Who Will Make The Cut?

If the 2017 Tour de France does end up on the HC calendar for 2017 then a maximum of 14 out of 20 teams can come from the World Tour, meaning at least four World Tour teams won’t get an invitation to ride the Tour de France. The Tour is the biggest race with huge media coverage but every year even the most assiduous follower can forget a certain team is in the event. With this in mind which teams could be left out come July 2017?

If you’re into Schadenfreude then this could be a fun exercise but the real story behind this is the panic it will sow among several teams and sponsors.

  • Lampre-Merida: for years the only reminder they were in the race was when “Cunego en difficulté” crackled over race radio on the first mountain stage. They remain heavily focused on the Giro, lack a big sprinter and Rui Costa, DNF, is exciting but not compulsory. They won a stage thanks to Ruben Plaza but still conspired to finish fifth last in the prize money rankings, a proxy for visibility
  • If Lotto-Jumbo were a football team they’d have sacked their manager because of poor results. In fact they’ve “parted ways” with Erik Dekker. Robert Gesink’s ride in July was encouraging but they’re not a must-have team based on results, even if Wilco Kelderman and Moreno Hofland remain very promising
  • Cannondale-Garmin are an underdog team. Once upon a time the Chipotle team won a wildcard from ASO, charmed by the team’s loud anti-doping message, a Unique Selling Point that’s gone quiet now, as have their results of late
  • IAM Cycling seem like a nice outfit with great kit but their underdog status means they struggle in July. Like Gesink Mathias Frank had a strong GC ride but it’s not must-have

So far that’s four teams ejected leaving a UCI-approved 14 invites.

Natural Shrinkage
Remember IAM Cycling could stop unless a co-sponsor comes on board, Tinkoff will stop unless a new sponsor arrives and Katusha are looking for a new sponsor too. So we could see a World Tour in 2017 of 15 or 16 teams in which case only one or two teams need to be left out. The risk added by the warring and politicking will only deter sponsors, a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Wildcard invitations

Who to invite?
Who replaces the unloved World Tour teams? It’s headscratcher because the alternatives are no better and some are wildly worse. Cofidis are a shoo-in given they’re French and if it wasn’t for Nacer Bouhanni crashing so often, capable of results too. Fortuneo-Vital get the nod, the new Bretagne-Séché will keep home fans happy and they’re a team on the up, by 2017 they could be competitive. Direct Energie, the new Europcar, gets the nod too. If the mooted start in Düsseldorf happens then Bora-Argon 18 go too. So far, so normal since these four teams got wildcards last summer.

Two more to pick. Italians Bardiani-CSF and Androni live for the Giro so they’d send their B-teams, we’ll ignore them; ditto Caja Rural who are all about the Vuelta. Rusvelo issued a press release saying the spat between ASO and the UCI creates “a wonderful situation” as their chances of an invite shoot: touchingly optimistic. United Healthcare could be a fun but they’ve had wildcards before, for example, Paris-Roubaix but were not visible. CCC Sprandi‘s orange kit is visible but so is their lack of results outside of Davide Rebellin. Wanty Groupe Gobert? Hard to know what they’d bring. There are more French teams to invite like Delko Marseille but as much as the Tour needs to spark home interest, there’s a saturation point. The likes of Thibaut Pinot, Romain Bardet and others will soak up the majority of domestic media attention and if the race needs French riders it’s got plenty to go around already.

Warren Barguil

  • Le Shortcut: one way to boost chances of an invite is to hire an unmissable Frenchman. Cannondale-Garmin’s recruitment of Pierre Rolland left many scratching their heads but it could be a superb insurance policy for the team: would ASO leave him out? Thibaut Pinot’s contract is up at the end 2017: hire him and you ride the Tour de France. The market value of Warren Barguil, Nacer Bouhanni, Alexis Gougeard, Julian Alaphilippe, Alexis Vuillermoz could soar while Romain Bardet and Pierre Latour are locked into Ag2r until the end of 2018.

The Serious Bit
So far all this is fantasy speculation, the kind of game you might toy with riding pals at café or on a forum. But imagine being the manager of Lotto-Jumbo or the person in charge of marketing at Merida right now: they must look like like character in one of Edward Munch’s The Scream paintings. They’re committing millions of their marketing budget to a team that could sit out the Tour de France: a risk too big to ignore. Here’s Jonathan Vaughters in a Velonews interview out today:

End of the day, every high-level, highly funded team out there is not going to be able to continue with their high-level sponsors if they’re not in the Tour de France. I think most teams, their sponsorship contracts read along the lines of, ‘If you’re not in the Tour de France we can terminate the contract.’ That is a very scary prospect.

Which brings us to the serious point: ASO’s strategy is an invitation to teams to skip the World Tour all together and to break up the Velon alliance. Remember the 70% upper limit for World Tour teams starting a race. If you’re a team or a sponsor unsure whether you’ll fit into ASO’s preferred group of 13-14 World Tour teams then better to apply for a Pro Conti licence because there’s no limit to invitations for this category. If Team Sky and Etixx-Quickstep are a World Tour teams they’d surely get an invite, if they were Pro Conti they’d surely get an invite too. But Lampre, Lotto, IAM or Cannondale? Quit the World Tour and your chances of riding the Tour de France actually rise.

In strategic jargon ASO’s move smashes the current “Nash equilibrium”. Currently all the 18 teams subscribe to a system that delivers the scenario of a ride in the Tour de France, the golden ticket. If ASO goes ahead and registers the Tour de France as an HC race this balance changes, teams can stay in the World Tour but some face an uncertain position regarding their strategic aim of participating in the Tour de France and they and their sponsors get panicky. Quit the World Tour and they move back into an equilibrium knowing their Pro Conti status places no limits on their invitation so a ride in July looks safe again.

Faced with this the Velon teams have an almost impossible task. If Lampre or Cannondale get flicked by ASO then BMC Racing, Team Sky, Giant-Alpecin and the others all need to decline ASO’s invitation to the Tour in solidarity. Only as Vaughters makes clear in the quote above that’s a huge ask bordering on impossible.

Meanwhile the UCI is standing firm at the moment. This can look stubborn but it has to because its reforms were voted and approved by its Management Committee. Brian Cookson and colleagues to make up new plans in a hurry. But the change in the facts could well prompt a change of minds in due course. Failing this there’s a potential exit route via more rule changes, perhaps abolishing the 70% invitation threshold rule which, at a stroke, undoes some of ASO’s fear factor over the teams but re-writing the rulebook in a hurry isn’t easy and brings a sweep of unintended consequences.


