March 5/07 7:09 am - UCI and Grand Tour Organizers Reach Agreement ... For Now
Posted by Editor on 03/5/07
UCI and Grand Tour Organizers Reach Agreement ... For Now
The UCI and Grand Tour (GT) organizers have abruptly pulled back from the brink of disaster, with a joint communique issued after a meeting today in Belgium that retains the status quo for 2007. This is the latest action in an ongoing battle for control over who is in charge of the biggest races of the year - with respect to which teams get to enter races, and which races appear on the highest level of the international calendar. The UCI wants to keep control of the calendar it has created for the ProTour series, while the Grand Tour organizers (ASO, RCS and Unipublic) jealously guard the rights and stature of their own events, many of which are part of the ProTour calendar.
ASO, the organizer of the Tour de France, plus races such as Paris-Nice, took their event Paris-Nice (the first ProTour event of the year) off the international calendar and threatened not to invite some ProTour teams - with a veiled threat to possibly keep teams out of the Tour if they did not attend Paris-Nice. The UCI retaliated by stating that ProTour teams could not enter the event. Exacerbating the situation was the decision by the GT organizers to not invite the newest ProTour teams - Unibet.com and Astana - to certain events.
The ProTour teams (IPCT) held their own meeting last Friday (March 2nd), and issued a statement telling the UCI and GT organizers to fix the situation or they would take matters into their own hands. Discussions with riders and team managers at the Amgen Tour of California suggested that there is strong support for the ProTour, and that a substantial majority of teams would not race Paris-Nice.
The joint statement issued today from the UCI, the GT organizers and the IPCT boils down to an agreement to continue to work towards a long term solution and, for 2007, basically run the calendar the way it has in the past. The agreement will run until October 21, 2007 (ie, until after the final ProTour event of the year), and the parties will meet on a monthly basis during the season, with the aim of coming to a long term solution by September 21st at the latest.
For the duration of the temporary agreement, the 18 existing ProTour teams will be guaranteed entry into GT organizer's events. The ProTour teams included are:
AG2R - PREVOYANCE
QUICK STEP - INNERGETIC
EUSKALTEL - EUSKADI
FRANCAISE DES JEUX
SAUNIER DUVAL - PRODIR
The events organized by ASO, RCS and Unipublic the teams will enter are:
PARIS - NICE
MILAN - SAN REMO
PARIS - ROUBAIX
LIEGE - BASTOGNE - LIEGE
TOUR DE FRANCE
VUELTA A ESPANA
PARIS - TOURS
TOUR DE LOMBARDIE
To address some of the specific disagreements, the following decisions have been made:
1. The GT organizers retain the right to make their own decisions about further wildcard entries in specific events, but will examine in a positive spirit the granting of wild cards to the teams Astana and Unibet, in particular insofar as such decisions are not likely to expose or be likely to expose the organizers to legal problems (Unibet.com is a Swedish registered team sponsored by a lottery and ASO says that this contravenes French laws concerning gambling). This is the most serious outstanding issue, and both sides recognized explicitly in the statement that they may continue to clash over this matter during the season. (Expect clashes over this one during the season!)
2. The GT organizers will not be required to undertake any activities during their events which recognize the ProTour, with the exception of allowing the Series leader to wear the appropriate jersey. The awarding of the jersey after GT organizer events will not take place as part of the race protocol. (RCS was left with serious egg on their face after the Tour de Lombardie last fall, when all riders boycotted the awards ceremony after organizers refused to award the ProTour jersey, or recognize the winner of the series.)
3. The UCI agrees to refrain from applying sanctions to the GT organizers which will block events taking place.
Editor's Note: This is a classic "we agree to disagree" stopgap measure, and we are likely to all be back in the same boat come next winter. The GT organizers will continue to fight tooth and nail anything which impedes their ability to run their events as they see fit and make revenue - which is the real crux of the matter. The UCI will also continue to try and impose their regulatory framework on the GT organizers, to bring them into line with the rest of the cycling world.