UCI v Grand Tour Conflict

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The conflagration between ASO and the other grand tour organizers and the UCI is perplexing, and most fans find the behavior of both parties to be inexplicably stupid. Part of the problem is that you need to clearly separate the actions of each party, and carefully inspect the (admittedly perverse) logic of their actions. The ASO-UCI conflict is about developing property rights over a novel and loose commodity–bike racing. It’s novel because nobody can stake a clear claim on the most valuable aspects of a road race (unlike in stadium sports). And it only became viable for external (outside of the main sponsor) investment in the television era.

     The UCI was in good position to take advantage of national division early in the history of cycling, trade teams developed late, and were restricted to equipment sponsors until about 50 years ago. The Uci was in a good position to bully its way in and lay dominion over the right to race or promote events. The only problem was that several of the most successful races are nearly as old as the UCI, and never fully accepted its claim to ownership.  ASO has consolidated ownership over all of the French races that matter, and now Fleche, and Liege! Let’s not forget, Unipublic and RSO are also fed up with UCI’s shit, and both groups promote more than just their signature tours. So why does Rasmussen get not-busted-but still-kicked-out while leading the tour? Because the UCI wanted ASO to look bad! If they fail to comply, they look soft on dope. Why does ASO ban riders and teams beyond UCI sanction? To make UCI look bad!

     In the end, I think the UCI is going to have to give up something.  Prudhomme’s words of 2004 put it succinctly. “For the organiser, it boils down to being tenant of a race, rather than owner of one.”

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