If the Tour de France is registered as an HC-race for 2017 then it no longer has to take the 18 World Tour teams but can instead invite up to 14 World Tour teams. In plain sporting terms this is bad, teams like Lampre-Merida or IAM Cycling may have had discreet time last July but they’re still vastly superior to teams that don’t even merit a wildcard right now.

But it’s not about the racing and fantasy picks, ASO’s may diminish the startlist but the move appears to be a highly strategic decision. By registering with the UCI they can stay inside the system while pulling the rug out from the UCI’s valuable World Tour and sowing panic among many teams, potentially splitting the Velon group in the process. Several current World Tour squads could find it safer to ride under a Pro Conti label. So if ASO pulls its races then not only will the World Tour calendar shrink but so could its teams. This could devalue the World Tour concept to the point where the UCI faces the unpalatable choice of promoting a reformed World Tour without the major races and major teams or backing down. It’s not about which teams get invited.

125 thoughts on “Who Will Make The Cut?”

  1. I would think that beyond the press release, ASO has a much more thorough plan that it’s keeping to itself for now. But, registering HC gives them control over the number of and the size of the teams. A safer Tour would be more fun to watch.

    It would take more than a year and a half, but by 2018 couldn’t a pro conti super team be created just to target the Tour and be free of a lot of the WT requirements that take valuable time and money away from that one goal?

  2. Would it really be such a big deal for Lampre to not do the Tour? Their title sponsor are Italian and they prioritise the Giro, in which they usually do pretty well. I would have thought out of all the teams they have the least to lose by missing the Tour. Have they always done it, pre World Tour? Merida might pull out, and they might shrink back to an all Italian team at worst. I would have thought Trek would be ok now they have Segafredo on board who presumably would prioritise the Italian market. For everyone else though, as you say, missing the Tour is potentially catastrophic. For US and UK sponsors it is everything. For that reason the ASO will get whatever they want, eventually. Whatever that is. They hold the ultimate trump card and pretty much have the teams over a barrel, there’s no way they could side with the UCI. RCS have most to lose. If everything splits and they end up on the side without the ASO then the Giro could end up being an all Italian pro-conti affair. The only option as far as I can see is to ditch the reforms and start again, giving the ASO what they want. It might end up with a World Tour of only one day races (and maybe the short stage races) with grand tours as invite only stand alone events. I wouldn’t see that as a bad thing as such. At least then Movistar don’t have to bother with the cobbles, and teams who prioritise the Classics (the Lotto’s?) don’t have to go through the motions of signing mediocre GC men?

    • Lampre, maybe not but as you say, Merida yes, it’s a vital shop window for them. Trek-Segrafredo is all about taking the Italian coffee brand to new markets so again the Tour is a big deal for them, whether coffee but more importantly bike sales. Talking of which Movistar might not like Roubaix but bike sponsor Canyon does, it’s important to be seen on these roads and to have a product that’s “proven” on this terrain.

      • I find this point interesting because Movistar seem to be putting more effort into P-R now. Malori rode it this year as a test to see whether he could contend for a cobbled classic, and it seems like Nelson Oliveira and Valverde will target some cobbled classics this year. It’s not fantastic but with Valverde especially I think they can contend for anything they put their mind to.

  3. I agree with you INRNG, ASO’s motives are to maintain their current stranglehold over cycling. As you note above the sporting criterion is nonsense as the wildcard options will add no value to the race. The result of ASO defending it’s position will be teams with a weaker financial stability, with short termism being the priority because there is absolutely no guarantee of an invite to the big party annually (unless of course you are a French team!).

    It seems there is little to compromise over if ASO’s big sticking point regarding reforms is the licence period. If this gets lowered to an annual licence this is by and large an equal position to annual selection for teams seeking sponsorship, ie no stability. I feel this situation helps no one in cycling particularly the riders who will probably end up with one year contracts because the teams will not be in a position to risk more.

  4. UCI-PCT isn’t that much simpler or cheaper than UCI-WT — in fact the difference is insignificant compared to costs associated with roster decisions. The important difference is with participation rights and obligations. So, if a team wants to be PCT and get into the top races, it has to have top riders, which are expensive. This narrows the cost gap between PCT and WT. There is a cheaper way to do it, however: be French.

    • I very much doubt ASO’s motivation is an all French Tour. If you read even just one article regarding their original statement, becoming HC is a response to UCI’s WT changes.

      • But what is ASO’s motivation? They state sporting criterion, but selecting 30% non WT will not achieve this. It’s about controlling their product against their perceived threats, who appear to be a stronger collection of big teams. By having their version of an open system this will result in teams that are less stable but who have to continue to please ASO.

        • Honestly, I don’t even have a good guess. But, despite all the rush to negative judgement since their press release, ASO is a well run company that has perennially delivered an excellent product. I’m confident that they have considered everything before they spoke.

          Maybe, out of frustration with UCI incompetence, the fractious efforts of Velon, and the whinging of bit players like Tinkov and Vaughters, they’re just exercising, diplomatically, some reason into the sport. You have to admit, for a while now, it’s been a soap opera of a shit show.

          I think that, because of them, the prospects for the future of the sport look better. We’re all going to be better off.

          • I tend not to agree with you regarding the prospects looking better. The reform process has been ongoing for four years or more and has included all stakeholders. What has just happened is that ASO have basically said it’s our way or we pretty much ruin everyone else’s perceived development by breaking them economically.

            I can see that ASO is a well run company but that does not equate to it looking to the best interests of the sport as a whole. The current position is a short term one in order to ensure that their overwhelming strength in men’s professional cycling is maintained.

          • PT, I understand that it may look that way, but I think there are parts to the story that we don’t know about and ASO is just out of patience with the UCI’s reform process. I believe that if we were privy to all the facts and looked at them objectively, ASO is probably being polite.

  5. Surely the crux of the problem lies partly with wealthy WT teams themselves, who have managed to completely distort the rider market at WT level by forcing up the salaries of top riders. In reality there are two sporting divisions in the WT, both governed by their financial ability to keep pace with the market. This has been an accelerating problem evident to almost everybody it seems but the UCI and Velon. The WT teams desire to overcome this financial imbalance via Velon failed to recognize the route cause of the problem, and have sought an impossible financial solution.

