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Teams association AIGCP blasts UCI’s 2020 reform plans

Group representing most of the top teams comes out swinging with a strong rebuke of what it says is the cycling governing body's lack of transparency, conflict of interest

Cycling’s turf wars are heating up as the UCI marches forward with its 2020 reforms.

Coming hot on the heels of recent challenges to the European Commission from Velon and an Italian group, the UCI is under fire again. This time the pressure is coming from the powerful AIGCP, a trade group representing most of the top WorldTour teams.

On Monday, the AIGCP unleashed a lengthy call to arms via a posting on its Facebook page, citing the UCI for a litany of failures and miscues that the group says is threatening the future of the sport.

No one from the AIGCP or the UCI was immediately for comment for this story. The letter, however, spells out what the group says are major issues and conflicts between the international cycling governing body and the interests of the top pro teams.

Click here for a link to full AIGCP statement.

Many of the complaints date back years, if not decades, as the UCI and top teams and organizers have been in a constant tug-of-war for power and control of the sport.

The UCI’s latest reform efforts, which include a restructuring of the WorldTour and second-tier calendars as well as a remaking of WorldTour licenses, are raising the collective ire of the teams.

Teams allege that the UCI is over-stepping its regulatory bounds and treading on the teams’ economic interests. It also claims the UCI isn’t delivering on its primary job of regulating the sport, and it is not listening or considering the concerns of the other stakeholders. Most importantly, the group alleges that the UCI is hampering the teams’s ability to maximize commercial interests.

The group used the familiar phrase, “taxation without representation,” in its statement.

Without citing examples, the group alleges the UCI is sub-par when it comes to “race refereeing and the management of riders’ safety.” The group also says the interests of the elite pro men’s teams are not fairly represented, pointing out that teams are not represented—or they are under-represented—in key UCI decision-making panels and boards.

And more important, at least to the teams’ interest, is the group’s allegations that the UCI is “using its regulatory powers in many ways and forms to, directly and indirectly, interfere in the commercial domain and too often at the expense of UCI’s own stakeholders: the teams with their riders.”

The letter cited examples such as new calendar dates that require cyclists to compete in national jerseys, not for their pro teams, as well as expanded required race days from 154 to 180 under the new calendar which teams put undue stress on riders as well as increase costs for teams.

The letter also revealed ongoing behind-the-scenes struggles over the proposed “Classics Series” as well as a rebranding and expansion of the second-tier under the new “ProSeries.”

The high-profile letter marks a growing breach between UCI president David Lappartient, who swept into power in 2017 with solid support from much of the cycling community, and the ever more frustrated WorldTour teams.

There was no official reaction from the UCI, so it’s unclear if the cycling governing body is going to try to appease to the teams’ concerns.

Teams and race organizers have cited frustration dating back to last year over some of the proposed reforms and changes that the UCI plans to introduce by 2020. The UCI offered an olive branch to teams by relaxing requirement rules for the latest round of WorldTour licensing, resulting in the announcement last week that 19 teams have qualified for the top league.

Last month, the AIGCP formally rejected key elements of a planned “Classics Series” that links together the calendar’s most important one-day races. Earlier this month, both Velon and a group representing major Italian races and teams both filed formal complaints with the European Commission against the UCI.

In its letter, the group is calling for “urgent action” and new dialogue between the teams and the UCI.

Lappartient, however, retains strong backing from ASO and other key power brokers within cycling, so it’s unclear how this growing stand-off might end.