PAU, France — The 17 UCI ProTour cycling teams at the Tour de France unanimously agreed Tuesday not to renew their ProTour licenses for the 2009 season.

The move is effectively a challenge to the International Cycling Union, which four years ago organized the sport around a ProTour circuit of 15 events featuring 18 of cycling's best professional teams.

Seventeen of those teams met in southwestern Pau during the first rest day on the Tour, and said in a statement that they will seek a "new system of organization for professional cycling."

The only ProTour team not involved was Astana, which was not invited to the Tour de France this year because of its history of doping problems. That decision meant 2007 Tour champion Alberto Contador is missing the race.

The meeting involved an agreement with the organizers of the three "Grand Tours" of France, Spain and Italy. The statement said the teams "are waiting for the UCI to join this project."

The UCI, which is based in Aigle, Switzerland, called the move "foreseeable" and accused Tour de France organizer ASO of imposing its agenda on teams.

"The UCI notes that the teams have once again succumbed to pressure from the management of ASO, whose aim for the last four years has been to destroy the UCI ProTour," the cycling union said in a statement.

The issue in part comes down to money — teams pay $23,985 annually for the licenses — and control of the sport. The Grand Tours oppose the requirement that they accept all 18 ProTour teams in their events.

Eric Boyer, head of the International Association of Professional Cyclist Groups and sporting director for the French team Cofidis, said he wanted to avoid a conflict with the UCI — but that the ProTour now appears dead.

"I indeed think that the ProTour won't exist anymore," he told The Associated Press, adding that he didn't know what it would mean for races in the ProTour calendar.

The teams' decision comes against the backdrop of a political battle between the UCI and ASO in the wake of a string of doping scandals that have tarnished cycling's image in recent years.

UCI president Pat McQuaid had warned that some teams appeared to want to set up a rival federation.

Boyer insisted the teams "don't want to work without the UCI."

Some French team sponsors have resisted the UCI's plans to set up ProTour events in countries like Russia or China, out of concern that their company brands don't need pitching so far away from their national market.


Associated Press writer Graham Dunbar in Geneva contributed to this report.