    As well as having some control over the national and sporting level of teams they invite, ASO will also be able to make decisions on the ‘ethical’ background of teams. Another area where the rules and regulations of the UCI have proven to be just words.

    It is going to be a very interesting two years. My personal hope is that WT teams collectively will eventually understand that they have to operate under a financial ‘cap’ that allows them to be competitive and sustainable.

    Maybe we can look forward to a previous poster and his wife, together with others, taking part on a tandem. They will of course both have to be French !

  6. Richard S – exactly. The teams need to accept the fact that ASO is in charge, and then begin negotiations directly with them on what criteria is required to get into their races.

    The UCI should stop trying to control the sport, they’re supposed to be an impartial oversight body, and by trying to run the entire thing, that destroys the reality of being impartial and independent. They need to only have a background role within the sport, and to work with WADA to make sure it is getting cleaner and cleaner each year.

    • It does make one wonder why there was such an expensive dirty fight for the UCI presidency… Why does this present UCI administration want to control everything so badly? Who gains the most from the reforms? Where is the money? And, these reforms are presumably just the beginning, what does the UCI have up their sleeve for the future?

    • But is this really about the UCI trying to control everything? I don’t think so.

      Surely the World Tour and the changes they’ve been proposing are more about putting professional cycling on a firmer footing. Meanwhile, knowing it holds the trump card in the Tour, ASO basically wants to be able to invite who it wants to its events as it suits their purposes. But as the Vaughters quote above says, without certainty over being in the Tour, most teams’ very existence is in doubt.

      I don’t see that the UCI is trying to do anything other than promote the sport in general by giving teams a bit more security given that the sport’s finances are effectively based on fickle marketing budgets.

      • Adam Bowie,

        I wish the UCI’s intentions were as well meaning as you want to believe. In Verbruggen’s reign, a plan was hatched to centralize the sport to a single broadcast event most weekends. This has lots of marketing common sense built into it. It has taken many years and reforms to reach 2015.

        Unfortunately the UCI ceded most of the sport’s premier events to ASO, a couple for RCS, a couple for the Belgian cooperative that runs the other spring classics to fit into the single premier broadcast per weekend model. Along the way Verbruggen did a good job monetizing the sport, personally enriching himself too. (Kierin bribes, Thom Wiesel’s bait shop managed some of Verbruggen’s personal money)

        Apparently no one at the UCI imagined ASO would not see the golden opportunity for what it was/is and act in their own best interests, contrary to the sport’s broader targets.

        You’ll notice that nowhere in that explanation were teams consulted. The UCI gave them marching orders. That’s how it works.

    • Adam Bowie – I agree that it isn’t about Brian Cookson/UCI trying to control everything on a conscious level and that their intentions are good. However, any attempts at reforming cycling without the ASO being firmly in agreement is a complete waste of time.

      Besides, why is the UCI trying to lead reforms? Aren’t they supposed to be an objective oversight board that enforces rules? This is a clear violation of being impartial if they’re extremely involved with making the sport more successful on a revenue/profit basis.

      • DMC – But surely the UCI is tasked with looking out for the future of the sport? And it’s doing so with a wide group of representatives of the sport. It seems to be ASO who until last week have sat back while reforms were discussed and agreements made, only to now deliver its “nuclear” option.

        Yes the ASO has an intrinsic position in the sport. But there will be times where what’s good for them might not be good for the wider sport. What’s unclear at this point is whether or not any compromises has been attempted or whether it has just been one side attempting to strong arm the other into their way of thinking.

        And I’m pretty sure that a governing body *should* be taking a close interest in reforming a sport – that comes as part of its remit to develop and promote cycling. Promoting its own races was an over-reach, but working with all concerned to provide an environment where the sport can prosper and grow is surely precisely what the UCI should be doing. It can’t just sit by thinking, “Not our problem, sorry,” as sponsors leave the sport and teams fold.

      • IMHO a non-profit oversight board (such as the UCI) should only interest itself with oversight of rules, regulations and helping to guide arbitration processes.

        All other actions, tasks, etc. obscure impartiality and cloud the reality and appearance of being objective.

        Any task that even puts the appearance of objectivity into question should be stopped. Therefore, attempting to lead a reform process has many aspects that prohibits objectivity. In fact, even being involved in the reform talks prohibits objectivity as it directly affects the UCI’s future, which directly affects Cookson’s future job, which is a direct violation of objectivity.

        • I’m afraid I struggle to see the difference between overseeing changes to the rules that govern participation in professional road races, and leading the reform of the rules that govern participation in professional road races.

  7. One of the main reasons why the Tour is historically the most important race is (apart from all the history) its calendar slot.

    In fact, “deep pockets” could instigate a a war by moving the Giro to July and the importance of both races would be much more leveled (I must confess that I don´t see this happening in the future).

  8. Excellent article.

    Based on the above and other articles, my take is that this is really about ASO attempting to re-assert their “leadership” (or rather market power) as opposed to some amazing long-term strategic plan. It appears that the ASO business decision is simple: ASO want to maintain their limited supply and increase the value of those spots, while maintaining their discretion to choose between customers. The UCI reforms would reduce their market power and discretion, something monopolists generally try to avoid. And to be clear, this isn’t about cycling or those interested in cycling but about profits generated from media sales.

  9. Sounds to me like it is ASO v. Velon as much as it is against UCI. I don’t believe it is a healthy balance of power between the three necessary elements for professional cycling (riders (teams), governing body, race promoters). As it is now, European oriented professional cycling has a grim future to remain a third tier sport.

  10. The UCI does have a weapon here. Wait for the ASO to re-designate .HC and then change the World Tour % that can participate in HC events. This would even go as far as to stratify even further high level events from lower level ones.

    ‘Quit the World Tour and your chances of riding the Tour de France actually rise.’

    Well said. The ASO on the other hand is effectively putting the World Tour cap on at 14 teams instead of the UCI’s desired 18 teams. ASO could also just invite less teams overall (maybe 2 less?) and end up with a similar spectacle (TV rights sale won’t change w/ less fodder).

    • If UCI made that change to .HC WT participation rates at the last minute, it’d just pull its races from UCI and run them as they want.

