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Mont Ventoux
Photo ©: Sirotti

First Edition Cycling News for August 8, 2005

Edited by Anthony Tan and Jeff Jones, with assistance from Sabine Sunderland

ProTour continues...

UCI and Teams align against Grand Tour organisers

By Tim Maloney, European Editor

After a recent communiqué by the International Pro Cycling Teams Organisation declaring their solidarity with the UCI, and requesting an international calendar that includes the Grand Tours, but doesn't oblige ProTour teams to participate in them, outgoing UCI President Hein Verbruggen weighed in with his comments. After Stage 3 of the Eneco Benelux Tour in Landgraaf, The Netherlands, Verbruggen told Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf, "There is no way back any more. If we satisfy the requirements of the Grand Tour organisers completely, then they will take all the power in the sport of cycling. That is totally unacceptable."

Regarding the possibility that the three Grand Tour organisers could create their own race circuit, Verbruggen scoffed at that possibility, saying, "It's an impossible option for them. You have to have race commissaires and anti-doping rules. Besides, the (UCI licensed) riders aren't allowed to start in another series or league. That is completely ruled out."

As for the current situation, Verbruggen declared, "ASO is going around getting support. They think that they can make the organisers of cycling great. But without the riders, without Coppi and Merckx, for example, the Tour would never have grown to be such a big event." Once again blasting his bête noir Amaury Sport Organisation, Verbruggen said, "ASO will cooperate with nobody, but wants the ProTour to be organised according to its wishes. They want to dictate everything in cycling and completely work over the UCI. If we give any more, then we have nothing left. The UCI is a democratic institution, the legal power in the sport of cycling. So with this stance, we have made an end to the blackmail of ASO. I'm sick to death of the arrogance of the French."

According to Verbruggen, the three Grand Tour organisers also want to take away the classics and smaller stage races they organize from the ProTour. "The ProTour stands like a house. The teams are just as important as the organisers. We have the 20 best racing teams and the 600 best riders in the world. Besides that, there are still enough important races on the ProTour calendar. We'll upgrade the other races, so that they get more worth. The Eneco Tour is an example of that. And of the other races of the three grand tour [organisers], I only find Liege-Bastogne-Liege interesting." However, the technical snafus in the first ever Eneco Tour of Benelux may illustrate that Verbruggen may be fooling himself with the strategy to upgrade smaller races to the level of the monuments of cycling like Milano-Sanremo, Paris-Roubaix and others.

Pro team association leader Patrick Lefevere explained that "the Grand Tours must bear the consequences now. The teams have made enough concessions. As teams, we feel strong enough to get into a power struggle with the Grand Tours. After all, without riders, there is no racing. So we don't feel we are obliged to start in all three Grand Tours any more. There will now be a new ProTour made with strong races opposed to the Giro d'Italia and Vuelta d'España. As long as the teams form a block, no-one can do anything against us. Then we can also demand a start in the Tour."

No comments yet from the Grand Tour organizers on what could become a definitive breach between them and the UCI, something that may change the face of pro cycling forever.

Cyclingnews' recent coverage of the ProTour-Grand Tours split

October 4, 2008 - New ASO chief to maintain values
September 26, 2008 - UCI declares peace, appoints new VP
August 30, 2008 - UCI re-signs five ProTour races
August 22, 2008 - ProTour: Bouncing back or lame duck?
August 19, 2008 - Stapleton analyses 'world calendar'
August 18, 2008 - Feedback on 'world calendar'
August 18, 2008 - UCI announces 'world calendar'

Cyclingnews' complete coverage of the ProTour-Grand Tours split

Farcical circumstances in Stage 4 of Eneco Tour

By Jeff Jones

If UCI president Hein Verbruggen hoped that the Eneco Benelux Tour would make a good example of a ProTour race, he would not have been happy with today's fourth stage between Landgraaf and Verviers, which had to be halted after the peloton accidentally went off course at approximately 60 km to go. At that point, a breakaway with Christian Vandevelde (CSC), Jason McCartney (Discovery), and Bart Dockx (Davitamon-Lotto) had over 6'00 on the chasing peloton, but when the bunch found its way back onto the parcours, it was 15 minutes behind. The organisers decided to stop the race, with the police having to physically restrain the breakaway riders from going further. When the restart happened at 43 km to go, the break was given just 4'00 and was caught with 15 km left.

Team CSC's first director Scott Sunderland was back with the peloton when the whole mess occurred. He explained it all to Cyclingnews: "It happened at the bottom of the descent after the Wanne. Instead of going left, they took us straight. One of the signallers had left his post. He'd gone on ahead and didn't stay there. By the time we realised it, we were halfway up another hill and couldn't come back down again.

"The peloton had to do an extra hill, but the lead riders didn't go wrong. The commissaires messed around until they made a decision about it. I told Tristan Hoffman [CSC's new director, who is not replacing Sunderland - ed.] to tell Vandevelde to keep going. In Tirreno-Adriatico a few years ago, the peloton went the wrong way and it was the end of the race. Back then it was up to the riders to know. Apparently now, the commissaire said we have a thing called "un accident de course", which means they have the right to stop the race and restart it with the proper time differences.

