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UCI head urges teams to skip Paris-Nice race

GENEVA -- Cycling's international governing body will not recognize this year's Paris-Nice race in an escalating dispute with the group that also organizes the Tour de France.

Pat McQuaid, chief of the International Cycling Union (UCI), sent a letter on Monday to all professional teams asking that they not compete in the 75-year-old race organized by French group Amaury Sports Organization (ASO).

The rift is also threatening the Tour, with UCI threatening to withdraw anti-doping regulators from the sport's marquee event if the ASO and French cycling authorities do not hold their events under UCI's jurisdiction.

"The current organizers are behaving in a very irrational way," McQuaid told The Associated Press by telephone. "It's about power and it has nothing to do with sport. We cannot allow this to happen."

He blamed the impasse on the ASO's decision to manage the March 9-16 Paris-Nice "under the jurisdiction of French law."

"This measure is utterly irregular and will have far-reaching consequences for all parties involved," the UCI said in a statement. If France's cycling federation "insists on maintaining this position, the race will take place entirely outside the regulatory and organizational structure of the UCI."

The most immediate issue in such a scenario would be doping controls, which would become the responsibility of the French Cycling Federation (FFC).

"No anti-doping controls will be carried out by the UCI, nor will it be involved in the management of any tests which may be carried out under national law," the Swiss-based cycling body said.

Violations "would therefore lie in the first place with the FFC, which would be contributing to the organization of a purely private event," UCI said, adding that the race would have "no links to organized sport or to the Olympic movement, of which the UCI is the sole organ of reference for all disciplines of cycling."

McQuaid said the standoff could "indeed affect the Tour de France," if the French cycling federation refused to bring its events under the "UCI calendar."

He also threatened sanctions on cycling teams participating in the Paris-Nice race and on the French cycling federation, possibly even banning it.

"According to UCI regulations, international teams cannot participate" in the race, McQuaid said. "We will take away anti-doping inspectors. Any penalties that would then apply don't have value on an international basis."

The UCI said that it would not recognize the winner or the results of the Paris-Nice, and that no points would be awarded based on performances.

The cycling body and Tour organizers often have been at loggerheads. Last year, ASO boss Patrice Clerc called for McQuaid to step down after a long-running feud that included doping scandals at the Tour.

Tour director Christian Prudhomme added to the dispute by declaring the race will operate under its own rules in the future.