybe the “success” (lots of inverted commas here, it depends very much on the parameters you’re using) of the main North-American team sports, or of football in Europe, have something to do with a capillary social presence rather than with money-trickling “investors” (might their presence be just “a consequence”?) – and that looks true both in terms of organisation (the college system, the football schools in every single hamlet, and so on) *and* in terms of cultural impact (the “deep play” idea by Clifford Geertz which looks so appropriate when one thinks of Superbowl, or of the existential bonding between fans and football teams, or of the sheer number of newspaper pages that male European football gets, or of the whole baseball saga we get the flavour through De Lillo’s “Underworld”, or of the curious relation between basketball and urbanism etc.).

    When cycling was flourishing… well, it was a bit like that. Is it possible that no debate is rising on the subject? It’s all about clashing WT races, a simpler calendar for dummies, supposedly simpler but very complicated prizes (best climber, best sprinter…), stabler WT licenses – well, I must confess I’m tormented by the doubt that that’s simply not the point and the sport is wasting energies on futile battles.
    You can stratch and stitch, but I feel that no strategy will bring in much people or big money just on racing/points/classification formulas.
    Work must be done to bring back cycling into people’s lifes (well, it’s partly happening by itself, for other reasons, and indeed we see here and there growing figures without any specific rules reform being enforced).
    And the Federations might well play a part. Are they interested? Can they play a part? I’m not sure but I gave a deep look to the website of British Cycling some months/years ago, and it was amazing. Really great in terms of all around perspective. Results came, I’d say (not sure, I don’t live there, but, hey… from outside it looks fine).
    As a Federation of Federations, shouldn’t the UCI foster something like that in other countries, too? Perhaps the impact would be greater than granting WT status to, say, Abu Dhabi (do they really need that?) or to avoid the clash between, dunno, TdS and Dauphiné.

    • XNight Saturday, 19 December 2015, 11:29 pm

      I agree with your sentiments Gabriele.
      What strikes me is that all levels of cycling, from World Tour to local level, rely on the goodwill of volunteers.
      This seems to get forgotten at times in the various political / financial disagreements.
      The warring factions should have their heads knocked together and reminded of this fact and sort out their differences.

    • Nick Sunday, 20 December 2015, 12:12 pm

      it looks to me like ASO have left more negotiating room this time; a 16-team WT from 2018/19 might do it for them?

      Agree re the websites – a single decent site for the WT and conti tours – drawing from those for other sports – is something sorely lacking.

  • John Liu Sunday, 20 December 2015, 3:15 am

    How this benefits the ASO:
    – ASO can pick which WT teams are permitted to race the Tour and which are not.
    – To get picked for the Tour, WT teams will send their star riders to ASO’s races. Paris-Nice instead of Tirreno-Adriatico. Criterium du Dauphine instead of Tour de Suisse. Tour of Qatar instead of Tour of Dubai or Tour Down Under. Maybe ASO moves the Vuelta to spring and takes out the Giro.
    – The races that are not ASO will lose star riders, get weaker, and collapse. Or ASO will buy them cheaply. ASO will own 70 or 80% of the racing days, instead of 48% now.
    – ASO will reduce the Tour to 20 teams and only 13 of those well be WT teams. The 5 WT teams not invited to the Tour will lose sponsors, and fold or go down to Pro Conti. This may take a couple of years. Eventually there will be fewer WT teams than today, and the budget between rich and poor teams will be even larger.
    – There will be fewer opportunities for riders to race at the top level. Maybe 13 WT teams instead of 18. And when ASO reduces the Tour team size from 9 to 8, that will reduce the number of riders too. Fewer chances for young riders, veteran riders get booted earlier.
    – In several years, top level pro road racing will become essentially the commercial enterprise of a single company, ASO. Or whoever ASO is sold to, maybe a Chinese company? There will be fewer WT teams, fewer top level riders, fewer non-ASO events. Cycling will have moved to something more like the F1 model, with ASO/its owner as Eccelstone/CVC. Except that F1 teams get a significant share of F1 revenues, while the ASO will not share anything with the cycling teams (beyond token prize money).

