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ASO doubles down on German bet, takes over Eschborn-Frankfurt

Six months before the Tour starts in Düsseldorf, ASO has announced it will take over the company that runs Eschborn-Frankfurt.

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ASO is reshuffling its deck and is doubling down on its German bet.

Just weeks after dropping Critérium International and the Tour of Qatar (a race it managed but did not own), the powerful race organizer is extending its reach into Germany, striking a deal to take over the company that runs the one-day semi-classic Eschborn-Frankfurt (formerly the Henninger-Turm) held each May.

That confirms Amaury Sport Organisation’s big bet on Germany, by far Europe’s largest undersold market that is showing signs of revival. ASO is bringing the Tour de France to Düsseldorf this July for the host city of the start of its marquee property, and will revive the Tour of Germany in 2018 under the name of Deutschland Deine Tour.

Germany is Europe’s largest economy and one of cycling’s biggest markets, but the sport stalled in the wake of high-profile doping scandals in the 1990s and early 2000s. Fans and the German cycling media are coming back, thanks in part to a new generation of credible winners such as John Degenkolb, Marcel Kittel, and Tony Martin. ASO is well-positioned to tap in that resurgence.

In its latest move, ASO announced Thursday it is taking over the German race organizer Gesellschaft zur Förderung des Radsports, which will continue to operate the race as a subsidiary of the Paris-based company. In addition to a men’s race, it also includes a popular fan ride as well as races in other categories.

Its foray into Germany is a clear sign that ASO is following the money. In the past few months, ASO dropped such long-running races as Critérium International (held on Corsica since 2007) and the Tour de Picardie after local funding dried up. Last month, the Tour of Qatar, the first major race in the now-lucrative Middle East, was also dropped from ASO’s stable after organizers abruptly canceled the race. ASO still has ties with the Tour of Oman, but rival RCS Sport has moved into the region with races in Abu Dhabi and Dubai.

Over the past decade, ASO has strategically moved beyond its French stronghold looking for new business opportunities. It is now a major player across Europe, linking up with events such as the Tour de Yorkshire in England, World Ports Classic in the Netherlands, and the Arctic Race of Norway. Taking the Tour de France regionally is also proving popular and profitable, with recent starts in London, Rotterdam, Leeds, Utretcht, and Düsseldorf this summer.

ASO took over full ownership of the Vuelta a España in Spain and continues to own France’s most important races, such as Paris-Roubaix, Paris-Nice, and Critérium du Dauphiné. These latest moves only bolster ASO’s already dominant position in the sport.