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Cookson pressures ASO to compromise and work within WorldTour reforms

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UCI President Brian Cookson was on hand for the podium presentation

UCI President Brian Cookson was on hand for the podium presentation
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Race director Christian Prudhomme presents the 2016 Tour de France route

Race director Christian Prudhomme presents the 2016 Tour de France route (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Star riders take the stage at the 2016 Tour de France presentation

Star riders take the stage at the 2016 Tour de France presentation (Image credit: Getty Images)

Brian Cookson has stressed that the UCI will move ahead with or without ASO in their plans to reform the WorldTour.

ASO, who run the Tour de France and a glut of other major races in and outside of France, including Paris-Nice, Paris-Roubaix, Liege-Bastogne-Liege, and the Vuelta a Espana, have already made clear that their races will sit outside of the WorldTour in 2017 if the UCI move forward to push through with their reforms that include new three-year team licences and an expanded WorldTour calendar.

At the UCI Track World Championships in London Cookson told the gathered press that the UCI would continue to mediate over their differences with ASO but the governing body's president added that the WorldTour reforms and the calendar would go through for 2017 even if the biggest races in the sport sat outside of their jurisdiction.

"We're not going to have a war or a massive fallout," Cookson said.

"I'm in touch with ASO at the highest level and I'm hopeful that we can have an on going dialogue for the next few months. I'm confident that we can find a solution that will acknowledge that the sport needs to grow but that we need to protect people's existing assets and their vision. I think we can come up with a solution that works."

The dispute between the ASO and the UCI has been long and complicated. It has been suggested that there were elements within the UCI that had undermined the governing body's position and it's less of a secret that the French team are willing to sit behind ASO as it would safeguard their invitations to the most important races in their seasons.

Cookson dismissed the term ‘power struggle' but admitted that the ASO had been attempting to protect their own position in the sport. He did include a vague suggestion that the French authority were holding up the growth for the rest of the sport by not compromising with the UCI.

"I know you guys [eg. the media] like to present these things in that way and perhaps ASO felt that their assets were threatened by expansion and by giving the teams more solidarity and by giving them more long term licenses, but what we've tried to do is look at things that will help the cycling economy grow in a more sustained way and internationalise the sport while also protecting the heritage and what makes the sport great," he said, before adding that the UCI Management Committee were now publicly behind him.

"There's nothing in the proposals that will damage anyone else's profits and why would we want to do that? We want to grow everyone's economics in a way that's sustainable."

However, the pace at which the reforms have developed remains a concern, especially for races and teams who are affected by cycling's lack of stability.

"That's the price that you pay for when you try and do things with consensus,' Cookson said when Cyclingnews news asked about the reform pace.

"When I was elected I wanted to try and find ways of working with people and not just bang the table and say it was my way or the highway. We are trying to do things that help everyone and if that takes a few more months then that's the price that we have to pay."

When Cyclingnews asked if Cookson and the UCI were running out of time in order to find a solution to their WorldTour reform situation, Cookson replied:

"Obviously it would be better if we didn't have a situation where the ASO were saying that they won't be part of the WorldTour for 2017, but we have time to resolve that. What we have though is those 20 events that want to be part of the WorldTour and invest in cycling. All that I read is that riders want to be part of the WorldTour, and the teams, RCS Sport and Flanders [Classics] also want to be part of the WorldTour and help it grow. There is some to debate over the detail and all of those people want the best for their assets, and we understand that, but we can achieve more by working together."

How exactly the sport would be considered if the UCI's flagship calendar was run without the inclusion of the Tour de France and the rest of ASO's races remains to be seen. The situation happened in 2008 during Pat McQuaid's tenure as UCI President but was resolved in time for the following season.

Cookson stressed that compromise and working with ASO was his main aim and he appeared confident that the WorldTour would go ahead next season even if ASO moved away, believing that such a scenario would still be better than the current status quo.

"Of course. I don't want to have a WorldTour without the ASO. Their events will always be big in the world of cycling, of course, but there is sufficient enthusiasm from the events that do want to be part of the WorldTour for us to have a calendar than can exist without ASO but that's not an option that I really want to see. I think the other organisers want ASO in the World Tour, and the teams too."

"The Tour de France will always be the biggest event in the world and the event that captures the majority of the media in July and probably the rest of the year as well. I'm not going to try and put a WorldTour on that challenges ASO. I guess we'll have to work around them. Ultimately we would have a series of events without ASO but that would be regrettable."

Daniel Benson is the Managing Editor at Cyclingnews. Based in the UK, he coordinates the global coverage for the website. Having joined Cyclingnews in April 2008, he has covered several Tour de France, the Spring Classics, and the London Olympic Games in 2012.

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