Cookson welcomes RCS Sport support for WorldTour reforms

UCI President Brian Cookson has welcomed the support of Giro d’Italia organiser RCS Sport for the much-discussed reforms of professional cycling. The reforms could bring significant changes to the WorldTour calendar and structure starting from 2017.

On Wednesday RCS Sport weighed into the war of words between several stakeholders in the sport by showing its support for a reform of the WorldTour. Last week Tour de France organiser ASO pushed back against the reforms, despite them being approved with a majority vote at a key UCI Professional Cycling Council on June 16. In a letter leaked to the media, ASO threatening to pull its races from the 2016 WorldTour calendar.

“The ultimate goal of RCS Sport 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 is convinced that technological innovation is a fundamental step in achieving this goal and requires a greater involvement of the professional teams too,” Managing Director Paolo Bellino and Director of Cycling Mauro Vegni said in a combined statement.

Cookson has avoided speaking publicly about the reforms but broke his silence to thank RCS Sport.

“I welcome the support of RCS who like so many stakeholders, are keen to see our sport advance. I'm looking forward to finalising the details and talking publicly of reforms which I believe will help take our sport forwards,” Cookson told Cyclingnews.

A clear divide between ASO and others stakeholders

A clear divide has emerged between ASO and other stakeholders over the reforms that will shape the future of professional cycling from 2017-2020 and beyond.

In the letter signed by managing director Yann Le Moenner, ASO accused the UCI of straying from their role as an intermediary or guide, saying that they have been "caught off-side" and "would be close to endorsing a mercantile system, extraneous to sporting merit, in which the right to participate would be bought by the teams, the one of engaging groups also bought by organizers and the hopes of the transfer between the elite and the inferior levels, the cycling pool, definitively ruined."

ASO was also angered that the UCI had apparently let RCS Sport organise an end of season WorldTour gala event as part of the new Abu Dhabi Tour in October.

In his interview with Cyclingnews, David Lappartient - the UCI vice president but also the president of the French Cycling Federation, suggested the reforms lacked a spirit of openness and performance-based rules for deciding who has a place in the WorldTour. Lappartient said any North American style closed system went against his and the UCI’s philosophy for sport. Despite being involved in the reform process, Lappartient then sided with ASO and voted against the reform proposal during the PCC meeting. The AIGCP teams association has also hit back at Lappartient's comments.

Cookson commented on the public battle but did not reveal how he plans to resolve and overcome the problems with ASO. He is expected to be in Utrecht next week for the start of the Tour de France.

“Of course I have seen what is in the press and I regret that some of this is not an accurate representation of the situation,” Cookson told Cyclingnews. “I'm grateful for those who have worked hard within our extensive consultative process to achieve consensus.”

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