World Tour Reforms Rejected

The UCI and Tour de France owners ASO are clashing over reforms to the sport and even the UCI has its splits after its President Brian Cookson has reportedly been overruled by his own Management Committee.

The clash is primarily over the UCI’s plans for reforms to the men’s pro cycling system, particularly to the World Tour and its calendar of races. These changes have been announced but in whisper-mode and never explained clear in public. Late last year Dutch team boss Richard Plugge told the UCI where to stick its ranking reforms and others have gone public with grumbles about plans to shrink the max team size from 30 to 22 riders.

Revised plans
This brought a rewrite during the first half of the year with input from the Velon group of teams, including, according to Spanish sports paper the call for a reduction in the length of the Giro and Vuelta from three to two weeks although whenever this idea crops up everyone seens to shun it (it does keep appearing though). Today’s newspaper L’Equipe says the revised plans had the following ideas:

  • the UCI would step back from regulation of the World Tour (how far isn’t clear in the article)
  • a franchise-like system where teams could stay in the World Tour rather than worry about relegation to provide stability for teams (ie sponsors know what they’re buying in to)
  • teams would not be obliged to race every major event, unlike the current obligatory World Tour system, but could negotiate their presence with races (without saying it, this hints at appearance fees)

According to a Reuters article yesterday, ASO sent a formal letter to the UCI earlier this week saying it could pull its  races off the UCI calendar if the UCI doesn’t implement some of the proposed reforms. In contrast French website VeloPro, equally well-informed, says ASO is upset with some of the proposed reforms and could pull its races if these reforms go ahead. Today’s L’Equipe sides with the latter explanation suggesting ASO and other race organisers are not happy and the UCI is left to find a compromise between the teams and the organisers.

Jean-Etienne Amaury says “non”

No Tour de France?
Whatever the grounds or motivation ASO is raising the explosive prospect of a UCI calendar without the Tour de France, the Vuelta, Paris-Roubaix, the Critérium du Dauphiné and all the other events it owns. Unthinkable? As recently as 2008 the UCI forbid teams from riding Paris-Nice after ASO wanted to use French anti-doping controllers rather than UCI ones, a spat over a technical issue but a proxy war for wider tensions. The result? The UCI was completely ignored and Paris-Nice was race as normal. No team could tell its sponsors it was going to sit out a major race because of a political spat over which anti-doping agency was testing its riders. You’d imagine the same again this time, the UCI could try and tell teams the Tour de France is a “forbidden event” under the rules but the Tour de France and its massive media coverage is the greatest reason why sponsors back teams in the first place. Nobody wants to miss the biggest races of the year.

Velon, different this time?
One difference this time is the establishment of the Velon group of teams. In the past the teams have tried to make representation via their AIGCP lobby group but this has often been undone by a lack of unity. So 11 teams have formed this corporate joint venture. They put out a well-timed video interview via their InCycle channel this week saying they wanted to improve cycling’s long term future (who doesn’t?). They can speak with a unified voice but it’s hard to see what they can do. Boycott ASO races? Member teams and their sponsors surely cannot afford it. The Tour de France is the sport’s golden ticket and few sponsors can spend millions on a team to spend July doing the Tour of Qinghai Lake. If Oleg Tinkov has floated a boycott before it’s hard to imagine all 11 teams agreeing.

Cookson feels the cold

Of course not all teams are members of Velon which brings us to the second source of division, the UCI’s own Management Committee, effectively its governing board. The UCI has a joint committee of its own officials and the pro cycling world called the Professional Cycling Council and according to VeloPro this voted six to five for Brian Cookson’s rules. Hardly an ecstatic endorsement but the PCC’s members include Christian Prudhomme of ASO so it was never going to be a oui to the proposals. But reportedly the plans have now been iced by the Management Committee with Brian Cookson’s plans humiliatingly rebuked and according to reports he didn’t even bother putting it to a vote. It’s worth remembering the Management Committee includes oligarch Igor Makarov, boss of Russian cycling and non-Velon team Katusha and sponsor of the European Cycling Union headed by fellow Management Committee member David Lappartient of France. There’s also Renato di Rocco of the Italian federation and part-time Kazakhstan rep to aide non-Velon Astana.

If Brian Cookson has been rebuked by his own Management Committee on such a fundamental issue as World Tour reform then he’s got some ground to recover. He’s halfway into his mandate as President and people around him are increasingly jostling for position, sensing Cookson could be a one term President.

Outside the UCI we’re seeing the backroom bickering go public. In 2011 some teams refused to allow cameras inside team cars with Jonathan Vaughters declaring “the athletes and equipment are our property – why should we give access?” and today it looks like we have the same stand-off with Velon teams refusing to use the geolocation telemetry sticks in the Dauphiné, presumably holding out for a payment. You could argue Velon didn’t contribute to the cost of R&D for these devices so they can’t hold out for much. But putting a price on this isn’t the point, short of a boycott of ASO races small guerrilla actions are all Velon has for now and we might see new forms of this during the Tour de France, for example shunning the pre-stage signing on ceremony or the post stage interview, the logic being that these actions benefit ASO’s show but earn nothing for the team.

