• UCI President Brian Cookson speaks during a press conference before the start of stage 5 of the Tour Down Under (AAP)Source: AAP
UCI president Brian Cookson says it's odd that Chris Froome will start his season at the Herald Sun Tour, not the Tour Down Under.
Cycling Central

23 Jan 2016 - 3:06 PM  UPDATED 23 Jan 2016 - 3:07 PM

Sky's controversial decision to have Chris Froome bypass the Santos Tour Down Under puzzles world cycling boss Brian Cookson.

In a major coup, the 3-7 February Herald Sun Tour has signed Froome, the two-time Tour de France champion, and he will start his season at the Victorian race.

It also represents a major slap in the face to the Santos Tour Down Under and the UCI's top-level WorldTour.

The Adelaide race opens the WorldTour calender.

This is only the second time a reigning Tour de France champion has raced in Australia, after Lance Armstrong competed at the Sydney Olympics.

"It's an odd decision by Team Sky ... it's not a helpful decision, but one understands why these teams sometimes (make) them," Cookson said.

"But certainly that was a puzzling decision to me."

Cookson, the UCI president, is in Adelaide this week to watch the Tour Down Under.

The decision to have Froome race in Victoria and not Adelaide fuels a wider debate about the relevance of the WorldTour, which is the UCI's flagship road series.

World champion Peter Sagan is also starting his season outside the WorldTour, instead racing in Argentina.

And sprint ace Mark Cavendish will race next week at the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Rd event, although his track racing in Hong Kong clashed with the start of the Tour Down Under.

"If he doesn't want a high-key start to the season, we have to understand that," Cookson said of Sagan.

"They're not circus performers, they're serious athletes.

"But equally we have to try to find ways of getting as many of the best riders to the best events."

It is one of the reasons that the UCI is trying to reform top-level road cycling.

But that has run into a major roadblock, with Tour de France organisers ASO opting out of the reform process.

Indeed, in a major blow to the UCI, the ASO have announced they will pull out of the WorldTour in 2017.

"It's regrettable that ASO are not being cooperative with the new plans at the moment," Cookson said.

"I'm hopeful that ... we can find a solution that works for them as it works for everybody else.

"I'm not about to enter into a war with ASO - the UCI has been down that road before."

Tour de France race director Christian Prudhomme was also supposed to be in Adelaide and Cookson had hoped to have an informal chat with him.

Prudhomme's plans have changed, but Cookson said he doubted there was any political motive behind that.

Cookson also said that the Tour Down Under's position in the WorldTour is unlikely to change regardless of what happens with the sport's reforms.