Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO) has announced that it is to withdraw all of its races from the UCI WorldTour from 2017. As well as the Tour de France, the group also runs the Vuelta a Espana, Paris-Nice, the Critérium du Dauphiné, Paris-Roubaix, Liège-Bastogne-Liège and La Fleche Wallonne.
In a press release, ASO said it had registered its events on the UCI hors catégorie calendar for 2017, arguing that recent WorldTour reforms constitute a ‘closed sport system’.
“More than ever, ASO remains committed to the European model and cannot compromise the values it represents; an open system giving first priority to the sporting criterion.”
Earlier in the year, it was suggested that ASO might pull the Tour de France from the WorldTour due to a lack of progress in the UCI’s reform programme. The UCI management committee subsequently approved a number of changes for 2017 onwards. These were then rejected by the International Association of Cycling Race Organizers (AIOCC), of which ASO is a major part.
A major issue appears to be the decision to grant three-year WorldTour licences, rather than the one-year licences on offer up until 2016.
Hors catégorie events cannot feature more than 70 per cent of WorldTour teams, which means a maximum of 15 for a 22-team event such as the Tour de France. As the WorldTour comprises 18 teams, moving down to hors catégorie level would mean some missing out.
With ASO effectively able to pick and choose which teams enters the biggest event on the calendar, the WorldTour system which is based on the concept of having the top teams in the top races would be hugely undermined.
ASO and the UCI also came into conflict between 2005 and 2008 when the former refused to be part of what was then the UCI Pro-Tour.