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Mont Ventoux
Photo ©: Sirotti

First Edition Cycling News, March 4, 2008

Edited by Paul Verkuylen

European Cycling Union votes against Paris-Nice plans

By Shane Stokes

Racing to the sun
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

At the L'Union Européenne de Cyclisme (UEC) Congress meeting held on Sunday near Thessalonoki in Greece, the organisation voted against the planned running of the Paris-Nice race outside the regulatory framework of cycling's peak governing body, the International Cycling Union (UCI).

The UEC also discussed the structure of the UCI ProTour and the problems which have afflicted it since its introduction. The majority of the delegates were against the plans relating to Paris-Nice, while most also called on a rethink of the ProTour.

A resolution was put to the Congress, asking:

a) The UCI to undertake a complete review of the ProTour during 2008, and to bring proposals for a revised structure to the UCI Congress in September 2008, for approval for the 2009 season.

b) The French Cycling Federation (FFC) not to authorise the Paris-Nice, or any other major international race, outside the regulations of the UCI.

When put to the vote, 18 national federations approved the resolution while seven voted against. This greater-than two-thirds majority was welcomed by British Cycling President, Brian Cookson, who said afterwards that he hoped it would give leverage and help to resolve the current stand-off between ASO and the FFC, and the UCI.

"I think this is a clear and coherent resolution which will help all sides to bring this crisis to a speedy conclusion," said Cookson. "It acknowledges that the ProTour has been a problematic and divisive structure which needs a major re-think, but at the same time, it emphasises that the democratic structures that we have all put in place over the years to govern our sport, must be respected.

"With goodwill on both sides, we can now avoid a major breakdown in our sport, and move forward together to address the other serious issues and develop our great sport in all its many facets".

McQuaid responds to meeting

By Shane Stokes

UCI president Pat McQuaid warned teams
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

As might be expected, UCI president Pat McQuaid was satisfied with the outcome of the UEC Congress, stating that it backed up the UCI's assertion that the plans for Paris-Nice were a step in the wrong direction for the sport.

McQuaid was at the Congress and had a meeting between FFC president Jean Pitallier and the UEC management committee on Sunday. It was agreed there that attempts would be made to hold high-level talks on the current dispute.

"First off, there was a vote taken by the Congress and it was won by a large majority," McQuaid told Cyclingnews on Monday. "Also, the management committee of the UEC had a meeting with myself and the president of the French Cycling Federation, and they requested that if the president of the French Federation Jean Petallier can create a meeting between myself, himself and the French sports minister, if I would attend that meeting.

"I said that I would, that I would go to request of the minister and the French federation that they respect the rules of the UCI. That meeting will hopefully happen before Paris-Nice."

ASO's viewpoint is that the race can be run under the exclusive jurisdiction of French law. Pitallier also referred to this legislation, but McQuaid claims that this is not the case and that the FFC is not obliged to back the company in doing this.

"He [Pitallier] said he wants to stay within the regulations, but the situation with that French sports law which he uses and which was used by ASO to put the proposal in to run the race is not how they say. That law is designed for organisers who are not part of a federation or part of a sports organisation, so to speak.

"Number one, ASO does not fall into that category and, number two, our knowledge of the law is that he is not obligated to accept ASO's proposal. And number three, if he accepts ASO's proposal he can demand that the race is run under French Federation cycling rules. If the race is run under FFC rules, they are in line with UCI rules; therefore it has to be run as a national race on the French national calendar.

"He hasn't done any of those. So the French Federation are clearly in breach of the UCI. They are clearly not trying to assist the situation from the UCI point of view and there will be serious consequences for the French Federation if this continues."

However, with the Race to the Sun starting in Amilly this Sunday, time is running out. ASO has requested the teams to compete and return contracts making set requirements for their participation. The UCI has warned teams that this does away with many of their rights, signs them up for an unsanctioned event and opens up the possibility of sanctions.

"We will wait and see what happens," said McQuaid when asked about such disciplinary measures. "The next step is for ASO to put that race back on the UCI calendar. There is no other alternative as far as the UCI is concerned. If they continue [on their current course] and decide not to do that, the UCI has to deal with the consequences of that."


He confirmed that fines and suspensions are possibilities. "Those are some of the consequences we will have to consider. It is the French Federation number one, the teams number two and the riders number three [which would potentially be liable]. We have to follow our rules and will do so in relation to members taking part in events which are outside the rules of the UCI, riding these private races or rogue races or whatever you want to call them."