      Honestly, I don’t know why ASO keeps its events under the UCI’s umbrella.

      For the sake of opening discussion, what does the UCI actually bring to the table to a group like ASO? That is, if you were the ASO, what is stopping you from running your races as you want and governing them yourself?

      • The only things they have are setting the qualification rules for World Championships and (to a lesser extent) Olympics. They could theoretically extend that to other UCI-sanctioned events. If participation in an ASO event made a rider ineligible to compete in a UCI-sanctioned event that year, whether that be the Worlds, the Giro or Flanders, that might give some riders, and therefore the ASO, pause for thought. Which would more or less take us back to 2007.

    • The UCI has nothing: Cookson can’t even take on Verbruggen and win. As ever with Cookson, he says one thing – will get rid of Verbruggen – and then a completely different thing happens: Verbruggen remains honorary president and Cookson isn’t allowed to mention it again.

      • AND, the UCI has to help pay his legal fees, must provide a link to his website and publish his critic of the CIRCus. Verbruggen, Honorary President for Life.

        At this point, you have to chuckle..

  11. On the brighter side for us interested parties, those WT teams who are on the bubble will be forced to perform to a higher standard, in order to garner a TDF invite TDF in 2017!

    The market does demand competition.

  12. The revelation that ASO wasn’t consulted and part of the discount the future rules and regulations of cycling is very myopic on the UCI’s part. I agree with the sentiment that UCI is for rules, regulation and framework for which cycling as a sport functions. It has lost its way when it tries to be an industry.
    Perhaps the best thing that could happen is for ASO to sit down with Velon and other teams to establish a race series.

    • I gather ASO were consulted, but not all the way. What seems to have happened is that the UCI showed the plans to ASO who said no and the UCI carried on, even after ASO warned it would withdraw its races from the UCI. The UCI seems to have gone ahead on the basis that the reforms can happen by outvoting ASO but at the moment this looks like a strategic mistake given the uncertainty the sport now faces.

    • A lot of people claim not to have been consulted *properly* because a decision-maker doesn’t agree with them. It’s not quite the same thing as not being consulted at all.

  13. Absolutely see Shawn’s point but if the teams aren’t even at the table, where do the riders fit in? The only hope they have at this time is for the teams to have some vested interest in their welfare. I realize that their interests aren’t completely aligned but they are more congruous than the promoters (just shut up and race) and the UCI (just shut up and race).
    The saddest part is that without riders, there would be no races at all. That is why the racers need to be much more united.

  14. Extraordinary how Vaughters can fail to see himself as partly to blame for all this: precisely the sort of machinations that he has been involved with for years are the primary cause of all this. Velon is only about power and money.
    If the UCI keeps going like this, the most likely end result is the end of the UCI. Because, let’s face it, we all love ASO’s races and very few of us have much love for the UCI.
    As for a Velon solidarity pact of not racing in ASO races, I hope their sponsors would desert them and they’d go bust. Better that than they get all the power and we lose the races. Hopefully, if they did decide to boycott the races their riders would leave them too and join teams who were in the real races.
    ASO is neither selfless nor blameless, but outside of certain other cycling websites, few are likely to be on the side of Velon and the UCI.
    Without the UCI and/or the Velon teams, the historic races go on.

  15. It’s a sticky situation that’s for sure.

    It feels like that actually there’s too much cash in too few hands a budget cap on teams might be a good thing, it would stop the distortion of the Market, bought about by the likes of Sky, Rihs and Tinkov.

    Whilst ASO are recruiting more sponsors at for events pro teams can’t attract sponsors because of the murky past (Or sponsors with enough money?) of cycling, it’s hard to see why ASO should be pilloried for this? They seem from my perspective to have a good strong offering why shouldn’t they be allowed to protect it after all when ASO wanted more stringent (perhaps?) AFLD the UCI complained and threatened riders, is that an organisation trying to protect the interests of the sport it looks after?

    ASO have played a shrewd game with the UCI from my understanding there’s ways the UCI could block them, but I rather suspect that they won’t!

    I have no idea what the answer is to this, but if it’s beyond the wit of the UCI then they should have no contribution to the running of the sport.

  16. Wasn’t it earlier this year that there was talk of the ASO being sold off by EPA, the parent Company?

    Valuations, Offers, Negotiations showed very early on that what EPA was looking for, was in excess of what the market would pay……

    Now….if they could strengthen their hand, show that they were in control of their own destiny and had good medium term revenue/profit streams……would that increase or decrease the value of ASO?

    • Yes there was, I did a piece this time last year* with some wild predictions for 2015 and one suggestion was that the Tour/ASO was sold. If anything the examination of what the race could be worth vs what the newspapers are worth seems to have convinced the Amaury family to sell print and get behind events promotion.

      * As it happens all those predictions (http://inrng.com/2015/01/10-predictions-for-2015/) will be held up to the light to see if the crystal ball was reflective or shattered in the coming days

      • But if you’re thinking Tour, Matt, a Conti team whose budget is around 500k – 750k would be facing an uphill battle to be able to afford to field a fully supported team at a GT. Even the roster of riders – Conti team sizes aren’t big, and all they’d need to a run of injuries to a quarter of their roster & they’d find it difficult to start 9 riders. Never mind the difference in levels and skills – they’d be on their knees or out the back, pronto

        • This all made sense last week, when the Tour was a WT event.

          Now, why can’t you be a Conti team and race competitively? Think of all the contracts that are up in a year, could you build a competitive team from that talent pool? Yes, you could. Is the appropriate staffing available? Yes, they are. Could you raise the money? Well, in a millisecond, I remember that Saxo would love to spend some money on a cycling team. Presto!! Competitive Conti team at the Tour. Unlikely, but plausible.

      • I think he means Wiggins’ team. As pointed out above by Sam it’s a big ask. I didn’t include the Conti teams because they’re so short on experience and depth here. No matter how good a Conti team may be it’s another thing to do a three week grand tour, they rarely get to ride one week stage races.

  17. Forget the Wiggo scenario – he is too busy riding around in circles, as are his team mates.

    Not a serious GT team consideration for ASO, nor anyone else, even as a past TdF winner.

  18. I suspect one of the “sporting” criteria that ASO will use to decide who participates is whether a team accepts ASO ownership of all on-bike footage.

