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All 20 teams to race Paris-Nice despite UCI protest

PARIS -- All 20 teams will compete at next month's Paris-Nice cycling race despite a UCI request to boycott it.

The Amaury Sports Organization, which organizes the race and also owns the Tour de France, said Thursday that it had received assurances from International Association of Professional Cyclists president Eric Boyer that they will line up for the season's first major stage-race on March 9.

"After consultation the teams unanimously decided to participate in Paris-Nice," Boyer said in a statement.

ASO spokesman Christophe Marchadier said registration forms have been sent out to all teams.

"ASO is very pleased with the AIGP's decision that the teams will be at the start of the Paris-Nice," said Christian Prudhomme, who works for ASO and is the director of the Tour de France.

Team CSC, Credit Agricole, Cofidis, Rabobank and Quickstep are among those scheduled to compete, while Slipstream and High Road will race for the first time.

The Paris-Nice race will be run under its own rules despite opposition from the International Cycling Union, which wants teams to boycott the event because it is not being held under its rules.

"All the managers and all the teams want to race," Credit Agricole team manager Roger Legeay said. "We have never missed an event. First and foremost, cycling is our job."

On Monday, UCI president Pat McQuaid sent a letter to the teams explaining why it will not oversee the 75-year-old race and urged a common boycott, but teams seem to want no part of the ongoing feud between ASO and the UCI.

"Everyone's had enough," Legeay said. "It's a conflict that has been going on four years. A solution has to be found."

Calls made by The Associated Press to McQuaid were not immediately returned.

Last year, the UCI also asked teams to back out of Paris-Nice, although a truce was called between ASO and the sport's international governing body six days before the start.

This time no compromise has been reached.

The rift could also jeopardize the Tour de France, with the UCI threatening to withdraw anti-doping regulators from the sport's marquee event if organizers and French cycling authorities hold their races outside the UCI's jurisdiction.

That would leave testing and analyzing in the hands of the French Anti-Doping Agency.

The World Anti-Doping Agency, which wants to press forward with an effort to monitor athletes all year, has not yet entered the dispute.