The UCI couldn't persuade ASO to shift its stance with regard to the ProTour on Monday. Paris-Nice nPIC BY TDWSPORT.COM UCI/ASO battle nearing critical pointBy Jeff Jones The fight between the UCI and the grand tour organisers is nearing its first genuine face-off, with Paris-Nice (March 11-18) set to be the battleground and Unibet.com the pawn. On Monday, UCI president Pat McQuaid and ProTour manager Alain Rumpf met with ASO president Patrice Clerc and Gilbert Ysern in Lyon. The two parties discussed ASO's position on the ProTour, which ASO has rejected since its inception but has still allowed all ProTour teams to take part in ASO races. Up until now. ASO's decision not to invite ProTour team Unibet.com to Paris-Nice was the first serious act of defiance against the UCI's ProTour rules. These specify that all ProTour teams can (and must) take part in ProTour races, of which Paris-Nice is one. Unibet has also been shut out of the Tour de France, Giro d'Italia and Vuelta a Espa¤a and many of the other big classics, effectively making its multi-million euro sponsorship worth very little in terms of media coverage. The UCI has not yet retaliated with an equal salvo. McQuaid and Rumpf's meeting with Clerc yesterday did not persuade the French organiser to change its mind with respect to Unibet. That prompted a communiqu from the UCI with the implied threat of action against ASO. "ASO maintained its position rejecting the UCI's function and legitimacy as an international federation, which it seems to want to take control of through its strategy to destabilize," read the statement. "ASO is in fact refusing the UCI the right to set participation rules for races entered on the UCI ProTour calendar. "On this basis, which is totally unacceptable to the UCI, no agreement or compromise could be reached. Talks between the parties were therefore unsuccessful. "The UCI will soon decide what action to take due to the deadlock created by ASO's attitude, which has decided to put itself in an illegal position vis--vis the sports movement as a whole, and can only regret the irresponsible behaviour of its partners, which will seriously harm the general interests of all those involved in cycling." ASO has not yet responded publicly, but has maintained that it will run Paris-Nice as planned. Steels complains about Brown Tom Steels (Predictor-Lotto) has sent a letter to the UCI complaining about Australian sprinter Graeme Brown, who caused him to crash in the first stage of the Tour of Qatar. Steels broke his collarbone as a result of the fall, and will have to miss the first part of the season. He was angry that the race jury only relegated Brown to last place in the bunch, instead of disqualifying him from the race. "Brown could happily keep riding while I was out with a broken collarbone," Steels was quoted by Belgian newspapers as saying. Brown has had recent success on the bike, winning the first stage of the Tour of California on Monday. Lvitan dies One of the Tour de France's longest serving directors, Flix Lvitan, died in his home in Cannes on Sunday aged 95. Lvitan was born on October 12, 1911, and became a sports journalist in 1928. He moved up to become director of the sports section of Parisien Libr in 1962, and made it onto the board of directors between 1978 and 1987. In the meantime, he directed the Socit du Tour de France between 1962 and 1987, was the founding president of the French union of sports journalists (1957-1965), was president of the international sporting press association between 1964 and 1973, and was also head of the international association of race organisers and the French league of professional cycling. Got a comment? Discuss this in the Procycling forum. What else is new? Check out the Procycling blog.