    • There’s been a spat over this but it’s one of those Trojan Horse arguments. The actual value of the footage is low but it’s a battle for control over rights with the teams saying “the cameras are on our bikes, it’s our footage” while ASO says “it’s our race and we own the exclusive broadcast rights”. This leads to more battles, eg when you see a rider interviewed after a race against a backdrop of event sponsors the teams could say “no, stand in front of our logos” or skip the race press conference and instead give one run, branded and controlled by the team etc.

  19. One element I’ve not seen discussed yet is the possibility of the Giro taking over the Tour’s slot on the calendar. If ASO wants to play hardball, couldn’t the UCI simply diminish their influence by placing the Giro into the preferred calendar slot in July and working with stakeholders to increase the international appeal of the Italian Grand Tour? The Giro already seems to be the favorite GT of many hardcore cycling fans. It’s not a huge stretch to see it becoming a popular fan favorite with some marketing tweaks and some increased international coverage.

    • Have you ever made a bike trip in Italy in the month of july? You´ll better stop before noon! So there is no problem for me, but less time for cycling my self. I´ll watch the Giro from 8am till noon and the Tour from noon to 5pm. LOL.

      For me it seems more that this “war” is less intensive as 2005ff. No ASO-races outside UCI-calenders and no attempt to include the ASO-races in the WorldTour against ASOs will. For 2017-2019 I rather prefer the idea of ASO-races in the europeen calendar and a UCI WorldTour that overlaps only with races outside the WorldTour (esp. ASO). From this point they coukld start negociations to merge the different models from 2020 on instead repeating the ProTour-chaos.

      • Come on, it’s not worse than a significant part of France, in fact it could be even better. At least if we’re speaking of climate only, because I’d hate to see the Giro change its May date (perhaps I’d push it a week or two later, but that has nothing to do with the present debate).

    • Easier said than done. There are broadcast schedules in place to show the Giro and Tour respectively in their slots and moving this is not easy, the Tour especially has huge coverage while the Giro is more niche, changing this would take years. Chances are if the UCI tried then ASO could then say they’ll still hold the Tour during July but outside of the UCI all together. Faced with riding a UCI-approved Giro or the Tour in July the publicity benefits still go to the Tour.

      • Agreed (and I’d hate such a change), even if the difference isn’t as much as the one I feel between the words “huge” and “niche”. When TV figures are concerned, the world live/as-live audience of the Giro (actual spectators who watch the stages) can currently be estimated at about 35-40% of the Tour’s (I’ve discussed this and the 2012 IMF data with Van Reeth). That said, it’s obvious that any sort of coverage which is different from *watching the race* is exponentially bigger for the Tour: however, one should also ponder the real value of that extended exposure, which is very polarised (huge for a very reduced number of sponsors, about zero for most of the brands involved).
        Anyway, the Giro would be horribly spoilt if it had to become “the July UCI-approved Tour (of Italy)”, and even if in RCS there are a few specific persons who can work (and *do* work) way better than ASO does, the average/overall structure isn’t up to the job. Not even for current RCS races with their present status.

    • This highlights the worst case scenario – cycling broken into two, with riders split between either riding UCI races or ASO races. The UCI’s primary aim should be to prevent this from happening. And that means negotiating with ASO.
      As others have said, the UCI needs to focus on its core responsibilities – i.e. keeping the calendar together and doing as much as possible to fight drugs – and needs to spend a lot less time on all the other stuff. They’re too concerned with money.

      • Exactly! UCI’s focus is so messed up! They need to reduce their scope, even if that means down sizing (eg. letting go of people). One way they could really help teams and riders is by reducing the annual UCI licensing fee. Without so many stupid departments, their cost per team will drastically decrease.

    • All of what everyone has already said and, really, is RCS, even with the UCI’s backing (that wouldn’t make me feel safe), going to start a war with ASO? No, they’re not. Personally, I love snow at the Giro. I hope it never changes.

  20. The UCI has to have RCS, ASO and the Flanders Classics groups agree with any reforms.
    Any ‘WorldTour’ without the races these groups own is not worthy of the name.
    The races have spent over a hundred years building up what they have. Why should they let the UCI – or, even more so, the various team owners who have been in cycling for comparatively few years – decide how their races should be run and reap the financial rewards from them?
    Velon are attempting a power grab. The UCI – with typical shortsightedness – are siding with them in order to wrest power from ASO; seemingly unaware that the power would go to Velon and not them.
    The likes of Vaughters and other Velon spokespeople suggest that they are doing this for the good of cycling and portray ASO as the ‘schoolbully’.
    Vaughters is someone whose only interest has ever been Jonathan Vaughters. He doped when it suited him, went clean when it suited him, formed a ‘clean’ team when it suited him and now wants reform that suits him (ask his riders how much he cares about them).
    However they like to portray themselves, Velon are Johnny-come-latelies who have inexplicably convinced some that they have a right to decide what should happen in cycling. This despite having given cycling very little.

    • You’re bang on about UCI needing ASO, RCS and Flanders Classics for any reforms. These companies have built cycling, and any attempt to reform without them is a total waste of time.

      It is easy to not like ASO and instead to take the side of the riders, team managers, etc. but no one can deny that these companies pretty much built the sport of cycling as we know it today. Without their events none of the legends or history of our sport would exist.

      Cookson seems like a smart guy, but he should have realised when ASO didn’t say anything at the meetings earlier in December that they were upset and that this would happen. Did Cookson think to ask them “what are your thoughts?” How hard is that?

  21. so lets dream for a minute…. and the UCI comes out with a statement – ‘oh, hang the lot of you, from now on we are just going to do the following – set the rules and regs, co-ordinate anti-doping at all levels, organize the Olympic cycling and World Champs…the rest is a up to whoever wants to organize it…’

    would chaos ensue? would the ASO end up ‘owning’ pro cycling a la Ecclestone? or would the races just continue as before and we wouldn’t have to talk about this stuff as much?

  22. I would love to see a true “World Tour” one day. Something that, like FIFA’s World Cup, goes to a new country every year for 3 weeks. Better, have three of these a year. In fact you could do the same for one week and even one day races. Maybe even put them up for bid.

    I know this is a bit heretical and Madiot might have words for me, but I find it difficult to see long term, global growth for the sport if the imperialism of European geography remains. We’ve had 100+ tours in France. Isn’t that enough?

