ASO and UCI come to terms, averting 2017 crisis

A wide-ranging agreement will keep the Tour de France and other top races on the WorldTour for 2017

Cycling’s international governing body, the UCI, and its most powerful race organizer, the ASO, came to an agreement Wednesday that will avoid what could have been a very messy separation in 2017.

At a meeting of the Professional Cycling Council in Geneva, Switzerland, the sport’s major stakeholders hashed out a plan for reforms agreed to by both the ASO and the UCI, as well as approving a WorldTour calendar for the coming season.

The ASO had threatened to pull races from its coveted portfolio — among them, the Tour de France — off the WorldTour, but according to a UCI press release, all existing WorldTour events will remain on the top-tier calendar for 2017. That includes ASO properties.

The WorldTour will also see an influx of new events next year, with an announcement on the full calendar to come shortly.

“This marks another important step in the reform of men’s professional cycling, and I am very pleased that we now have our stakeholders behind what represents the future of our sport,” said UCI president Brian Cookson in the announcement.

“I am delighted that we can build on the heritage and prestige of the UCI WorldTour, while also welcoming newer but already successful events taking place in and outside Europe. We are committed to continuing the consultation with all stakeholders on various details of the reform.”

Wednesday’s agreement also contains new provisions for a slightly altered approach to team designations. “WorldTeams,” the squads currently competing at the highest level, will receive two-year licenses for 2017 and 2018, with a plan to ultimately reduce the current total of 17 teams to a permanent 16-team baseline. A new “annual challenge system” will create the framework for relegation and promotion within the top tier.

“From the end of the 2018 season onwards, there will be an annual challenge system, based on an overall annual sporting classification, between the last ranked UCI WorldTeam and the top Pro Continental Team to enter as a UCI WorldTeam in the following season,” the UCI said in its statement. “In the event that a UCI WorldTeam drops out of the top tier, that team will have the right to participate in all the following season’s UCI WorldTour events, meaning that UCI WorldTeams will have stability for the three seasons 2017 to 2019.”

For 2017, all existing WorldTour events will require the participation of all WorldTeams, while the Professional Cycling Council plans to agree on rules at its next meeting to ensure the participation of a minimum of 10 WorldTeams per new event.

“I am delighted that an agreement could be found that will help the sport of cycling as a whole,” said Christian Prudhomme, director of the Tour de France and president of the AIOCC, the International Association of Race Organizers.