First Edition Cycling News for February 3, 2007
Edited by Laura Weislo and Sue George
McQuaid: UCI doesn't want to stop Paris-Nice
Organisers are putting their own race under pressure
By Shane Stokes
"There are stories stating that the UCI wants to prevent Paris-Nice from happening; this is not the case," he told Cyclingnews by phone from Malaysia, where he is attending early stages of the Tour de Langkawi. "What was communicated to team managers is that the UCI is examining its options at the moment and that it will, at all times, stay within the regulations. We ask everybody to do the same. We haven't actually stated yet what action is liable to happen. But if necessary, we will apply sanctions... there are lots of sanctions that we could take."
"The UCI wants Paris-Nice to take place under good conditions. However we would like to make it clear that the organisers who violate the rules of international cycling are putting themselves out of the running. In the case of Paris-Nice, it is ASO, the organiser of the race, who puts its own race in danger because it doesn't respect the rules of the UCI... not the UCI itself. They are the ones who are leaving their own event open to possible sanctions."
When asked what these sanctions might be, McQuaid declined to elaborate. He instead stressed that neither he nor the UCI wants that things will go that far.
"We hope it doesn't get to that point, but it is crucial that the regulations which are in place are followed. We would like to remind that it is the UCI ProTour Council who determines the participation conditions of the UCI ProTour events, and absolutely not the organisers."
"ASO has the sole goal of killing the UCI ProTour"
McQuaid stated earlier this week that the UCI is prepared to enter into dialogue about the ProTour, and has conceded that some modifications need to be made before the system is perfect. However, he affirms that there is a strong level of support that the series continues, rather than stops. "In the last 10 days, the UCI has spoken with all of the stakeholders and has meetings with organisations such as the UCI management board, the CPA riders' council, with the UCI ProTour Council and others; everybody is confirmed to be 100% behind the UCI ProTour project. We know that the attitude of ASO has the sole goal of killing the UCI ProTour and we cannot accept that.
"Our rules serve to protect in a fair manner the rights of everybody contributing to the sport of cycling - teams, riders, organisers, everybody - but in the present case, the UCI has the duty to ensure that the teams' rights are respected by applying the same participation conditions to all organisers. In other words, it is not possible for organisers to apply their own selection criteria because this can only have very, very negative consequences. As I already said a few days ago, it would be an anarchic system."
Simply put, he says that it is unacceptable that Unibet.com, a team which fulfilled all of the criteria [and invested a lot of money] to gain a ProTour place is now being pushed out of a race it is, under UCI rules, entitled to ride. Especially in favour of another team which is much weaker.
"We have a system which is very strictly regulated, and this is a much better system than a system whereby organisers can pick and choose," he continued. "In the case of ASO, it is trying to exclude the Unibet.com team who were ranked second in the European continental circuit last year, and instead wants to invite another team ranked much lower, Agritubel. Which is the more equitable system?
"It is clear that this goes against the logic of the sport. ASO always say that they are the defender of logic but it is clear in this case this demonstrates what happens if an organiser determines their selection criteria through personal interpretations rather than sporting merit."
"ProTour is not a closed circuit"
McQuaid argues that it is far better that an objective, quantifiable system is in place. In other words, that teams know in advance what races they can ride, rather than having to woo organisers to get the green light.
"Access to UCI ProTour and the right to participation on our calendar is obtained along objective and transparent criteria; that is clear for everybody. Those criteria are applied by a neutral authority, the License Commission. So, for us, it is a very big contradiction for ASO to accuse the UCI ProTour of being a closed system. After all, it is itself excluding a team rather than respecting rules. These rules have been defined in a very transparent and democratic manner and accepted by everybody, but this is a flagrant contradiction, once again.
"This also goes against the conditions put forward by the AIGCP which expresses that it is essential that the UCI, and the UCI alone, should set participation rules for events. This is applicable for all races."
McQuaid is clearly convinced that the ProTour is the way forward for cycling and that it is unacceptable for a race organiser to disregard the rules which are in place. He rejects the Grand Tour organiser's contention that the series is too restrictive.
