By Steve Keating
RICHMOND, Virginia (Reuters) - The head of the International Cycling Union hailed a new era of peace within the sport on Friday after the organization approved a sweeping series of reforms for men's road cycling.
With the Tour de France organizer threatening to pull races from the UCI calendar over a lack of progress in the reform program and teams seeking a bigger say, the sport's governing body was under pressure to get a deal done.
UCI chief Brian Cookson said the result, unveiled earlier this week, was not the "big bang" fix some had hoped for but was rather a solution that will allow sustainable development for a sport still recovering from years of doping scandals.
"All of the stakeholders have been involved in the decision making process," Cookson told Reuters following the UCI Congress on Friday at the world championships. "I believe it is now incumbent on all the stakeholders to act positively and work with us ... to make sure we have a good strong future.
"We are not going to enter into a war with any organization, I'm sure no other organization wants to go to war with us. I think we can use the proposals we have as a platform that will be acceptable to everybody.
"I haven't spoken to everybody yet but no hand grenades have been thrown at me so I am hopeful."
Among the key reforms, reached after over two years of talks with major teams and organizers were new three-year licenses that will be granted to a maximum of 18 World Teams for the 2017-2019 seasons.
The UCI said it hopes the longer licenses, which will be granted based on ethical, financial, sporting, administrative and organizational criteria, will encourage investment leading to increased stability in team structures.
Current participation rules will be maintained for existing World Tour events but new rules will be set for events seeking to join the World Tour to encourage growth and globalization.
Striking a balance between the sport's heritage and seeking out new markets was key for Cookson.
"We have to see if we can help cycling grow around the world but at the same time I want to make sure we protect those beautiful things that make our sport what it is," said Cookson.
"If we try to compress our sport into some sort of formula that might suit the marketing men I don't believe that would be very helpful.
"What we are proposing now will allow our sport to grow, allow event organizers to plan more effectively for the future and will allow the teams and their sponsors to plan better."
(Editing by Frank Pingue)