    This is taking cycling in a bad direction. We think the sport has problems now; it will get a lot worse.

    • Anonymous Sunday, 20 December 2015, 8:09 am

      This is very cute, too! Fun aside: I think we can all rest assured – the pro cycling apocalypse is not upon us.

  • Pax Sunday, 20 December 2015, 8:16 am

    I am with John Liu.

    This gives too much power to ASO (obviously they want that). This is not a European model – this a model where ASO gets to decide which teams are relegated – without set rules thus arbitrarily.

    I know there are some commentators that suggest that cycling financial viability doesn’t matter. In the western world money matters – on so many levels – there is no economic (and thus academic) justification for the claim that the sport doesn’t need to viable.

    Shame on the races that let ASO manage them, they helped create this situation.

    Too bad that Tinkov is leaving because he at least had the guts and standing to call the ASO out. Many of the others can’t.

    The UCI has had a weak set of cards for quite a while so it isn’t Cookson’s fault.

    Who has strong cards ? Those that provide TV coverage. The UCI should have included the media at the table all of along, maybe they did.

    Who are the winners, who are the losers – get them together and figure this out.
    If I wasn’t a top 10 or top 25 rider I would think this would hurt me. (perhaps even all)
    If I was an Italian I would think this would be declaring ware against the Tour of Italy.
    If I was a French rider (or on a french team) I might think my chances of getting to race in the Tour are better. If I am American rider – I most likely see my chance of riding the tour decreasing.
    Thus does this create a French riders/French teams versus part of the World fight. I would think so.

    I would think the biggest wildcard is the UK – if the UK media doesn’t side with ASO – there is a good war to be fought.
    Who is on the outside looking in Japan, China – what about the biggest bike powers in Media/ Specialized, Giant, Shimano, SRAM.?

    If the non ASO races band together – create a media package – and – perhaps sell some ownership to a deep pocketed billionaire? Do we end up with competing fractions?

    • Anonymous Sunday, 20 December 2015, 1:58 pm

      Characterizing ASO as power hungry is inaccurate. The UCI said that they were acting for everyone concerned, but they weren’t.

      Remember that the UCI is just filling it’s team quota and at least a few of the teams are on the WT because they qualified financially, not competitively. Now, ASO can be more creative in crafting the stories of their races. That’s good for business.

      Also, If they are sincere about smaller fields, we may see fewer crashes and less carnage. That would be refreshing.

    • Sam Monday, 21 December 2015, 12:37 pm

      Interesting summaries, Pax & John Liu. Find myself in agreement with much of your posts. Tho not sure about your UK media angle, Pax?

    • DMC Monday, 21 December 2015, 3:16 pm

      Great idea to include the media, or at least the TV networks, at the UCI talks. If UCI went over ASO’s head to include the TV networks, it would definitely eliminate some of the ASO’s power.

      • The Inner Ring Monday, 21 December 2015, 3:21 pm

        The races own their own TV rights and their biggest clients are their home broadcasters, so the UCI can’t go over their heads. This is largely what makes the likes of ASO, RCS and Flanders Classics so influential.

        • DMC Monday, 21 December 2015, 3:50 pm

          Ah, thanks for clarifying. I suspected as much.

          ASO holds all the cards.

        • PAX Tuesday, 22 December 2015, 9:04 am

          INRNG,

          You obviously know better. But I would argue that if the non-ASO guys could find a way to package their events together (via the UCI or otherways) and the Media companies could say:
          – here is what we might like as a series….
          – here is what what makes for better viewership…
          – here is what we think would attract big time advertisers

          The events could go back and say
          – what would it take to insure ‘prime time’ viewing etc….
          – could you also do this to promote the ‘tourist’ aspect of the locations….
          – how do we mix up the events so they all get some significance

          And the Athletes and Teams could say
          – do this for safety
          – so many race days – so long of stages – what happens in bad weather
          – night races or not…
          – Share x % of media revenue
          – Maybe “location based franchises” that maybe have a home race
          – Or races home part of the equity in a team

          Obviously the list can go on in many ways – but as a group we know that successful Media, can make for good races, that can lead to an improved financial structure.