"The UCI states that the UCI ProTour is not a closed circuit, as ASO say. The proof is that since its launch, new teams and new riders are participating in the UCI ProTour events. However, the UCI considers that ASO, RCS and Unipublic constitute a cartel, detrimental to the interests of cycling, teams and riders. And as you know, the UCI has lodged an official complaint against the Grand Tours with the European Commission."
He concluded by saying that the governing body are determined that the normal selection criteria is followed, as laid out in UCI regulations. "The UCI hopes that Paris-Nice can take place in good circumstances, but in the meantime, it exhorts the organiser of the race to respect international cycling rules and the legitimate rights of riders and teams. That is crucial.
"The UCI will be uncompromising on this point, while in the same time remaining open to dialogue with all cycling interlocutors."
Opinions divided on Paris-Nice
The ProTour teams and its riders may officially stand behind the International Cycling Union in the fight between the Grand Tour organisers and the world governing body of cycling over the ProTour - still, opinions diverged when team managers and pro cyclists were asked to comment on the latest round of the battle. French L'Equipe, in its Friday edition, gathered reactions on the latest turn of events, which saw the UCI threaten action against French spring stage race Paris-Nice, owned by Tour de France-organiser ASO.
The UCI holds fast to its stance that the organisers of UCI events must follow the UCI rules. In refusing to invite the ProTour team Unibet.com to Paris-Nice, the ASO has, in the mind of the UCI, violated the rules. "The UCI will not budge on a matter of rules and the legitimate rights of teams and riders," McQuaid told AFP. "I hope the Paris-Nice will take place in the right conditions, but the organizers are violating international cycling rules. It is ASO and not the UCI who are putting the race at risk."
ASO director Christian Prudhomme followed the party line of the Grand Tour organisers in denouncing the ProTour, saying "The ProTour system is a closed system, an economic system we have denounced since our departure." Earlier this month, in an interview with Cyclingnews ASO president Patrice Clerc also called the ProTour a closed system, and added "Even before the ProTour was officially launched, since 2004, we have always said that we would not adhere to this system."
Prudhomme declared his organisation's intention to run the race regardless of what the UCI says. "I want to reassure the teams. We are always going to organize Paris-Nice. We are organizing Paris Nice with respect for sporting and technical rules as well as French law. Our work, our calling is to organize races for athletes. I find it a paradox that the UCI puts so much energy into preventing us from doing this."
The disagreement puts riders and teams in the middle of an uncomfortable situation, and the frustration shows in the comments made to L'Equipe below.
Tom Boonen (QuickStep-Innergetic):
"It's not possible to cancel a race like Paris-Nice! If these races did not take place, the beginning of the season is over! This quarrel has lasted for months - they're behaving just like children."
Alexandre Vinokourov (Astana):
"Cycling already suffers from an image problem, because of repeated doping affairs. If we add other conflicts, nobody will follow us anymore. I know that the exclusion of Unibet.com from Paris-Nice irritated the UCI, but we can't allow these problems to taint our sport anymore. The one who will make the first step will really be the most intelligent."
Filippo Pozzato (Liquigas):
"The Grand Tours can't decide on everything. I would even be ready to boycott Milano-Sanremo [which he won last year - ed.], even if it's not a popular position which will be difficult to hold. We riders have to respect tradition and not ruin the great races that have made the history of our sport, but still, I repeat, I'm ready to do it if I have to."
Florent Brard (Caisse d'Epargne):
"We're sick of it! Once again, the riders are just the pawns in the game between the UCI, the Grand Tours and the media, like laboratory rats. To threaten to prohibit Paris-Nice, that's just pathetic. It's a mythical event that ASO saved [in 2002, ASO took over the race which was first held in 1933 - ed.]! Without them, where would cycling be today? Let's not forget that they organise the most beautiful race in the world, the Tour de France."
Samuel Dumoulin (Ag2r):
"The riders should be the main actors in cycling, but again in this affair, we are just subject to the system. I don't feel a real solidarity within the peloton. Everybody shoots in a different direction. We need strong and concerted actions to build up cycling again."