    I’d also like to point out that the media has some long term potential to resolve the current problem. ASO’s asset is recognition and coverage. However, nothing stops the Giro (for example) from taking that place. If the media made more of an effort to cover other races, their recognition and value would go up. In other words, you erode ASO’s advantage. ASO has managed its assets well but its dominance is not good for the sport.

    I would like to see more a more creative vision for the future of the sport. Right now we have these small fixes on a building that’s better torn down and rebuilt anew . . .

    • It’s not ‘the imperialism of European geography’: that’s where the vast majority of interest in the sport is.
      There is no need, and no reason, to tear the building down – that’s Velon’s hype.
      Why would you want to destroy 100 years of tradition to have some circus going around countries with few mountains and even less interest?
      The fact that you use FIFAs WC as an example beggars belief: is all of football looking forward to Qatar? (Not to mention the courruption that courses through all bidding systems.)

  23. ok, let’s imagine the WT collapses, and there are no more WT teams.
    how can a big sponsor be SURE of a Tour de France spot? I imagine there will be a team classification (with UCI points?) and the first 18 /16 teams will have a spot for teh Tour?

      • that is a burden on the shoulder of the sponsors. really. it’s so unstable. from a sponsor point of view how can I splash the money and risk not seeing my team jersey on TV in July in France?
        ASO must give some warranties.

        • There will be some guarantees, for example, the French teams, and the teams who promise to field the top GC riders will get in. Maybe also the teams who have traditionally made a huge impact on the race, such as Quickstep, or who have the top sprinters, (eg. Greipel, Cavendish, etc.) can be assured of a spot.

          The rest of the teams will be up for grabs. And, ASO won’t give any guaranteed spots, that’t the point. They have an internal criteria, and are not going to disclose it. It is their right – it’s frustrating, and not for the good of the sport, but in 2017, they have every right to keep this private.

          • ASO holds everything in their hands. for sure all the teams will held talks during the winter to discuss their invite.
            the HC rule for number of days for stage races, and length of the other 1 day races must be changed. Liege and Roubaix cannot be limited to 200 kms.
            long month of discussions ahead. or let’s hope the Aso just wanted to show their power, and then find a deal

          • Yeah, don’t worry about ASO changing their races to match HC’s rules. ASO is NOT going to make their races easier. If all else fails, ASO will pull its races off the UCI’s list entirely. Honestly, ASO can do what it wants.

            The proposed changes have 12-months to be resolved, don’t forget ASO said it will put its races in HC for 2017, NOT 2016.

            Also, ASO won’t go out of its way to speak with Cookson to resolve this, they don’t really care and only want to keep their company going. Don’t forget, ASO is in the race building business, and they’ll do what they need to do to keep this going, and that is to build races how they see fit.

          • Concerning the 200km-rule: If you read the whole rule it is oviously, thatthere is no need for a rule-change, just a permission of the Management comittee. And they will give that to avoid a split.

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

        • I disagree. Investing advertising money is inherently a bit risky. I feel bad for Garmin and Cannondale, but unless someone gets it together on that team, they’re not going to the Tour in ’17. And, I think that’s fair.

  24. A little out of the blue, but…
    would someone explain me what are the downsides of limiting the top budgets of WT teams, possibly with some moving index related to the more general economic state of the sport? (sincere question).

    I’m worried because it looks like what JV says, and I don’t like to agree with him 😛 (well, he says intelligent things from time to time, more often than other guys I’d dare to add – the problem usually is *why* he’s saying one thing or the other and if he *really* means it).

    The only things I can think of are:
    – big sponsors who could enter but they’re interested *only* in specific big teams who’ve already got their full budget covered might decide to renounce (one could be afraid that the sport is saying ‘no’ to money, but competition and balance would get better… part of the money would perhaps be lost, but part would end up in smaller teams);
    – distortions in the salary market (most of them would be welcome, like top salaries going down… bottom salaries would be protected by minimum wage);
    – preventing big teams from wasting money in development teams, women teams (uhmm… yeah, they’re already cutting that… but, indeed… you could make that compulsory, but, ok, it still would bring complications);
    – some hypothetical opposition from the EU (really? Couldn’t it be considered some sort of measure fostering perfect competition?);
    – ‘black market’ effect, a lot of money movement below the radars;
    – preventing the best fund raisers to get to that zenith of technical perfection they can presently achieve through superior funding (seriously? I just imagine some positive consequences for doping reduction… In fact, isn’t sport about doing your best within a given frame?).

    I’m really struggling to see all that as a fundamental problem against the possible advantages… Some four or five WT teams would be against the measure, but I think that the rest would appreciate. And, at the end of the day, it might prove itself as a way to have *more money* in cycling as a whole, encouraging medium-sized investors (which are the ones with more to gain from cycling).

    … dunno … I’ve got a lot of doubt about the subject and would be happy to read some good opinions on it.

    • IMHO no downside to limiting team budgets. As it is, the sport is very unfair. Team Sky can afford top scientists, top testing techniques, the best trainers, multiple training camps away from the riders’ homes, etc. on TOP OF HIGH RIDER SALARIES. But, teams with a long-term track record like FDJ can’t compete on any level in terms of training science or rider salaries, so there’s no chance FDJ will win the sports’ biggest races.

      Keep in mind that teams like FDJ also have very talented young riders, but only 4-6 teams can truly develop their riders to win the TdF – Team Sky, Astana, Tinkoff and Movistar (plus potentially BMC and Quickstep).

        • Wow, I didn’t realise their tax system was that bad. That’s pretty brutal how much more expensive it is.

          With that being said, one issue with your tax blog:

          You mention that with one stroke of a pen, you can change your tax location, citing that Astana, Vini-Fantini and others have done so. That’s not true. I’m not an expert on European tax law, but there is a concept called residency that must pass before you can change your tax jurisdiction. Without going into all the tedious details, Astana very likely wouldn’t pass the criteria if it got audited. So, it is likely a very aggressive strategy on Astana’s behalf that they claim to be a non-resident of Kazakh. Aggressive means that they are hoping not to get audited, but in the meantime will stretch the rules to pay less.

          For example, one of the main criteria is based on where the “brains of the corporation resides”. I’m assuming the corporation that runs Astana’s racing team is owned by Vino and the Astana businesses that sponsor Astana. If this is true, then the majority of these entities probably reside in Kazakhstan, and therefore the “brains” behind Astana are Kazakh, not Luxembourg.