It’s another proxy war between some teams and ASO over money. It’s a bit like the old dispute over the use of race radios, ostensibly about tactics and safety but a fundamentally issue about who controls the sport then teams wanted a say in the UCI’s regulation of the sport, today they want a slice of ASO’s TV money.

You might enjoy the sport but pro cycling is a commercial activity. As said countless times the Tour de France was created to sell newspapers and today’s teams are lycra billboards for corporate communications. It’s business but there’s no free market with ASO controlling the key events and teams now trying to establish their own oligopoly via a franchise system.

There were plenty of battles to establish the Pro Tour a decade ago and the “2020” reforms reopen similar fault lines again. There have been arguments and disputes behind the scenes this year which are now starting to take place in public, an ugly sight. As shown above the accounts vary but either way there’s a lot to negotiate, barter and argue over. ASO and Velon are wrestling over the future direction of reforms and normally the UCI would mediate but it too is split with Brian Cookson’s proposals getting rebuked, itself damaging for the President’s authority.

The longer things stay chaotic, the less certain the sport. Television rights packages aren’t worth so much if, say, a race is going to be shrunk by a third; teams will struggle for sponsors if they don’t know whether entry to the Tour de France is guaranteed or not. Despite ASO’s threats to remove its races from the UCI calendar the sport will go on but so will the backroom arguments.

117 thoughts on “World Tour Reforms Rejected”

  1. Hold on,

    How does Cookson get hung with the reform’s failures? These have been in motion for years now with minor changes like demoting dozens of races and impoverishing domestic teams preparing for the new team tiers and races. This has been going on since Cookson was on the management committee and Verbruggen running the show.

    Typical UCI though. Big talk about changes, then half broken reforms that shrink the sport.

    • It seems Cookson and his colleague Martin Gibbs revised the reforms and this new version got rejected by the Management Committee. Reports say he tried to present the plans but got rejected to the point where he didn’t even bother holding a vote.

  2. Thanks for the excellent roundup.

    Who cares really about the WT concept and the WT teams and events anyway ?

    This is yet another spat that is going nowhere. ASO hold all the trump cards and call all the shots, more so now than ever before. No contest. We have been here too many times. Why do the UCI not concentrate on more important matters and allow the misplaced WT concept, and all the problems associated with it disappear as quickly as possible. There has never been a surfeit of ‘big’ money in the sport, and there is no model yet devised which is going to change this basic fact.

    Lets just get on with the racing !

    • Because the WT makes the UCI money in ways that were not possible before the WT concept.

      Some credit is due to Hein Verbruggen. He was right to claim success in transforming the UCI from a weak federation with maybe 1 or 2 employees to what it is now. I will be the first to say there was plenty not right including typical IOC corruption, and encouraging drug use, picking winners and more. So, it is not all one or the other.

      Like most IOC sport federations, the focus seems to be securing media rights to major events, not grassroots participation in the actual sport, or integrity in the sport, or anti-doping. The WT concept is a mighty stick to encourage promoters to give up media rights on the cheap.

      • ‘Some credit is due to Hein Verbruggen. He was right to claim success in transforming the UCI from a weak federation with maybe 1 or 2 employees to what it is now.’
        Is that really a positive? Doesn’t seem like it has been.

  3. The Tour de France will always be the Tour de France and its owned by ASO. This means whatever happens ASO hold a major card. Teams can’t stage their own races instead and, if they did, who would care?

    • Sure they can.

      As Strade Bianchi shows us, what’s needed is a good mix of elements for sport drama. That event, as a high-ranking UCI event is not even 10 years old. This is not an easy thing to accomplish, but shows it can be done.

      Lots of great events have been demoted paving the way for the most visible parts of the latest rounds of reforms. You could have a solid calendar of 12-24 events pretty quickly if the promoters would chose to avoid the UCI. It’s not like the UCI has done them any favors.

  4. The UCI can start again busting podium riders in big aso races and will probably do so. We still do not really know where and howUCI is doing their testing. And we dont know either what exactly happened in the poor years of the aso/uci fight between 2006 and 2009. But I remember clearly the accusations from Prudhomme to Mc Quaid “They try to destroy the Tour de France”

    • No, they won’t. The thing that the UCI fought so hard for with ASO was to be the anti-doping authority for ASO’s events. AFAICT, they are the anti-doping authority for their highest ranking events.

      This way they can keep hiding positives and skirt French law with races run in France.

        • And by “collaborate” it means the AFLD preforms the same job other NADOs provide, directed to collect and run tests to completion on samples by anti-doping authority, the UCI.