          Right now it is awful hard for some of the events to get much out of media – but as a group they are much more powerful. For Media, the events don’t tie together too well and thus interest isn’t great. It also neutralizes ASO on all sides. (of course RCS and Flanders are much more significant than some of the smaller ones – but they have the same long term interests)

          I hate to bring it up – but the US leagues have adjusted quite a bit to viewer changes… it has made them more attractive to watch.

  • Leopard Sunday, 20 December 2015, 8:59 am

    It is not the sportive criteria or a promotion/relegation system behind the considerations of ASO. They are French and want to protect the interests and the culture of France. They struggled a lot in the last editions to invite a maximum of French teams. They would rather keep Astana out of the Tour and therefore invite an additional French team. This will be legal in future when they are not part of the WorldTour and the selection process will be a lot more arbitrary.

    I believe that Cookson knew well from the past history when McQuaid was president that this position from ASO will resurge when elaborating the reform process. He must keep some actions in the back of his mind to thwart the decision from ASO. Tactically he can reveal his plans at this time.

    The further discussion should rather be what actions could the UCI take to stay the leading body of cycling. Everything in cycling stays and falls with the participation in the Tour de France. A lot of dissension between race organisers, team owners, team managers, riders and the UCI exists. The UCI has to find a solution with the countries representing the UCI to propose other races instead of the Tour adding a additional benefit to all the actors.
    Perhaps they have to find an actor willing to implement their own Tour de France or a superior 3 week Tour visiting the historic stages in France, Spain and Italy ridden in July, providing better hotels, higher participation fees, … etcetera.
    ASO organizes the Tour to realise profit, the UCI has the advantage that it not necessary has to drop enormous profit.´

    • Anonymous Sunday, 20 December 2015, 2:15 pm

      To your first paragraph, this a wildly inaccurate opinion of ASO; they are a world race organizer.

      To your second paragraph, this is a wildly inaccurate opinion of Cookson; Cookson does not have a tactical bone in his body. Cookson is a puppet clown.

      To your third paragraph, the UCI had their chance to find a moderate solution and failed. Miserably.

      The rest of your comment is magical thinking. Even though the TdF had happily allowed itself to become a carnival during the Lance era, it’s the carnival that every commercial entity wants to participate in. There is no entity on the planet that can change what happens in cycling in July.

    • Richard S Monday, 21 December 2015, 3:34 pm

      Any split along the lines of ASO supported series v UCI supported series would not take long to be won by the ASO, even if all they had was the Tour de France. When American Indycar racing split in the mid 90’s the CART series had all the best teams, all the best drivers, all the existing TV contracts etc and all the races – except the Indy 500. All the Indy Racing League had was the Indy 500, a load of largely unknown drivers and some made up races. It was only a few years before the best teams and drivers from CART started doing the Indy 500 as a one off. Then they’d do both series, and then they eventually all ended up in the IRL and CART folded. The only race worth anything to their sponsors was the Indy 500. And that was with one ace. The ASO have 2 of the 3 grand tours plus Paris-Roubaix – the race the cobbled classics specialists all want – and Liege-Bastogne-Liege – the race the hilly classics specialists all want. They are in a completely unasailable position. All they’d need to do is get Flanders classics to align with them and all that would be left would be the Italian races, and they wouldn’t survive long on a field of Italian domestic teams. The UCI will have to bend to whatever ASO want one way or the other.

  • John Liu Sunday, 20 December 2015, 8:42 pm

    Dear Anonymous, could you please choose a user name and post using it? Thanks.

    The problem with posting as Anonymous is that when more than one person does so, it becomes too hard to figure out who is saying what and who is responding to whom.

