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Vaughters hopeful for ASO-UCI deal to head off Tour chaos

MILAN (VN) — Jonathan Vaughters acknowledges that, while it’s unlikely, his Cannondale team could be left out of the 2017 Tour de France, now that organizer Amaury Sport Organization (ASO) has withdrawn from the WorldTour. But he’s hopeful that a deal can be struck between the UCI and ASO to resolve the recent feud.

The Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO) said that it will pull its races, including the Tour, from the 2017 WorldTour because the UCI’s planned reforms are “characterized by a closed sport system.” The governing body is trying to find a solution before it is too late.

If a deal is not reached by 2017, ASO will be free to omit whomever it wants from its races, including any of the 18 WorldTour teams that are now guaranteed spots. In that scenario, Vaughters believes that his vocal opposition to prior ASO moves could handicap his team’s chances. “We could be the number-one ranked team in the world, and I think that my personal, politically charged take on some of the actions that ASO has made would probably put us at risk for not making that cut,” Vaughters said.

“The reality is that [ASO] will invite who they like and not invite who they don’t like. That’s a pretty biased and unfair way to go about it.”

After a UCI-organized stakeholders meeting in Barcelona in early December, the body issued plans for 2017 reforms that would allow new races to join the top series and provide teams with three-year license guarantees. The UCI said it wanted to follow four principles for cycling: credibility, globalization, engaging the audience, and strengthening the pyramid.

The ASO, which was represented at the meeting, shocked insiders later in December when it said it would pull its seven WorldTour races out of the series for 2017 and instead have them ranked -.HC. The move would essentially give the powerful French organizer the right to invite whichever teams it wants to the Tour and other races including the Vuelta a España, Critérium du Dauphiné, and Paris-Roubaix.

The UCI replied by saying that “the reform will offer stability for all, and will allow our sport to grow substantially while protecting the interests of existing stakeholders.”

The stand-off may cool down in the hot climes of South Australia this week where UCI president Brian Cookson and Tour race director Christian Prudhomme are visiting. At the first WorldTour race of the year, the Tour Down Under, the two could strike a deal.

“At this point in time, I think that most of it is just political posturing than reality,” Vaughters said. “Hopefully, we will see some changes soon.”

Vaughters’s team raced the Tour with a wildcard invitation in 2008 before it joined the top WorldTour division. Since 2009, it raced every edition. Over the course of the last eight years, its riders have collected seven Tour stage wins.

U.S. teams BMC with Tejay van Garderen and Trek-Segafredo with Ryder Hesjedal would also have to request race invitations in 2017 if the ASO has its way. In total, 18 WorldTour teams are anxiously waiting to see what comes of the UCI/ASO feud.