          AFLD has no authority to open cases on the tests that were ordered by the UCI. Per WADA regulations, in the instance of a positive the federation feels is a positive, the sports federation directs WADA to process the sanction.

          All of this is in the standards. And yes, I fully realize the sports federations tell a completely different story.

          • Your confirmation bias means that whatever is pointed out that provides a counter to your ‘position’, automatically gets discounted. No matter who, why or what.

  5. Cyclings current doing problems and subsequent image problems are all caused by the teams and their riders. The teams need to clean their own side up before they start moaning. The Tour / Giro / Vuelta and all of ASOs events would be good with pro conti teams / national teams or even regional teams. Talk of reducing the grand tours to two weeks is still coming from some teams (bmc). The fans are the biggest stakeholders, then the race organisers and then the teams. Races and teams need fans. Fans and teams need events. The teams need to clean their act up and start delivering a clean and believable sport because as it stands right now, pro cycling is a joke. The UCI need to concentrate on regulating the sport and forget about globalisation and all that bullshit.

      • Quite simple: cycling can certainly do without Oleg Tinkov or Andy Rihs, and even without Chris Froome or Alberto Contador. But it can’t without the Tour, Giro, Vuelta, Roubaix, Flanders, etc..

    • Within this is probably a way out. If the teams can clean up their act, and some have tried hard, then everyone gains, especially the Tour de France if it can be conducted without a scandal. But the teams pay the big cost of the bio-passport scheme. A larger contribution from races could help but how much and by who is difficult, if ASO could afford to pay in many if not most others could not find the money so easily.

      • INRNG, with respect, it WAS the teams, with the connivance of the UCI which encouraged doping to reach new heights. They should be expected to pay for some of the costs of their indulgence and the long term damage caused. Even if sponsor names have changed, the individuals concerned remain largely the same. Outside of ASO – who incidentally can’t escape scrutiny over the past, organizers struggle to put on modest events in the present financial climate. As I have already pointed out, nobody has yet found a model for the long term sustainability of the sport – probably because it does not exist. The WT does nothing to resolve this insoluble dilemma.

        • Actually, a number of race organisers have played their own part over the years and years of doping during their races. Not just the ASO – though god knows, they did more than their fair share of facilitating things. As have the media.

    • Fans are not stakeholders. They hold no stake in races or teams. Fans have made no investment in a team or race and do not stand to gain or lose money from that investment. (Please don’t say, But I bought a Specialized bike, so I have a stake in Etixx!! Or, I invest my attention in cycling!!)

      The fact that there’s some sort of dependency between fans and races/teams does not make fans stakeholders. If you want to argue that this dependency gives fans some sort of moral claim to have a say in races or teams, then do so explicitly, out in the open, so that I can challenge it. Given what I’ve heard a lot of fans say, especially Anglophone fans, I definitely do not want fans controlling anything.

      • the whole pro cycling circus exist solely beacuse of the fans (or people) watching it. without them, there would be no sponsors or teams or professional cyclists. (just amateur races out in the woods) the investment of the fans ist their attention and it must be worth something, because lots of money is spent to get it.

        • Saying the investment of fans is their attention is a metaphorical use of “investment”.

          Of course, pro cycling wouldn’t exist without fans. And, because of that, fans do have a kind of power over the sport. If they don’t like it, they’re not going to watch it. But tendentiously calling fans “stakeholders” and then implying that because they are, they should be involved in decisions about the shape and structure of the sport is crazy, for a whole host of reasons. And, I’ve seen this view expressed a number of times, one time even from a cycling journalist, or something close, who, apparently miffed, noted that the fans weren’t included in “stakeholder” meetings to reform the World Tour.

          I may be wrong about this, but I do recall, vaguely, that this idea that cycling fans are stakeholders was first introduced, or perhaps most prominently introduced, by Pat McQuaid at about the time he was locking horns with ASO over the ProTour. If so, I think he did it just to try to convince fans to support him against the greedy race organizers.

          • The power of the fan comes in the form of the value of media rights. When a sport becomes popular (ie more people watch it on television) it becomes easier to sell more advertising for higher prices and this drives up the value of the media rights. This is where the majority of the money comes from in any sport. Direct advertisers in an event or sponsors might pay a reasonable sum if the event is big enough – and they are basing their pricing on the level of publicity/bums on seats/eyes on screens which translates to units sold. The catch is that single fans have almost no influence (unless they start using social media very successfully) and are only a force when “sold” enmasse – a transaction in which they are paid nothing and take no part – but receive the right to keep watching their sport. That is where the business is at as far as I know.

      • Reading the UCI’s documents, the UCI has three tiers of stakeholders.
        -The UCI
        -Anyone paying the UCI real money.
        -The IOC
        -The fans.

        The payout from the IOC is understood to be based on viewership and “social media metrics.” The IOC is very vague on the data collection for social media.

