By Laura Weislo
Patrice Clerc, the patron of the Tour de France for the past eight years, has been replaced as president of the Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO), the Amaury Group announced Wednesday. Jean-Etienne Amaury, the son of the media giant's founder Philippe Amaury, is taking over presidential duties from Clerc.
Gilbert Ysern, the Director General of the ASO, will also leave the organisation to be replaced by Yann Le Moenner, who has been in charge of marketing, media and legal affairs for the ASO since 1992.
The change in leadership at the Tour de France offices comes after an accord had finally been struck between the Grand Tour organisers and the International Cycling Union. The two sides had been at odds for more nearly four years over the UCI's ProTour series.
The announcement of an agreement by the UCI in August revealed that it had been in negotiations with Editions Philippe Amaury (EPA), not the ASO. Following the accord, Hein Verbruggen, the former UCI vice president, and president during the inception of the ProTour announced his resignation.
Last week, the EPA and UCI officially ended the long-running conflict. "The International Cycling Union and the Editions Philippe Amaury (owner of ASO and Société du Tour de France), RCS and Unipublic have signed an agreement today to put an end to the disputes that have existed over the past four years," a UCI statement read.
"These agreements provide a framework within which the parties will work together for the sport of cycling going forward. All parties believe that this marks the start of a new positive era for a united cycling family."
The peace deal was novel in that both sides appeared to agree to the terms without exception. In the history of the struggle between the organisers and UCI, the sport had come to the brink of crisis several times only to be stitched back together by temporary deals, only to have the whole fight unravel over the same points a few months later.
Clerc was strongly critical of Verbruggen and his successor as UCI president, Pat McQuaid not only on the ProTour but also on the issue of doping. The Frenchman felt the UCI hadn't done enough to combat doping, and fought for the ProTour rules to include a code of ethics.
He also railed against what he called "an American-style closed system" where the teams within the ProTour are set. He opposed race organisers being told which teams they must invite to their races, and fought against the UCI putting its branding on his race as well as attempts by the governing body to share in the television rights to the Tour de France.
The conflict nearly ground the cycling season to a halt two years in a row - first in 2007 when the ASO refused to let the Unibet.com team, which had a ProTour license, into Paris-Nice, the first series race of the year and threatened to hold it under the sanction of the French Federation. The next season, the ASO went one step further, and actually organised both Paris-Nice and the Tour de France outside the of the UCI's control.
As a result of the new peace deal, the UCI will be restructuring the ProTour by 2011.