Vincent Lavenu (Ag2r):
"It's up to the UCI to make their rules followed. The groupes sportifs (teams) don't have to take a stand. One thing is certain: we bought a license which includes a certain number of benefits and we want to the be fulfilled. Would we take the risk to compete in Paris-Nice if it were organised outside of the framework of the UCI? I can't reply to that today. We would have to follow a common attitude between all teams."
Roberto Amadio (Liquigas):
"All the protagonists have to respect the rules of cycling. I agree with the philosophy of the ProTour regulations. The UCI has the power to say that it can prohibit a race that doesn't respect the regulations."
Gianluigi Stanga (Milram):
"The ProTour is fundamental to the survival of cycling, as the sponsors have never been so committed to our sport, with the will to work on a long-term basis - but all of these political problems make the situation preoccupying."
Roger Legeay (Crédit Agricole):
"I'm a legalist, so I think that we have to apply the rules. I don't see any other solutions. A complaint has been brought to the European Commission, now it's up to them to decide who directs cycling, and how. Let common sense prevail!"
Eric Boyer (Cofidis):
"The UCI is taking us as hostages, even if it was them who sold us a label which comprised this or that organiser. But a sponsor like Cofidis invested in cycling to be part of these kind of events! Clearly, I don't see what would prevent us from being at the start (of Paris-Nice), and we will be there. Obviously, the ProTour doesn't work but it's up to the UCI to solve this conflict. You can't ask the teams to choose a side."
Cyclingnews' recent coverage of the ProTour-Grand Tours split
October 4, 2008 - New ASO chief to maintain values
Lamour asks AFLD to delay Landis hearing
Speaking in his capacity as vice-president of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), Jean-Francois Lamour asked the French anti-doping agency (AFLD) to delay the hearing of the case of Floyd Landis until Landis has appeared before the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) positive testosterone test during Stage 17 of last year's Tour of France.
Lamour is also the French Sports Minister but indicated that he was not wearing that hat when he said to AFP, "It's wiser to await the hearing of Landis by the USADA. It's not a recommendation but an opinion. It's more productive to focus on the American hearing (scheduled for March) rather than maintaining a summons to France which the concerned party will not attend."
Wet sand makes a mess in Qatar
By Susan Westemeyer
Milram had their fair share of second places in Qatar, but on the fifth stage, it wasn't the big name Alessandro Petacchi, but the big newcomer, Marcel Sieberg. He was part of the group that got away shortly after the beginning of the race and held its lead until the end.
As the group neared the finish line, there were many attempts to break away and score a win, with riders shooting out and chasing each other down. "As Wilfried Cretskins made his move 400 meters before the finish, I thought to myself, not another one from Quick Step," Sieberg said on his team's website, www.team-milram.de. Handicapped by gear problems, he was able to only bring in a second place behind Greg van Avermaet. "Sure you think about winning. It could have happened. But I can work up to it."
T-Mobile's Bernhard Eisel lost his podium spot on Thursday's stage, dropping from third overall to fourth. But the sprinter was happy that the stage didn't come down to a mass sprint. ""With this weather it would have been even more dangerous with a hectic finale than it usually is. It rains in Qatar only two days a year, and this was one of them," he wrote at www.eisel.com. "There were an unbelievable number of crashes, which was only to be expected by this water-sand mixture."
One team which suffered from the weather was Rabobank, or as the team put it, "The Rabo team was not very fortunate ... with six crashes and various flat tires." Rick Flens was the unluckiest of the crew, going down twice and suffering a flat tire. The worst injury, however, was to Graeme Brown, who hurt his hand in a crash, the team noted on its website, www.rabobank.nl. He received medical treatment after the stage but raced Friday's stage..
T-Mobile in France
The GP La Marseillaise is a one-day race, February 6, followed by the Etoile de Bessege, Feb. 7-11, which runs over 734 kilometers in five stages.
The races will also mark the T-Mobile debut of Directeur Sportif Allan Peiper, who said, "The lads have put in the hard work in training in Mallorca. Now I am keen to see how the training efforts pay off when the races begin."
The two British sprinters will be riding in support of Andre Greipel. "We can count on the likes of Greipel, Cavendish or even Hammond to make their presence felt in sprint situations," Peiper noted.
Marco Pinotti will also be making his T-Mobile debut, and Axel Merckx will ride his first race in magenta after a pause of many years - he started his career with the then-Team Telekom.