        As Inrng’s article mentions, there is actually not one UCI with Cookson the king. Hein is the king of the UCI with unknown powers and UCI activities in his “retirement.”

        • Don’t forget any “fan” who holds a UCI licence can talk to their national federation which is supposed to act on their behalf and insist the UCI works on their behalf in turn too. Not so easy or obvious but one example of this accountability did cause Pat McQuaid’s nomination process to be questioned.

  6. Never going to happen but was discussing the 2/3 week grand tour issue out on a ride and came up with, what we thought, was a great plan.

    Giro/Vuelta stay as 3 weeks but on alternate years. There is then a 3rd 2 week tour that goes out to tender for different hosts – UK, US, Oz, Germany, Middle East. ASO & RCS alternate as organisers.

    Likely to raise more money, no one really loses out. As I said, never going to happen.

    • This would devalue the Giro and Vuelta.
      Why would any fan want that?
      This is only a good idea if your objective is to make money. If your objective is the good of the sport – or even just entertaiment – why would you want the two second biggest races only to run every second year?
      This is the most fundamental problem in people’s thinking: in their eyes, the ideal is to make more money.
      If money is your aim, then replace Paris-Roubaix with Beijing-Shanghai or Riyadh-Mecca or Washington-New York and be done with it.
      Personally, my only interests are seeing great racing and seeing the historical importance of the big races continued – not sold out for cash.

  7. The current system is not fair or balanced.

    Every year a large number of professional bike racers don’t know if they are going to race the next year. This is largely because the current structure of teams is financially not sustainable. Every year there are number of teams that are seeking the next big sponsor to support their team, if they don’t have a self-made, biking enthusiast spending ten million Euro a year on their hobby.

    If we look at other sports we see that they are primarily by Television, (then ticket sales, luxury boxes and finally sponsors.). The television/media revenue is typically shared with all the members of a league (take the American NFL as the best example).

    Right now the TV/media rights are the issue. We have a ‘we win, you loose’ situation whereby the ASO (and the French Tourism promotion board) extract the value and everyone else looses.

    To efficiently monetize TV/media, the races need to be sold as a package – and some of the revenue has to be shared with the teams. The value of Le’ Tour is currently way higher than anything else, however all the Televised races add value. Right now the Tour of Yorkshire as example, get fans excited about biking, the reward is they watch more biking with Le’ Tour capturing more eyeballs. Le’ Tour capture the most eyeballs, because of it’s history and it is well promoted because the TV vendors put big money behind buying the rights for showing it, so they want to attract eyeballs. If all the races were in the same package the value of many races would increase vis-a-vis the ASO’s crown jewel. Of course the ASO, doesn’t want this…but the average viewer would benefit. Thus other race organizers loose versus a shared contract because of Le Tour.

    Some of the other event organizers are afraid they would get pushed off the schedule so what did they do – they sided with current bully ASO, as something is better than nothing. Why should ASO care if the physical demands of three grand tours are over the top, as long as they get a good show in July, force the others to be smaller.

    Think of many other successful sports leagues – Tennis, Golf, NFL, NBA… etc. the have strong central control of rules and media. In one particular case they lost control and the media took control – US NCAA football – now largely controlled by ESPN (ABC), and Fox sports.

    It is the best interest over the long haul of the riders and teams to gain power over or split from the ASO. If the UCI can’t do it they may need to do it on their own.
    However this is could be hard as for one or two years there will be pain if there is a split. The Giro this year was most excellent to watch.. Yes it would be painful not having the Tour and Paris Roubaix… but if you know other events are going to have the main racers it will make them more exciting. In the end it would be better for everyone.

    There are different scenarios that this can play out. Here are some of the power groups
    – Team owners / managers that are smart and strong (western)– some include: Etixx Quickstep, Tinkoff, BMC, Orica, Sky, Garmin (i.e. all of the Velon + plus some)
    – Euro sport – SKY – is now a big player – do they have enough power – could they or ESPN team up with Velon to make their own league
    – Manufacturers, Specialized, Merida, Trek, + others are especially strong – (The French market is not driver for any of them)
    – Cycling federations – Many are on the outside looking in: including the Dutch, Belgian, UK, US, German, Australia and Japanese (maybe China in the future) – would they go along with another league?
    – Hosting Locations that might like to have bigger roles – the ones above plus China, Middle East Countries, Russia, and more.

    It is likely a fair assumption that there is lot of game theory going on behind the scenes with ASO, trying to make deals with others to protect the status quo.

    It appears as if Velon is trying to play fair – and influence all parties, to a win-win. What if it doesn’t work? Can they pull off the exit? Could we live with out Astana, Katusha, and the French teams – would some jump ship? Would Bora, Mtn Qhubkea, Top Sport Vlandern, CCC or others fill the void? Should they do it now?

    • You have some good points there Tobias. And the most important point of all: pro cycling needs to change itself; otherwise it will be forced to change.

