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Brailsford backs ASO-UCI deal, defends team budget

Dave Brailsford hails the recent ASO-UCI agreement as a "common sense" solution

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ANGERS, France (VN) — Team Sky principal Dave Brailsford described the recent cease-fire between ASO and the UCI as “common sense.”

Tour de France owners ASO (Amaury Sports Organisation) and the cycling governing body recently signed off on a three-year agreement to keep ASO catalogue of properties within the WorldTour, ending the threat of a potential split of cycling’s elite calendar.

Speaking to journalists before the start of Monday’s third stage at the Tour de France, Brailsford said the deal was the right call to avoid another costly war.

“When you come up against something when everything is blocked, sometimes the best leadership is common sense,” Brailsford said. “A little bit of compromise and collaborative approach is the best way.”

Brailsford praised UCI president Brian Cookson’s efforts to sit down with ASO, and hammer out an agreement “that everyone can live with.” Some teams, however, are upset with some aspects of the proposed deal.

“A little bit of compromise and collaborative approach is the best way,” Brailsford said. “If you try to change too quickly, and the whole thing gets blocked. Thankfully, Brian (Cookson) and the guys at ASO have shown that flexibility. A massive part of leadership is being able to step back, and take another look.”

ASO and the UCI were at loggerheads over a planned reform of elite men’s cycling, and last December, ASO abruptly walked away from the negotiating table, and threatened to run a parallel calendar under the European cycling federation. That would have been disastrous for teams and the UCI, but tempers cooled over the past few months, and Cookson reached a compromise deal with ASO.

Under the latest plan, ASO’s properties will stay within the WorldTour calendar, and new events will be added for 2017. Teams will be guaranteed three-year licenses, with the number of WorldTour-level teams shrinking to 16 by 2019. A still-undefined relegation/promotion system, similar to what European soccer leagues use, will be introduced as well, with the lowest-ranked WorldTour team dropping to the Professional Continental level, and the top Pro Conti team bumped up to WorldTour. Cookson stressed that details are still to be hammered out, but assured the foundation of the deal is in place.

Brailsford said the latest compromise is something “everyone can live with.”

“We’ve avoided that,” Brailsford said of a potential “cycling war.” “Fairplay to Brian. One of Brian’s attributes, he will stop and think, and commonsense will prevail. I think it was a wise move.”

>> ‘We spend more on sport’
Brailsford also said a major reason behind Sky’s continued success is the team’s commitment to spend a larger percentage of their budget on support and development than rival teams.

Sky proudly displays its three yellow jerseys and two world time trial championships emblazoned on the side of its team bus, but Brailsford bristled at the idea that the team simply buys success.

“It’s not just money,” he said. “We spend less than we could on salaries, and more than we could on support.”

Sky boasts the largest salary in cycling, with an estimated budget upwards of $30 million (about 26 million pounds), more than double of some of the lower-rung WorldTour teams. Although Sky certainly has the purse-strings to hire top riders, he said the team’s success is founded on its investment in coaching, training, nutrition, and support systems, but objected the notion that the team is buying its success by simply opening the checkbook.

“We spend more on supporting the athlete than other teams. That’s part of the investment we’ve made on coaching, training, and other support for the athletes,” Brailsford said. “We spend less on salaries, and we try to get more out of it. Proportionally, every team decides how they want to spend their money. We believe in coaching, in support services.”