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UPDATE 3-Cycling-Teams challenge UCI and take part in Paris-Nice

(adds details on team decision, quotes)

By Julien Pretot

AIGLE, Switzerland, March 7 - Cycling teams voted
on Friday to ride in the Paris-Nice stage race despite a threat
by the sport's ruling UCI to exclude them from its events.

"The UCI has made it quite clear to the teams that they
needed to be aware of the decision they make," International
Cycling Union president Pat McQuaid told Reuters on Friday.

"If they decide to go with (Paris-Nice organisers) ASO they
have firmly taken the decision to be out of the UCI. We will
work them out of the UCI," he added.

Exclusion from the UCI would prevent teams taking part in
the ProTour events and world championships, which the sport's
governing body also organises.

At a meeting on Friday teams voted by a majority to take
part in the race, which starts on Sunday, after the Court of
Arbitration for Sport (CAS) declined to rule in the matter.

Fifteen members of the Association of Professional Cycling
Teams (AIGCP) voted to go ahead and the seven teams who called
on CAS to rule abstained but accepted the majority decision.

Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO), which also runs the Tour de
France, has refused to join the ProTour amid a dispute with the
UCI over who competes in ASO events.

Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme welcomed the
decision by the teams to start the Paris-Nice race on Sunday.

"Of course, the decision pleases me," he said. "My priority
now is to give the race back to the riders and celebrate its
75th anniversary on the Mount Ventoux slopes on Thursday.

NEW MEETING

The teams called for a new meeting between all concerned to
be held at the Paris-Nice finish on March 16.

"We did not opt for ASO against the UCI," said Credit
Agricole team director Serge Beucherie.

"And we need to sit down again to solve the problems. We
don't want to deal with the same issues again before
Paris-Roubaix (another ASO race in April)."

UCI president McQuaid conceded that ASO had succeeded in
destroying the ProTour system it had always rejected, saying:
"The ProTour system as it is today is completely bombed".

Asked what would happen if teams were kicked out of the UCI,
he added: "We'd start on a new system with the teams, organisers
and cyclists who wish to respect the regulations of the UCI.
What is at stake is the authority and the autonomy of the UCI."

The week-long Paris-Nice race was dropped from the showcase
ProTour calendar over the dispute with ASO but the organisers,
in agreement with the teams and the French Cycling Federation
(FFC), decided it would go ahead outside UCI regulations.

The FFC, its president Jean Pitallier and Eric Boyer, AIGCP
president, all face disciplinary proceedings because of their
backing of the event, the UCI said in a statement on Friday.

RCS are also in dispute with the UCI and sports events
director Angelo Zomegnan said he sympathised with ASO.

"I understand the ASO position because we're in the last
period of a long match between the UCI and organisers," he told
Reuters.

"We can't accept the abuse from the UCI anymore. It is not
my goal to know if Pat McQuaid is unhappy with us. We are
unhappy with him. The teams and riders are against McQuaid."

The Belgian federation, which represents one of the biggest
nations in the sport, supported its French counterpart.

"Instead of bringing moderation, the UCI never ceases to
make matters worse. We advise its leaders to take a cool bath to
calm down," it said in a statement.

(Writing by Patrick Vignal, additional reporting by Gilles
Le Roc'h, Francois Thomazeau and Mark Meadows; editing by Ken
Ferris)