    • Your analysis is comparing apples with oranges. Cycling ISN’T a league. Its one sport with many separate races all owned by different people. So all your talk about deals and this and that is completely irrelevant. Any deal that doesn’t meet the concerns of ASO is not going to last when they have ownership of 2 of the 3 Grand Tours, Paris-Roubaix and Leige-Bastogne-Liege.

      • Mr Inrng has covered a lot of the issues that you raised Tobias. The Tour is the golden goose but it subsidises Paris-Nice, Criterium International, FW etc. etc. Pro cycling will NEVER be a cash generator for team owners or investors.

      • Yes, but the reform documentation and the UCI’s actions makes it clear that the sport is set to consolidate around three promoters, ASO, RCS, and the Belgian Cooperative responsible for several traditional, and great, races.

        So, the old UCI where there were many separate race owners is gone. Especially with ASO just acquiring control of the Vuelta.

    • Money, money, money. I love how you use NFL as the ultimate exemplar: they make pots of cash and have all but legalised drug use in their sport.

  8. The most important point from my perspective is Velon should more aggressively pull in Women’s cycling.

    A new sheriff in town that packaged The set of male and female cycling for TV/ media would be the force to reckon with.

  9. As hopeless and the UCI have been in the past, they are powerless in the face of the ASO who hold the keys to the sport. None of this trying reflects poorly on the UCI or Velon. They are minnows in this debate and can hardly be blamed for the chaos around the WT. I am personally a Velon fan, the first small step of many towards a reformed sport, even if on-board cameras seems like a useless initial platform.

  10. Crap like this seems very often part of the run-up to Le Beeg Shew. Same old greedy pricks conniving to get a bigger share of the pie while ignoring their “contributions” to not making it larger. Interesting quote by Vaughters about the riders being “property”. If anyone doubts Velon’s true motives, that ought to clear up their position! Meanwhile , BRAVI to the UCI for banning the motorhome idea before LeTour!

  11. Sidetracked but, UCI ban the motorhome – – err… What about going home when the race is in your hometown, staying at sponsors Villa when its close by (Tinkov) – didn’t see those mentioned, but you have to assume now all forms of non-race provided accomodation options are banned.

  12. First of all: It is so boring. I am so tired of their fights over power. I don’t think Velon or the person in the UCI making this letter official has anything good for cycling in mind. It is worth to remember that Velon, as much as they fight ASO and try to vilify them by every possibility (fitting or not), want just what ASO has right now: Velon wants monopolistic power. All sides are in it to make money (forget about the “teams are not allowed to make profits… ). All in all the bad taste VELON acts with-see the different tweets, interviews, opinions of their memberteams in the last months- and the way all this now spilled now into the open, I don’t want them to have any power at all. I don’t want ASO to be in control either and I don’t want them to have any more power, but I think Velon right no is the real risk in many ways. I don’t see that this still can be settled in a good way, because no matter how often someone shows Velon that in tv rights for cycling is no money -often there even is not enough money generated to run the races, surely not to make any profit- and that in road cycling in general is not much money to be made out of various reasons, which have already all been written and said, they still are under the illusion that they are the ones who can make money with professional cycling. Right now I am at the point where I think all has to totally break down to become better and healthy again. I don’t understand how Velon thinks they can be seen as a good force for cycling, when their main goals are so obviously to fight ASO, to secure a monopol for themselves, shut out and down opposition and competition and control the UCI (the best example is their influence in a complete rewrite of the reforms in just 5/6 months, reforms that were drafted 2 years ago). If they really would want a realiable, sustainable way for professional cycling, they would not solely go for the take over, they would go for a solution and not just their solution. One thing I want to mention, because it is not made too clear in the piece: In the commitee that refused Cookson’s and Velon’s reformplans sit 15 people (from all over the world).

      • Oh lord! It’s not about villains. It’s about what they want (judging from the things their members say and said in public over the last years) and what they try to sell us as their goals. And that are two different things. I would have a lot more sympathy for and even trust in them, if they would say it as it is: They want a closed club with themselves in it and most others out. The motorhome is a good example. When they don’t understand that it’s banning has nothing to do with stopping “progress”, I don’t know what to say anymore. Banning the motorhome is about the fact that the riders all ride a race together and it is only fair that the riders at least have to deal with the same problems or (when it is a nice hotel), enjoy the same comfort. No matter how much money the teams have. It isn’t about the RV, indeed if a race-organizer would give everyone a RV (which is allowed under the rules as far as I understand them), all would be good as well.

  13. It is definitely boring. If people like Tinkov or Rihs don’t feel they’re getting returns from their money, they shouldn’t have invested in paying riders (and so expensively). They should have invested in races. Defunct ones, or ones at risk, badly in need of financial support, or even new ones if you enough patience to wait until they become traditions. But they thought it was the riders who carried the sport’s glamour. Sorry, no. The sport’s glamour is in its races, but investing in them won’t allow you to play reality PCM… It is very difficult to make them successful, it requires a lot more commitment, and it has much less visibility.