          • France’s tax system isn’t ‘that bad’ – it’s a lot fairer than that of the UK or the USA. They haven’t completely sold their people’s interests down the river for the sake of big business.

            As for a cap on team budgets, it’s a great idea, but they’d cheat.
            Ask yourself, would Sky be up for giving backhanders to bolster riders’ salaries?

          • “That bad” refers to the much higher tax cost. If Inrng’s blog is correct, payroll taxes in France are 300% of other European countries, which is definitely “that bad”. Based on my rough calculations, France’s payroll tax is over 4,000% of Canada’s – which is beyond brutal.

            The larger macroeconomic issues are up for debate, but all Inrng and I are talking about is the specific payroll cost.

          • A lot of teams do use these schemes this way, Lampre are registered in Switzerland for example, it looks like Southeast use a Dublin company. On the specifics it’s all private of course but it is done. Aren’t all these countries famous for letterbox or brassplate companies?

          • Ingrng – definitely these countries are famous for it.

            That doesn’t mean it is the correct way to do it, and what it does mean is that the tax authorities are alerted to the practice and are doing their best to find legislative ways to enforce it. This is one of those situations where the legal rules don’t match what is done in practice, and that what is done in practice is a very risky behaviour as it is not a legal tax strategy. If those tax authorities find out (there are many ways for them to do so), they’ll do their best to claim the extra taxes.

            Read this article:

            This is exactly what I mean. Anyone can say they live in Monaco, but if they spend their life in Belgium they’re taxed as Belgians. As the article said, they “struck an agreement” with the tax authorities, which means that they wrote a large cheque, which included fines and penalties.

          • One Italian cyclist who seems famous for being famous rather than winning anything these days was being chased by Italian authorities for claiming to live in Monaco but actually residing in Italy, he kept posting selfies of himself in Monaco as if proof he was there.

          • haha, wow, well I haven’t ever seen “selfies” in a tax act or tax court case as evidence of residency.

            Maybe the famous Italian/aspiring Monacoan should spend some of his untaxed money and get some tax advice.

            There’s a ton of legitimate ways to prove residency. Selfies of having fun in Monaco will in fact probably hurt the cyclist and prove the tax authority’s case!

    • A salary cap has been looked at but it’s very difficult to enforce. Where does a salary begin and an endorsement payment or image rights royalty begin? Take Contador who is paid by Tinkoff but apparently with help from Specialized too.

      There’s also the simple matter of marketing. If you run a good team with a healthy reputation and a nice story then sponsors will start queuing up. See the big names getting behind Giant-Alpecin or Dimension Data with Deloitte onboard etc.

    • If the cap is on total expenditure, rather than just salaries, then you would expect to see less investment in nutrition, sports science, coaching, etc, as well as the development teams you mentioned.

      The black market effect is likely from a cap on total expenditure or salaries – e.g., Michelle Cound gets a new contract with the Sky TV people, totally unrelated to her husband’s riding performances, of course.

      A team-wide salary cap doesn’t necessarily mean a cap for the top individuals, by the way. A team might find it more worthwhile to hold on to the very best riders, paying as much as they need to do so, then make sure they fit within the cap by replacing experienced domestiques with neo-pros. Look at American sports leagues like the NBA and NFL, which rely heavily on stars: the top players make 10s of millions of dollars each season, but the average career length of a pro is 3 or 4 seasons. Given cycling’s nature as a team sport won by individuals, I can foresee that happening.

      There is also the more general point that if you have a salary cap, and interest in cycling increases because of a series of exciting performances from the riders, then the one group of people who won’t benefit from the increase are the riders themselves, as their reward will be capped. Instead, somebody else – whether the team principals or race organisers – will cream off the surplus from the riders’ efforts. I’m instinctively opposed to that kind of arrangement.

      • Good riders (and teams) don’t have to suffer if prize money once again assumes the importance it once did. That would also relieve the notion of event organizers running off with sack loads of cash !

        It doesn’t matter how the case is argued, the present widely disparate sponsorship model is rapidly becoming unsustainable. The current financial imbalance between teams has to be addressed. That is going to require new thinking and ideas, but I suggest it will still revolve around team sponsorship.

      • Thank you Nick, inrng and everyone… I’d have a couple of things to say to carry the debate on, but I’ve got some troubles with my interent connection and I’m afraid I won’t be able to do it in due time. Guess winter’s long enough (as well as cycling’s woes and wars) to offer us some other chance to talk about the subject. Hope I’ll be back in touch more or less soon.

  25. @anonymous
    Do you work for ASO or an associated entity/company? Your comments in this thread are consistently pro-ASO and read like a well-briefed PR agency at times. Nothing wrong with that but disclosure of a vested interest is polite and until you at least choose a name, I’ll be reading them with this assumption.

  26. It’s pretty easy to see where this would lead: overpayed French cyclists. There is no way either the Dutch or the Belgian Lotto team will risk not being invited for the Tour. So they will want to buy lots of French domestiques for their local leaders to convice the ASO.

    • What’s the problem? If French riders get paid more that’s a good thing. It’ll get a lot more interest in non-French teams in the biggest cycling market on the planet, France. This is a good thing.

      • A bit unfair if a rider is paid more – or even making it in to a WorldTour (or whatever it’s called by then) team – on the basis of their nationality. Happens enough as it is, Danny Pate.

  27. After a while, I´ve picked a side. ASO.


    It´not, because
    – ASO fight for an open System. If ASO win´s they decide which Team starts under which rules in which race. That´s not open,
    – the organizers should set the rules of cycling an the calendar. The federation should set the rules and rules are also the rules of participation and the Rankings.

    But UCI seems to be run by Velon.

    They started with the propose of
    – no more overlaps,
    – less races,
    – relegation and Promotion.

    Now their position is the one of Velon:
    – more races,
    – overlaps,
    – three year licences and
    – (a very good one) the WorldTeams have right to participate in any WorldTour-race, but only the duty to start in the old races, not in the new one, so in fact the´ll start wherever they want.