Tom Boonen has already chosen Tirreno over Paris-Nice
Photo ©: Luc Claessen
(Click for larger image)

Some teams have already expressed their unease at the possibility of sanctions, while others have said that the 'unanimous' decision taken by the AIGCP members was not unanimous at all. While McQuaid said that the UCI has not called each team to see where they stand on the issue, he said that he knows of 'at least three' who were not contacted by the AIGCP prior to its president Eric Boyer's assertion that the decision to ride Paris-Nice was backed by all.

He is clearly hoping that a resolution will be found and things won't deteriorate further. However, he said while he regretted the possibility of sanctions, the UCI would have little choice if the teams rode Paris-Nice outside the regulations.

"It is not something we want to do," he said. "It is not something that would be a particularly happy period for the UCI or that we would look forward to doing, but we are obligated to follow our rules. In the event of this race being outside of the UCI calendar, we have no choice.

"If we stand by and do nothing, we may as well close the doors of the office in Aigle."

Breakaway league and review of the ProTour

With ASO wishing to run Paris-Nice, Paris-Roubaix and the Tour de France all outside the UCI's jurisdiction, and this measure bringing participating teams into direct conflict with the governing body, the scene is set for what could be a very painful period in cycling history. Rather than working together to overcome the problem of doping – pinpointed last year by all sides as the biggest challenge facing the sport – bigger divisions are manifesting themselves. It was thought that granting ASO their wish to be taken off the ProTour would begin the healing process, but this clearly is not the case.

As head of the UCI, McQuaid's big priority is to try to prevent such a split. "There is also another very grave consequence to this thing," he says. "It is obvious that ASO are going in the direction of trying to set up a private league. If the teams support them this weekend [by starting Paris-Nice] they are giving them the moral support to continue in that direction.

"That private league would obviously be outside the UCI and outside the Olympic movement, and the consequences of that for cycling around the world in the coming years could be very grave."

What's more, there are unconfirmed rumours that ASO are looking at taking over other events. Media reports suggested that the Tour of California could be one such target; McQuaid has heard the rumblings, although he is uncertain as to their veracity.

"There are a lot of rumours going around one way or another," he said. "There are rumours that ASO are buying AEG, there are rumours that AEG are buying ASO. I really don't know what…I don't think there is anything definitive anywhere. But if true, it would tie in with this rival league."

The days ahead will determine what way things could go in pro cycling. If the UCI can successfully block ASO's running of Paris-Nice outside its jurisdiction, then that will make a split less likely. McQuaid will be hoping that a meeting between he, FFC President Jean Petallier and the minister for sport will put the ball back in the UCI's court; the governing body has already got a boost due to Sunday's backing at the UEC Congress.

It knows that the majority of the federations want to see the UCI's rules being enforced, as per the resolution passed. As for the second part of that resolution, McQuaid accepts that there are concerns about the structure of the ProTour and is prepared to look at those.

"There has been discord about it for the past three years, all of which has come from the side of ASO and the Grand Tours," he said. "People seem to accept that it could do with a review. Within the context of that proposal, we can say that if the French Federation do what they have been requested to do, which is to put that race and all the other races back on the international calendar and to respect the rules of the UCI, then we will certainly do a review of the ProTour between now and the [UCI] Congress on September."

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

Vandenbroucke to take UCI to court

Belgian Frank Vandenbroucke (Mitsubishi-Jartazi), 33, is creating attention as his team cannot field him in ProTour races.
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

Frank Vandenbroucke plans on appealing the decision made by the UCI earlier this week, which prohibits his Jartazi-Mitsubishi team from selecting him for any ProTour races for which they receive a wild card invitation. Jartazi-Mitsubishi received wild card status by the UCI on Friday, February 29 on the condition that they not nominate Vandenbroucke for any races which hold ProTour status.

"This is pure insanity," Paul De Geyter, Vandenbroucke's manager told Belgian newspaper HLN. "There are no other words to describe it [the decision of the UCI]. Frank has been punished for offences that occurred in 2000 the night before Omloop Het Volk. A punishment he has already served. Furthermore, they are accusing him of racing in Italy under another name. They have never questioned us over that at all and have taken all their information from the media. They also accuse him of being good friends with Bernard Sainz. Are they going to determine who a rider can talk to now?"

"What I find absolutely ridiculous is that Vandenbroucke received his licence with out any problems at the beginning of this year. Now they are beginning with this sort of thing. I thought that there is but one type of licence for any one category. Those who receive them have duties but also rights. Are there now two types of licenses being created? One that imposes restrictions in order to have a license, in the case of Frank Vandenbroucke not participating, for example, in the Tour of Flanders. In addition, they have no reason to impose these conditions. On what facts are they basing their decision? Things that they have read in the media? And what about other riders who have been caught doping in the past who are still riding freely and can take part in any race that they chose? There is no logic at all in the rules they have imposed on Vandenbroucke. It is for this reason that we will take the matter to court. We will contact our lawyers as quickly as possible," De Geyter explained.