  • hoh Monday, 21 December 2015, 10:45 am

    The New RCS business plan maybe worth a read as they intent to invest more into amateur & mass start events.

    It maybe the future of how races sustain themselves. Holding amateur/mass start events generate both income and local interests and spread the culture of road racing along the way. The ability to hold accompanying mass start events can be used to test the value of old European races (after all, if a race can’t even generate local interest, what is the point). Also, by mandating any new organiser who want to hold a race to arrange successful mass start events for a few years first, we can ensure that when a race does come eventually, it will have a sustainable base to live on both culturally and financially.

    As for WT and 3 year licence, whilst teams does need predictiveness in terms of future racing program, that does not mean we have to grant them automatic participation to TDF. Rather, a series of objective criteria can be established for teams to meet in order to qualify. For example, any team that has more than certain number of doping positive in certain time period would be excluded or teams need to get certain number of UCI points in early season in order to qualify (which would also increase quality of minor races).

    • gabriele Monday, 21 December 2015, 3:27 pm

      I like and share your POV.
      … just as a side note, I’d add that what’s curious is that in Italy many amateur events (generally speaking, maybe not the RCS ones) have been draining economic resources – essentially, but not exclusively: sponsors! – from the competitive sport, hurting the grassroots level (and the women). I’m absolutely convinced that the whole amateur world is essential for the global well-being of cycling as a sport in the middle term (and we shouldn’t forget that one of the better innovations in cycling came from a GF, the whole Strade Bianche thing and its influence in stage races, too) – nevertheless, a particularistic approach may produce a dangerous lack of balance in the short term whose damage won’t be easy to recover from.
      Not every sponsor which is interested in putting its money in a Gran Fondo would do that with a race or a juvenile team – but in many case it’s about being related with cycling, and the competitive version of the sport would do as well… the problem is that it’s obviously less profitable in the short term from several POVs.
      (Another side note in the side note: the huge involvement of different kinds of companies in Italian GFs shows how little does the doping question as such matter for most economic subjects. It’s all about how it gets represented through media, the management of the image impact).

      At least in Italy, perhaps GF organisers should be forced… to hold a juvenile “true” race, too, even more so than the other way around (I can’t remember well, but I think that Davide Cassani was backing a similar proposal).

      Cycling (be it pro or amateur) relies heavily on public and socially shared structures (volunteers…), hence the society and the institutions have the right – maybe even the duty – to ask something back to those (the few?) who succeed in making money thanks to these events. Ideally, what should be asked back needn’t to be anything directly monetary as much as a sort of engagement to “help” the parts of the sport which doesn’t appear as lucrative.

    • Anonymous Saturday, 26 December 2015, 1:32 pm

      I think everyone needs to consider the 5-10 year future health of the economy. UCI and Velon’s arguments for longer termed licenses help the few at the expense of the sport generally. With a contracting global economy caused in part by, or combined with, the increasingly polar distribution of wealth the sport is just not going to be so grand in the near future. This has happened before, it won’t last forever, but it is going to take some time to acknowledge and then get used to.

      As to the security of longer term licenses, I am against them because it would stifle development. If all 2014 teams had 3 year licenses, Dimension Data could not have done what they did. That would be our loss. Additionally, would anyone think that all of today’s top boxers should be guaranteed top card for the next three years? Should all the world’s workers be guaranteed a job? If a cycling team wants to be a WT team, the owners and the managers need to perform. If they can’t, someone else deserves their slot. Yes, there is safety and security in long term licenses, but we forget that a large part of the success of our favorite teams and riders happens because of the skills of the team owners, DSs, coaching and support staff. This is a very important part of the sport we love. As an example; I haven’t followed closely but, it is rumored that Cavendish will bring Rolf Aldag and Brian Holm with him to Dimension. That says volumes. It would be a shame to lose this nuanced facet of the sport.

      I believe the UCI is, trying or not, dumbing down the sport. The conspiracy is that it’s being molded into a package that’s more gambling friendly.

Next post:

Previous post: