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Turf war erupts as Velon files anti-trust suit against UCI

Velon, owner of the Hammer Series, has filed an anti-competition complaint against the UCI, alleging that the governing body was refusing to register the Hammer Series events for 2020.

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Cycling’s never-ending turf wars are heating up again.

On Tuesday, Velon, the trade-team association behind the Hammer Series, revealed it is has filed an anti-trust complaint against the UCI to the European Commission.

The unorthodox step comes days after another teams association — the AIGCP — rejected the latest steps by the UCI to develop a so-called “Classics Series” as part of its ongoing reorganization of elite men’s professional racing 2020.

In what appears a first of its kind, Velon is challenging the UCI to the European Commission, which governs trade across Europe, claiming cycling’s governing body is trying to hinder the development of its parallel racing series, the Hammer Series.

Velon represents 11 top cycling teams — including Team Ineos, EF-Education First, Mitchelton-Scott and Trek-Segafredo — and believes the UCI has implemented regulations which are designed to favor the business interests of the governing body at the detriment of the sport.

“In the past year the UCI has tried to stop what Velon and the teams have pioneered in their joint business on new races (the team v team “Hammer Series”) and technology,” a Velon statement said Tuesday.

None of the “Hammer Series” events are part of the UCI’s World Tour, which is comprised of the leading races each year. All of the major cycling races are privately owned, apart from the UCI world championships.

“In the past 12 months the UCI has used its regulatory power and political leverage to seek to block the business activities of Velon and the teams in an incorrect and unlawful manner,” the statement added.

UCI officials said Tuesday that it had not received notification of the “complaint referred to in Velon’s press statement.”

“In the case of such notification, it will take necessary steps according to appropriate procedure,” the UCI said Tuesday in a statement. “In line with its mission, the UCI will continue to work with all its stakeholders, and in their best interests, for the new organization of men’s professional road cycling.”

The rift comes as the UCI and Velon have battled over the future of the Hammer Series, introduced in 2017. The event grew to three rounds in 2018 and 2019, though political turmoil in Hong Kong has put a question mark on the final event scheduled Oct. 12-13.

According to Velon, the UCI was threatening to remove the events from the 2020 racing calendar. Velon also alleges that the UCI passed new technical regulations that “sought to give itself and race organizers ownership and control over the teams’ business on live race data,” a press release stated.

“The UCI today believes that it should not only be the regulator for the sport but also take new business creation from its stakeholders without their consent,” a statement read. “The UCI feels entitled to use its regulatory powers for its own commercial benefit and to take the rights of the teams and riders without consultation or permission.”

The latest tussle between the UCI and Velon comes as the AIGCP last week revealed its opposition to the latest changes in the one-day classics racing period set for 2020.

Two years ago, the UCI and teams had agreed to reorganize many of cycling’s most emblematic one-day races into a new season-long series that initially would include new opportunities for teams, organizers, riders and the UCI. Those talks have collapsed and the teams’ association is crying foul.

“The teams lament that no substantial progress has been made in this regard,” a press release stated. “In fact, the teams’ and riders’ rights are neither being recognised nor respected and the current approach and proposed regulatory framework do not deliver on the promised structure which would finally enable the stakeholders to realize the economic change that this sport desperately needs.

“Accordingly, the AIGCP has formally informed the UCI of its rejection of the ‘Classics Series’ as it is being implemented by the UCI and that no team or contracted rider may be associated with any such ‘Classics Series’ without the express consent of that team.”

AIGCP, however, confirmed its larger commitment to the ongoing remake of elite men’s cycling for 2020. As part of the latest plans, teams will be bidding for 20 WorldTour licenses going into next season.

— AFP contributed to this report