    • Tinkov complains because it gets him in the news, Rhis complains because he’s not so good at picking riders and running a team. Tinkov must have a better ROI than Rhis. I wonder who’s doing the best? Maybe Quickstep?

  14. Always provocative topics as we build up to the TDF.

    I have a solution we can all agree on! I’m about to got to my local USAC race the 55th continuously run
    Nevada City Classic this afternoon. Im going to put some $$ down for a few premes. Both Mens and Women’s races.

    Support your local races and racers, that will make a difference and help to build grass roots races and local sponsorships.

  15. The ASO behave like IOC “dignitaries and country representatives” who use their power to gourge money into their bloated pockets. people like Hein Verbruggen …We are sick of this, No?

    • No. I’m happy that they’re making money and I’m happy that they’re defending their interests. The UCI is a problem. Velon is a group with self interest as the common denominator.

  16. Mr Ring wrote a good piece regarding tv coverage and the TdF on 10 February this year. I’d suggest reading it along with this excellent article, it might provide a bit more balanced perspective on ASO for some.

    • Feb 10 article is well done.

      That said, it makes the assumption that TV revenue is limited since it must be shown over the air in France (and Belgium). The Olympics generate about $2 Billion per ‘host’ with much greater over the air requirements from Networks throughout the world.

      It is clear that a packaged Cycling sports league would be worth more than it is right now – maybe $50-$250 million per year.

      Furthermore, the ASO is not exactly promoting female cycling ~60 days versus 3 days. This might be business as some would say, but socially they should be chastised for this in the near future.

      If stupid organizers let the ASO continues to package more of the races together the value of cycling is going to be transfer further to ASO. What happens if it is then sold to someone for 1oo’s of millions of euros if not a billion – apparently they were previously approached.

      What if you were a professional cyclist and you had a 50% chance if you position would exist 3 years from now – how happy would you feel about the ASO. If you were a female cyclist, … there is no acceptable minimum salary.

      The UCI, ASO, racers, teams and other organizers need to get this solved and the ASO can’t just dictate.

      • in the most realistic scenario for your professional league, it wouldnt most probably not be run by velon but rather by ASO themselves, they are in possesion of so many key races. maybe far back in their heds thats the plan 😉 who knows.

  17. Seems that there’s a lot more behind this, inc the possibility that David Lappartient, pres of the UEC and a UCI VP, is behind the leak that – from sources as per this piece this morning – does not present an exactly accurate picture of whats going on. And that Lappartient’s motive is that he’s angling to replace Cookson.

    Whatever the truth, as ever with sports, lots of people who want to retain power – or grab it. Not particularly good for the sport.

      • Close to Makarov, who has realized that his lap dog frontman is a little too inept.

        Makarov should tarred, feathered and run out of town. He will continue to mangle the sport unless he’s removed.

        • So do you have any solid evidence that Cookson has ‘done Makarov’s bidding’ since being elected, or that he has acted as a ‘frontman’ for Makarov in any incontestable way? Would be great to hear any that you have. Just to back up your statement, like.

          • Cookson directly responded to the guff about Makarov paying for his campaign in the lead up to the election. Denied it – campaign was paid for out of British Cycling funds.

            But if you have evidence to the contrary, you could take it to a journo – Kimmage for example, he’d use it in the Irish Indy for sure.

          • Yeah, Cookie’s such a believable guy…

            Do you have evidence that BC payed all his bills? Do you know how much he spent?

            NO? I didn’t think so.

          • Smear who? Cookson? Cookson will be gone after the next election. By then even sam will have a difficult time defending him. How did a guy with not one single achievement on his whole life’s resume become President of the UCI? What happened to transparency? What happened to cleaning up the sport?

            Smear Makarov? The founder of the dopingest team on the WT? Who is the most powerful person at the UCI, now that Pat is gone? What does a guy who is worth more than $2b want with Pro Cycling? Why has he disconnected his name from Katusha?

            And let’s not forget the infamous “dossier”. did anyone ever get to look inside that manilla envelope? The way all of McQuaid’s detractors alluded to it and waved it about, isn’t it a bit surprising that it didn’t show up at the CIRCus show? Who paid for all the investigative work that must have gone into that smear campaign? British Cycling again? Who’s idea was the dossier? We know by now, after Cookson’s reign of missteps, that he’s not that smart or that creative.

            WTF is Really going on at the UCI? And, Why?

  18. Sometimes I think Vaughters, as smart as he is, just doesn’t get it… Maybe Velon is in the same boat.

    His quote of, “the athletes and equipment are our property – why should we give access?”, ignores what drives their sponsorship- coverage and publicity; the sponsors are not paying teams to avoid media coverage.

