It appears that the conflict between the UCI, the organisers of the Cycling Global ProTour, and the organsers of the three grand tours* (Giro d’Italia, Vuelta a EspaÃ±a and Tour de France) and racing teams have come to a head. The UCI have had the foundations of the series swept from under them by the recent decision of all the major teams to leave the ProTour – a decision apparently supported by the grand tour organisers. Pat McQuaid’s cries that:
“These teams need to think of the responsibilities they have to those organisers, rather than just thinking of themselves,” he added. “They have a responsibility to the rest of the sport, and they are not doing that. The ramifications in a year or two is that ASO will be selecting the teams for the Tour de France out of a possible 30 or 40 Pro Continental teams. So where are half of these teams gone then?” (From cyclingnews.com)
He seems to be missing the point that majority of the teams and event organisers seem to have been deeply unhappy about the direction that UCI was taking professional cycling. Road Racing isn’t Formula One (although I’m sure many cyclists wish they were on F1 salaries) and efforts to globalise the sport further by taking it into ‘new markets’ isn’t something that’s in their interests. By failing to listen to the feedback and not working with the Grand Tour organisers to agree compromises on simple things like wildcard entries, the ProTour has been fatally undermined.
Most teams won’t care even if McQuaid’s warnings about the decision effectively being a jump out of the frying pan and into the fire is true. They should never have been pressurised to the point where such a radical decision was needed. The big question now is what significance the UCI will play in the future of professional road racing. Clearly the World Championships will continue to fall under their remit (complete with ghastly and shonkily rubbish website presences), but they tend to focus more on the individual and national interests rather than significance of the team.
I say keep a very close eye on Greg Lemond. Recently free of his connection with Trek through Lemond Bikes, the former Tour winner has been a vocal critic of the UCI under McQuaid. His statement that Cycling doesn’t need the UCI has generated a lot of support from the public. His anti-doping message which features an open criticism and (justifiable) lack of sympathy for those caught is in harmony with the current atmosphere in the 2008 Tour – the race is filled with and dominated by a new generation of riders who don’t share the same attitude to drugs**.
Lemond could very well be the man of the moment. Watch this space.
2 thoughts on “ProTour No More”
Further developments here: http://www.cyclingnews.com/news.php?id=features/2008/uci_teams_protour_end08
Ricco busted for a new synthesized version of EPO, so I guess the cynics were right to an extent…