Vandenbroucke was scheduled to start GP Samyn this Wednesday, but an official release from Jartazi-Mitsubishi earlier this week, explained that he has been replaced in the squad by Dutchman Jens Mouris due to "issues surrounding his character."

Madiot: I do not want Gilbert suspended

Full gas!
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

The threats of the UCI to sanction any rider, who takes part in Paris-Nice, may have claimed their first casualty according to Sport Wereld.

Marc Madiot, sports director of French squad La Française des Jeux has expressed concern about sending his star rider and recent winner of Het Volk to the week long stage race in France. "I do not want my team leader suspended," he said. "If necessary we will start with eight French nationals in a race that is now part of the French calendar. Gilbert will ride Tirreno-Adriatico instead. I still have to talk with him about this."

Backstedt to return at Eroica

2004 Paris Roubaix champion, Magnus Backstedt will return to racing on March 8, after recovering from a broken collarbone sustained in a crash at the Tour of Qatar.

Three days after surgery Backstedt was back on his bike on the indoor trainer and now fully recovered is set to restart his season at the Monte Paschi Eroica this weekend.

"I have come back from this mishap pretty quickly; I had a great training camp down in Girona with the guys. How Mike Friedman went in Het Volk, showed how hard I worked them.

"In terms of power, the numbers are all there. I'm coming back with the GP Eroica on the 8th March and then Tirreno Adriatico"

The big Swede is unsure of what to expect from the Italian race, which has been dubbed Italy's version of Paris Roubaix. "All I'll say is don't expect a 'heroic' ride from me! I just have to ease back into it and get myself used to jumping around again, Paris Roubaix is my number one goal and I am back on target" He concluded.

Backstedt will head to Belgium this week for some testing on the cobbled roads with his Slipstream team-mates, before travelling to Italy for the weekend.

Ag2r-La Mondiale for Paris - Nice

Ag2r-La Mondiale has announced its squad for the upcoming Paris - Nice, now being held as part of the French calendar. The roster includes five French rider and three foreigners, a possible sign that the team are not taking the threats from the UCI to sanction riders seriously.

The squad has also made some last minute changes to their team for Saturday's Monte Paschi Eroica in Italy. Tanel Kangert has been pulled from the squad due to a recurring knee injury and Rinaldo Nocentini has been taken out of the squad and added to the Paris Nice roster due to the good from that he has displayed recently. They will field just six riders in the race held on dirt roads in Italy, including Ludovic Turpin, who makes his return to competition after having suffered a fractured clavicle at the very beginning of the season.

Ag2r-La Mondiale for Paris - Nice: José Luis Arrieta (Esp), Sylvain Calzati (Fra), Philip Deignan (Irl), Cyril Dessel (Fra), Hubert Dupont (Fra), Christophe Edaleine (Fra), Stéphane Goubert (Fra), Rinaldo Nocentini (Ita)

Ag2r-La Mondiale for Monte Paschi Eroica: Yuriy Krivtsov (Ukr), Julien Loubet (Fra), Rene Mandri (Est), Jean-Charles Senac (Fra), Blaise Sonnery (Fra), Ludovic Turpin (Fra)

Milram sends youngsters to Belgium

German ProTour team, Milram have announced their squad for the upcoming Belgian semi-classic, Le Samyn. The young squad has an average age of just 23.

"The spring one-day races are very educational for the young riders, because you never know how the weather and the course are going to affect the race," said sports director Jochen Hahn. "On a good day, one of our youngsters can surely provide a surprise. But the main point is for our young pros to get some experience and develop themselves further."

The team will be led by Dennis Haueisen, who, at 29, is by far the eldest in the line-up. He will be joined by fellow Germans Artur Gajek (22), Dominik Roels (21), and Christian Kux (22). Also on the squad are the Italian Luca Barla (20), the two Slovaks Matej Jurco (23) and Martin Velits (23), as well as the Ukranian Volodymyr Diudia (25).

The race, originally named the Grand Prix Fayt-le-Franc, was first won in 1968, by Frenchman Jose Samyn. After his death, the Belgian race was renamed the Memorial Jose Samyn in 1969.

Milram for Le Samyn: Dennis Haueisen (Ger), Dominik Roels (Ger), Artur Gajek (Ger), Christian Kux (Ger), Martin Velits (Svk), Matej Jurco (Svk), Volodymyr Diudia (Ukr), Luca Barla (Ita).

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