T-Mobile for GP La Marseillaise and Etoile de Bessege: Lorenzo Bernucci, Mark Cavendish, Scott Davis, Andre Greipel, Roger Hammond, Axel Merckx, Marco Pinotti, and Frantisek Rabon.
By Monika Prell
The team director, Oscar Guerrero, described the tense weeks to Noticias de Guipuzcoa, saying, "It's true that during this time everything crosses your mind, most of all that the cyclists could have to stop riding. Luckily, everything came out well and we are have a year to demonstrate that we deserve this."
The team consists of 17 riders, nine of them from Comunidad Valenciana, three from Kaiku and, of course, the only Canarian professional, Dailos Díaz. Guerrero, who directed Kaiku during the last two years, is confident about the upcoming season now that the legal battles are behind them.
He sees promise in David Bernabeu, but indicated that the uncertainties surrounding the team have had an effect on him, and predicts that Iker Flores, a former Euskaltel rider, will be able to win. "I will have to try that he believes again that he is able to win. If he has a good head, without pressure and anxiety, I believe that he must return to be all that we hoped of him."
The team's main objective is clear - getting an invitation to the Vuelta a España - and victories are important for getting such notice. However, with such a young team, Guerrro is taking things one step at a time. "I would like to go day-to-day, without saying if we will win four races, eight or ten." He added, "Perhaps you reach six second places and win none or, on the contrary, you have two opportunities, like Aranaga two years ago, and you win both. If we win a race, we will intend to win another. The mentality has always to be going forward to win."
Guerrero confirmed that Vicente Belda, the former director of the Comunidad Valenciana team which makes up much of the basis of the Fuerteventura Canarias team, has acted as an advisor to the team, but will remain on the sidelines. "He will go to the races as a father, because his son (David) is riding for us."
For the full team roster, visit the Cyclingnews teams database.
Aussie track champs
The 2007 Australian Track Cycling Championships kick off on Monday at Sydney's Dunc Gray Velodrome, where nearly 200 of Australia's most talented cyclists will contest a full program of events in elite, junior U19 and AWD (Athletes with a Disability) categories.
The senior ranks will see dual Olympic and Commonwealth Games champion Ryan Bayley line up, along with 2006 triple junior World Champion, Cameron Meyer, who recently graduated to the senior ranks. Meyer has made the transition successfully, and at the recent Los Angeles round of the World Cup, the 19 year-old Meyer claimed gold in the points race.
Commonwealth Games kilometre time trial champion and World Championship silver medallist, Ben Kersten, (NSW) continues his comeback from back surgery, and will be out to defend the four titles he won in 2006 (kilometre, sprint, keirin and teams sprint) and add the omnium to his resume.
2007 will mark the first time the omnium will be a part of the programme, after it was added to this year's World Championships schedule by the UCI (International Cycling Union). It is designed for the most versatile track cyclists and consists of five events held on the one day, the 1km time trial, flying 200m time trial, 5km scratch race, 3km individual pursuit and wrapping up with a points race over 15km.
Victoria's team will boast newly crowned Australian road race champion, Katie Mactier, aiming for her fifth straight title crown in the 3km individual pursuit. Mactier, an Olympic silver medallist, Commonwealth Games champion and 2005 World Champion, wants to reclaim gold in the event next month at the World Championships in Majorca.
Olympic and Commonwealth champion Anna Meares will be back in Sydney in a bid to add to her already impressive collection of 13 Australian Titles on the track. In November, she set the Dunc Gray Velodrome alight with a World Record ride for the 500m time trial, eclipsing the mark she set in Athens and securing the gold medal at the Sydney World Cup.
The AWD competition will boast a trio of reigning World Champions in Michael Gallagher (VIC) who is the current World Record holder for the 4km individual pursuit and one kilometre time trial in the LC1 division and is tipped to possible better at least one of his records. Also lining up is tandem pairing of Lindy Hou (visually impaired) and Toireasa Gallagher (sighted pilot) who last year won the 3km pursuit and the road race at the World Championships in Switzerland.
(All rights reserved/Copyright Knapp Communications Pty Limited 2007)