    Profitability is a simple concept, but hard to execute. If the teams want to be profitable (set aside the rules for now), they need to spend less than they receive in income. However, their history is to spend everything, and use increases in budget to increase spending; there are few examples of reserves, or publicly disclosed dividends.

    With their demands, the teams sometimes forget that they are commodities, which are easily replaced. They already receive a share of the pot (let’s not break it into individual sources of income from the race organizers); teams don’t pay entry fees to UCI events, they typically receive travel stipends, housing, meals, sometimes appearance fees, and prize money if they perform. They can argue and negotiate for a larger piece, but they need to remember they don’t share in the risk.

    Under the current model (which most agree has flaws), the teams need to sell sponsorships. They need more media coverage, not less. They have to prove a value and an ROI to sponsors. Saying no to opportunities is just foolish. What they should be doing is agreeing with caveats about their sponsor names appearing with the coverage (which is typically done by the network/publication).

    • See, to my mind, saying “why should we give access” is not the same thing as saying “no”. It’s saying that there will need to be caveats, and that those need to be agreed.

      As to the teams not sharing in the risk, who pays the salaries of the riders and staff?

      • Why should they give access is pretty darn clear. Yes, there needs to be caveats, but JV & Velon seem to have their hands out, which will ultimately get slapped. They can’t easily justify saying, “we need to get guaranteed entry in the TDF, and other big races in order to secure our sponsors” and then say, but we need to get paid more for participating in those guaranteed races (and for the various accompanying opportunities). If they say they need race x, they have essentially ceded the power to race x.

        I was referring to the risk of the events, many of which run deficits, or succeed largely on volunteer efforts, and government subsidy. The teams want all of the upsides of the races, but none of the down. If a team fails financially, an event can easily replace them. If a race fails, there isn’t always another close equivalent to replace it.

        • Didn’t JV just get himself an MBA? Seems like “privatize the profits, socialize the risks” is a mantra in that world. I used to have some respect for the guy as he tried to succeed with a clean team…but it’s fading fast, especially with this Velon silliness.

          • JV is the same guy he was when he doped. He seeks to cheat the system to get an advantage. I don’t think that’s too strong a way to put it. And remember, its always the white knights that let you down the most.

  19. Sometimes I think what would be best for the sport is to give in to the the ASO hegemony. They’re taking over Tour of California, I feel they have been rumored to buy both the Vuelta and Giro at different times. Let them get a big critical mass that can market mass tv rights etc and then they need the teams as well. Both sides gain some power ultimately and you don’t have a bunch of fractured interests. The sport needs to make more money and one controlling interest is the best way to get there.

    • But you need the UCI as a governing body to look after the interests of the whole activity of cycling not just the elite professionals. If the promoters of the elite events take control they only have their own interests not that of the entire activity. For one, I want cycling as a widespread activity not just a television spectacular.

      • prefacing this by saying i’m a big fan, but my actual riding is confined to a bike that never goes anywhere (fear of getting maimed/killed keeps me off a road bike, sadly)…

        why? what exactly does the uci “do” for the “rest of cycling”? maybe living in the usa, i don’t “see” them doing anything other than trying to justify their existence… i don’t see any “grow the activity”, etc. initiatives from them… perhaps it is different in other parts of the world?

        from this seat, a “cycling league” (whether its run by an existing entity like aso, or something completely different) really needs to come into existence… this won’t happen overnight, but it would bring at least some sense of stability to the sport, which in turn MAY lead to longer term (and more lucrative) commercial contracts… IF some of those funds are then distributed to teams in the league, it would then make the teams have more stability and continuity…

        having a centralized “league” would then allow the “world tour” (or whatever they want to call it) to be packaged and sold… i currently pay around $250 per year to get “nba league pass”, which allows me to watch every nba game… i would GLADLY pay an equivalent sum (and likely more) to have a similar setup for cycling…

    • It would be very interesting.

      There’s been lots of comments around who ‘owns’ the sport. When Packer came in you had the different countries boards and those looking to ‘modernise’ the game at loggerheads with the tv rights money as the prize and the riders an afterthought. You could lump in race organisers and the UCI as being similar to the governing bodies in different countries in cricket at the time. Each had their own areas to protect and the only change they wanted was when it impacted them positively and normally at the expense of one or more of the others.

      For those unfamiliar with the events of the late 70’s, the quick story is that the ‘league’ started by Kerry Packers money didn’t have the use of the iconic grounds, didn’t have the historical trophies at stake and didn’t have all the top countries with their own team (they fitted into a Rest of the World team) but they did have some of the biggest names in the game. Not all but most. The outcome? Most cricket fans watched both but it became patently obvious that the players were the key. The game came back together with the players the big winners and an understanding that you need to modernise.

