Cyclingnews understands that UCI President Brian Cookson will meet with Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme at the Tour Down Under this week in an attempt to discuss some kind of compromise so that the French race organizer Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO) backs down from its threat to pull its major races from the 2017 WorldTour calendar.
ASO, which organises the Tour de France, Paris-Nice, Paris-Roubaix and Liege-Bastogne-Liege, the Vuelta a Espana and other lesser races, is openly against the UCI reforms Cookson has worked hard to push through.
In a surprise move in late December, ASO threatened to register all its WorldTour races in the lower-level Europe Tour calendar for 2017, giving it the right to the reduce the size of the peloton and choose the teams that take part, including the WorldTour teams, who currently have an automatic invitation to all the races on the WorldTour calendar.
Due to the precarious nature of professional cycling teams, missing the Tour de France would likely mean team sponsors would quit the sport and the teams would struggle to survive.
ASO and the UCI have been butting heads over the proceed reforms for the WorldTour, which are due to be introduced in 2017 despite two years of meetings and an apparent agreement that was approved by the UCI congress in September. The French race organiser’s aggressive stance is a clear threat to Cookson’s role of UCI President and the reform process he has supported.
“More than ever, A.S.O. remains committed to the European model and cannot compromise the values it represents: an open system giving first priority to the sporting criterion,” ASO announced in December, making it clear it is against plans to give teams and race an automatic three-year licence from 2017 and allow for other changes, including the possible introduction of race appearance fees, that would permit richer race organisers to attract the big name riders to their races.
Cyclingnews understands that there has been no dialogue between ASO and the UCI since ASO's December 18 announcement but informal contact has apparently been kept alive by Richard Chassot - the recently elected general director of the race organisers association AIOCC. Chassot is also the organiser of the Tour de Romandie, which covers the east of Switzerland, where the UCI is based.
Cookson apparently left the UCI headquarters in Aigle, Switzerland on Tuesday after a series of meetings, hoping that well-known Prudhomme –the public face of the Tour de France, rather than belligerent ASO CEO Yann Le Moenner, can help find a solution to the power struggle that has left the future of professional cycling up in the air.