"It depends on which point of view you have: On one side, there's Davitamon, Discovery, and me. On the other is Rabobank and Liberty. For me it was double sided: a) I've got someone in front for the stage win, and b) I've got Frank Schleck, Bobby Julich, and Michael Blaudzun trying to open it up for the overall classement.

"I was talking to the commissaire, who said that if they [the breakaways] don't stop he'll disqualify them and cancel the whole stage. So I said, 'OK, we'll go ahead and we'll discuss this later.'"

"For me, I wanted to make a decision and do it quickly. When they stopped them, they didn't give them the full 6'30. If they could have had that extra minute, then maybe it would have been different. Also, all the other teams regrouped; Rabobank and Liberty gained some extra men. At the end of it, it was a completely bad situation. It was very bad for the riders, the race, everything.

"But we had to keep racing. I'm frustrated with how it was, with everyone being inconvenienced. You're there to race, not sit around discussing it. We had to go on."

"I'm very happy with how the team rode. We have the mountain jersey, and we've been animating the race. We'll see what happens - maybe we can still do something. It's going to be harder but not impossible."

Sunderland didn't lay the blame entirely at the race organisers' feet, pointing out that it was just one of those things that can happen when someone doesn't do their job. On the Eneco Tour as a whole, he said, "This race has got great possibility to be a very big race. It hasn't been such a bad race, but there's room for improvement. The one thing they do have to do is to get rid of these finishing circuits. The ones we've had are not safe. And if you have a finishing circuit, that you close it off for the overall GC. Nobody's got a problem with a finishing circuit if it's not for the overall classification. It leads to unnecessary risk taking. There's enough risk taking in cycling already. We don't need to take more by having 50 corners. I've always said that as a rider.",

Redant not happy

Hendrik Redant (Davitamon-Lotto director) wasn't happy about what happened either, as he said in an interview with Belgian TV show Sportweekend. "We can't say that the break wouldn't have been brought back, but now they didn't even get the chance to stay away. But what can we do, to complain about the decision of a UCI commissaire is virtually impossible; they are almighty in this situation, their decision is law. It wouldn't serve anything to put in a complaint.

"It's always possible to make a mistake and take the wrong road. It's simply a blooper. In principle everyone who knows the parcours a bit should have known it was to the left and not the right, but look, this stuff happens. In fact it's a UCI rule that if a rider doesn't follow the parcours, he's taken out of the race. But of course they couldn't do that today; take 170 riders out.

"To punish the three leaders was wrong though; they had been out there in the front all day. And they weren't the ones who took the wrong road, they had nothing to do with it. It wasn't about the classement either - none of the guys in front were a danger to GC; but it was still about a stage win. If you see how the peloton rode the last 50km it might have been possible for them to keep a couple of minutes.

"You see, when there's a railway closure right after a front group; it is never so that the break is stopped; sometimes you get gaps close to ten minutes then! That's a fait de course also. That's how they should have treated it today.

"Bart Dockx had that happening to him before in Niedersachsen this season; the railway passage closed twice in front of him while he was having a lead of 11 minutes; they didn't stop the peloton there. Bart lost 10 min of his lead waiting for the train to pass. Two kilometres later, the peloton took him back.

"Ah well, what's done is done."

Bart Dockx reacts

A fuming Bart Dockx (Davitamon-Lotto) told Sporza after the stage, "I'm disappointed. It's never fun to have this sort of thing happening. It casts a slur on this Tour and on Belgian cycling in general. In the first days, the parcours in Holland were so dangerous. It's almost impossible to have a decent race in Holland nowadays - too many obstacles and speed bumps. Then, today we had a nice parcours and something like this happens.

"The UCI commissaire told us that the peloton went the wrong way and that they wanted us to stop. But right there, in the middle of the climb we were in full effort so we didn't want to stop and went to the top of the climb. All our team directors told us to keep going but then the race jury started threatening they'd take us out of the race. First they said to keep going slowly and then they actually made a police man stop us.

"At that moment, in full effort, you are so disappointed. I wanted to show that and sat down for a while. We did our best after we were told to start again, but after the lactic crept into the legs because of the stop it was impossible, you can't get the right concentration back. The fact the peloton took the wrong road doesn't justify stopping us leaders. I don't think there's one rule that says that you can stop the leaders because of what happened today. It's not our fault that they sent the peloton the wrong way.

"Let's hope nothing more happens and that we can have a nice race the coming three days. But my fear is that this might be the first and last Tour of the Benelux."

Mixed fortunes for Team Cyclingnews in Hungary

Team experienced a weekend of mixed fortunes, when Tour leader Hamish Haynes was forced to abandon on Saturday's Stage 5 to Kékestetô, but on the upside, the day also saw his team-mate Glen Chadwick win the stage, also moving into the lead in the mountains classification. On Sunday's double stage, Chadwick moved up into third overall after finishing second in the morning time trial, but in the afternoon road stage, his team-mate Leigh Palmer fell and broke his collarbone, and had to be transported to the hospital in Vac. Barring disaster - which doesn't seem to be easy for Team! - Chadwick will retain his podium position after today's final stage in Újbuda, along with his mountains jersey.

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