The organiser of the Giro d’Italia, RCS Sport has distanced itself from fellow Grand Tour organiser ASO by stating it is not against the proposed reforms to men’s professional cycling and the WorldTour structure that have so angered the Tour de France organiser.
Last week ASO threatened to pull all its races, including the Tour de France from the 2016 WorldTour calendar if the reforms are approved, sparking a deep divide between the most powerful organiser in the sport and the teams, riders, the UCI and other race organisers, who all believe some kind of reform is needed.
ASO was part of the working group of stakeholders that drew up the 15-page reform document but then voted against it when it was proposed to the UCI’s Professional Cycling Council (PCC), which is entrusted with the technical and administrative organisation of the WorldTour. The UCI Management Committee was expected to approve the reforms last week but the matter never reached a vote, with several key members asking for further details and analysis of the consequences of the reforms. Some members of the UCI Management committee were clearly keen to avoid a war with ASO, including vice-president David Lappartient of France, who gave his personal opinion on the reforms in an exclusive interview with Cyclingnews.
Contrary to initial plans to reduce the size of the WorldTour calendar, the final proposed reforms call for an enlarged WorldTour calendar, without cutting the length of any current races but allow teams to opt out of any new races. Teams would be reduced to between 23-25 riders and current WorldTour teams would be given a three-year licence for an interim period of 2017-2020, while details of a final reform for after 2020 are hashed out.
RCS Sport is known to be broadly in favour of a reform process and in a press release Managing Director Paolo Bellino and Director of Cycling Mauro Vegni said that that the Italian organiser's ultimate goal “is solely to grow the movement of cycling worldwide ensuring stability in the medium and long term, thus increasing the value of their assets.”
“RCS Sport has never been opposed to the Reform Project and is ready to analyse and discuss all technical issues related to it with all relevant parties involved, first and foremost with the UCI.”
No deal with Velon
During his interview with Cyclingnews, Lappartient claimed the current reform proposals lacks a sense of sporting openness and was sympathetic to the concerns of ASO, who believe a system of relegation and promotion based on performance would be a way of ensuring the WorldTour remains an open sport. RCS Sport agrees with the idea of the WorldTour being more open to teams entering and leaving, but not during the initial phase of planned reforms.
“On the subject of promotion and relegation of teams RCS Sport supports, in principle, the concept. However RCS Sport believes this cannot be implemented until there is more stability within the sport,” RCS Sport said.
Lappartient suggested that RCS Sport and the Tour de Suisse organisers have a contract with the Velon group of 11 leading teams to boost the quality of riders in their races but RCS Sport denied this in their press release, stating any agreement was only for on-bike video production.
“RCS Sport also categorically denies any form of payment or direct contact with the riders in order to have them participate in competitions it organises,” RCS Sport claimed.
“RCS Sport had a contract in place (with Velon) but this was only for the production of films for broadcasting on digital and TV. It was exclusively for the 2015 edition of the Corsa Rosa. The aim of the collaboration was to improve the quality of the narrative of the race, with no other purposes,” RCS concluded.
“RCS Sport is convinced that technological innovation is a fundamental step in achieving this goal and requires a greater involvement of the professional teams too.”