      So what would happen in cycling? Do people really believe if in 2016 new named teams raced in, I don’t know, the East Paris to Central Roubaix race on the same roads (I’m led to believe ASO don’t own the French road network) as PR and in the autumn with a certain Fabian and Tom on the start line that you’d forego that but tune in for the ASO race with say TV Tommy as the bookies big fave? I doubt it. Most fans would watch both but if they could only watch the one, surely it would be the big names that swayed them.

      • Of course I’d rather watch the juniors racing the real race than the millionaires racing an imitation. But I think French laws won’t allow for competition with regard to their national heritage. There will only be one Paris-Roubaix. That’s one pillar of ASO’s monopoly. And it could only be broken by the EU Court of Justice, that could force ASO to sell some races. But the races themselves will remain,

        • It would be interesting to have a poll and see how many would prefer Junior PR to the best pro’s on a very similar parcours but a different race name. I’d also be interested to know if there is a French Law that stops this from being possible. Anyone know?

          • The pros every time, for me, racing what they race now.

            Apart from anything else, the juniors race a very-much curtailed route, containing less than 10 pave secteurs (IIRC)

            It really isn’t the same race, even though they finish in the velodrome too

          • Hi Sam.

            I didn’t mean the actual junior PR just if there were 2 PR races. One, the historic PR by ASO and a renegade version where all the top riders have come over to (for the money obviously :), leaving only Juniors and the lesser lights to compete in the ASO event.

      • Sure, this affects the true fans, but the majority of spectators, both on the road and in front of TVs during the TDF (and many other races) are not serious cycling followers. For the most part, they are the ones being marketed to, and they will have a hard time distinguishing between a Tier 1 and a Tier 2team.

  20. I think we need to start looking beyond France. There’s a whole world of beautiful roads to explore.

    I think what the UCI is trying to do is better overall for the long term health of the sport.

    ASO is just a brand trying to retain profitability.

    The love for tradition in this sport is holding it back.

    I hope all this backfires on the ASO.

  21. I would have never thought I’d find myself in this position, but with the ongoing doping I’m not so sure I care if the WT implodes or not. A shame, since I loved PRO cycling even a few months back. Just too much murkiness.

    • Football and athletics aren’t looking too squeaky either at the moment! Corruption, doping, money… modern professional sport.

  22. Another repeat in the battle for power amongst the same old three groups.

    If these groups could somehow spend the same time, effort and investment to improve TV coverage and its current extremely low quality, we might, just might attract more people to the sport. In the real world numbers equate to revenue.

    The same three groups can then continue their relentless battle for a slice of a much larger cake.

  23. It is very interesting to me that not once I heard anyone voice real concerns that teams, who should be competing against each other, form an alliance. Even if all teams would take part ,it would be akward, but it gets even more akward when only some teams take part. It once more shows that the “journalism” that is covering cycling is not doing a very good job. That aspect didn’t surface. The same with the RV: Everybody reported Sky’s RV is banned-that is not what the rule says. In cycling-journalism (in english) everybody copies everybody and they often only repeat what they are told, without any reflecting, fact checking or anything (doping is the only subject where they “question” what teams/riders/agents tell them, because they know the readers want an anti-stance towards teams and riders) and often tweets become headlines. It isn’t reflecting too well on all of us (including me) that we are buying it and are not demanding something better.

  24. For decades, the UCI has been detrimental to the sport. This continues. The time has come for cycling to disband the UCI. Cookson has now proved himself to be bad for cycling.
    Thank god for ASO – a company who genuinely seem to care about cycling. Without them, the UCI would have ruined the sport years ago.
    Yes, ASO has some selfish reasons, but all the other groups involved don’t have the good of cycling at heart.
    If you’re a fan of the sport, it’s popularity, money-making capabilities and all else shouldn’t really matter – as long as there’s enough cash for it to survive.
    Almost all the groups involved are only interested in money and power – including the UCI, Velon, the teams, etc., etc.
    ASO and RCS should join forces – with as many other race organisers as possible – and run things themselves; preferably with the teams’ blessing. But the teams are not important: they are transient bodies – the races are what have lasted historically and are what must be protected.

  25. I agree up to a point J.
    I still think the UCI have a place as a neutral arbiter of the rule book (incl liaising with WADA etc) , as an organiser of World Champs, Olympics, amateur events etc… they just need to stay away from the calendar and promotion and stop trying to place arbitary structures on the sport like the dumb World Tour… I agree to let the ASO/RCS whoever get on with that side of it.
    As soon as they get involved in ‘development’ that’s where empire building and corruption starts a la FIFA etc…

  26. Inrng, what do you make of Oleg Tinkoff’s comments today about suing the UCI for the Roman Kreuziger affair last year. Has a Team ever done this before ?

    • We’ll see, it’s one thing to say you’ll sue but another to go to court. I can’t recall the UCI being taken to court like this.

      Tinkov has also said he could boycott the Tour de France in 2016. Unlikely too but a surefire way to scare away riders from signing (or ensure you have to pay them a premium) and deter sponsors who want the exposure that only the Tour brings.

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