    An interesting point is that since 2005 UCI-Points are worth – NOITHING. There is no promotion and relegation so you can start at the WorldTour-races even without any UCI-points. ASO don´t like that idea – neither me – , but it also weakens the WorldTour in the fight with ASO. ASO will prick the best Teams esp. by sorting them out on Basis of ASO-race-results, so the Teams will have to start with teir best riders in ASO-Events; the right to start at Milano-SanRemo, Vlaanderen, the Giro doesn´t depend und WorldTour-results, so why they should sent they their best riders to the Tour Down Under?

    So, I pick ASO, because their Position is more … reasonable and if they win, Velon should think about, if a three-year-licence is actually more secure as the right to participate in the Tour if they are one of the best 16 Teams. Well, that´s a quite european position. That´s the position of the first reform ideas. Nobody stick to them any more – but me.

    • If you stand way back and filter all the noise through the question “Who benefits?”; Velon is only looking out for themselves with a short sighted perspective, the UCI has always (or, for a very long time) leaned toward individual interests within the administration. With ASO moving it’s races to HC, taking their public comments at face value, the whole sport wins, generally. Yes, Velon do not get the long(er) term security that they want at the expense of up and coming Pro Conti and Conti teams. But, does anyone think that a WT team that sucks should be allowed to suck at the Tour and P-R for 3-5 years? Or the Giro, for that matter? Does anyone think that a lousy team is going to get better with the security of a 5 year license?

      Multi year licenses might be the single dumbest idea for the long term health of the sport.

      • Yes, people are being duped – believing the team owners when they say that the sport won’t survive because there is too much uncertainty.
        It was ever thus and the sport has survived.
        The Velon team bosses want to look after themselves and make sure that their team is ok – as you say, regardless of performance.
        I don’t know anything about US sports, but aren’t there teams that are crap for years and years because they don’t have to do anything to survive?
        And all of this would punish better teams who want to come up a level.
        Not good for the sport and I can’t even see how it can be good on a sponsorship basis – companies will be reluctant to support good teams who can’t go anywhere and equally reluctant to support rubbish teams who are going to be around for years.

        • I think the American sport league system works with budget cups, salary caps and a drafting system for neoprofessionals in order to protect the weaker teams. I don´t see, that this will work under european law and honestly I don´t like it.

          • American sports league cap rules would work under Euro law (they all have collective bargaining agreements in place). With that being said, the American sports league rules will not work in cycling for the foreseeable future.

            As discussed above, ASO is firmly in charge, and ASO definitely has no interest in an American sports league model, therefore, it won’t happen.

          • It could work in EU law terms if there was a collective bargaining agreement in place between riders and employers, but given cycling’s structure it would also need to include race organisers and possibly the UCI too, which may prove a challenge. However, complying with EU law wouldn’t be enough: given the current structure of the WT alone, you’d probably also need to comply with Russian, US, Kazakh, Swiss, and Aussie law. “Challenge” may be an understatement.

        • It works in the US, because each team dominates its home market, and every large US city is a substantial economy on its own. So even the rubbish ones can keep going. Cycling wouldn’t be able to emulate that (even if it wanted to), without creating an equivalent support base. There’s some of that with Sky as the British team, Orica as the Aussie one, Movistar the Spanish and so on, but it’s not the same thing at all.

  28. I think the ASO over stepped it’s boundaries.

    Financial viability is a big issue. It is not like all the other races are going to say – we are going to put all this effort, volunteer hours, financial resources, closing roads, police,,,, etc in to hosting races to have the ASO / TDF reap the rewards. Other events are progressively going to find it harder to support races, they don’t get the media exposure that warrants the expense. It is not like backers of the teams are going to continue backing with big millions if their participation is arbitrarily decided. This is potentially going to shrink the pool of riders that give WT type salaries, which are already low for support riders. Thus pushing more to the pro continental level for even less. At the margin fewer athletes will be drawn to cycling versus other sports ……

    As previously stated, this is French riders/France versus the rest of the world.

    If I was an Italian politician I would say, the ASO is trying to make it harder for Italian riders, that the ASO is trying to hurt the Giro and other RCS races.

    I think the ASO has pushed it too far – Thus it wouldn’t surprise me if politicians of all walks of life get involved……

    The riders should ban together…the non ASO races should ban together….

    (On a personal thought – maybe just maybe – their needs to be an association between locations and teams (perhaps even having teams have a home race – shared equity both ways))

    As for fans… if they understand financial viability they should be against this too… however it seems like many commentators on this site get financial sustainability of the sport mixed up with profits for owners. A team budget balances what comes in versus what goes out, they don’t have anything left over at the end of the year, any excess races winning are shared with the riders. You can expect billionaires to continue to fund teams at a personal rate of 10-30 million euro a year…… if it is all for ASO benefit.

    It is possible that by 2018:
    – ETIXX stops funding (as they got sold) – and their billionaire pulls back
    – BMC – owners follow through on limiting their 30 mil euro personal support
    – Katusha – already stated they will limit the substantial personal funding, plus the oil has declined, an thus it hurts the Russian economy
    – Team Sky – Sky announced they may curtail their massive advertising investment (not personal funds)
    – IAM Cycling – the personal support is limited and they are looking for a other investors
    – Tinkoff – As already known – the 20 mil Euro year personal funding is going away – Saxo will not fund it to that level
    – Astana – might pull back some, Energy prices have decreased, and they floated their currency which has greatly limited free money
    – Orica /Greeenedge – will they be able to find a co-sponsor – or will they continue to ride off personal funding
    – Lotto Soudal – The Lotto funds are quasi public funds – can they find another supporter if this gets political
    – Lotto Jumbo – The Lotto funds are quasi public funds – can they find another supporter if this gets political
    – Dimension Data – As an IT company with a Anglo focus they are subject to getting pressure for not providing equal support for female sports (the ASO does not get a passing grade for support of female racing)

    I think there are some very smart people providing the personal funding to the many teams (ex-CEOs/PE /Hedge funds) – If they got together with non French politicians, new China money, Media and the racers, and events – there might be a different result…

    Did ASO start more than a battle – and actually cause a war

    • Hey seuss! Where to start??

      No, your wrong. As you illustrate with your fears “… by 2018”, it’s not ASO, it’s the economy. And, trust me, if you think the world’s economy looks bleak now, just wait ’til the reality of the cost of war AND refugees sets in. ASO events as HC is a better solution for a retracted economy.

      And that claptrap about the French against the world? French riders make up only 16% of the WT peloton. The ASO is in business by serving All teams and All nationalities.

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