I was supposed to be at London's City Hall this morning for a press conference with Mayor Ken Livingstone and Tour boss Christian Prudhomme. Unfortunately, production problems on our next issue got in the way and I missed the latest of the Ken and Christian love-ins that in the long term are likely to see the Tour return to London.
But being stuck in the office did give me a chance to read the letter that UCI boss Pat McQuaid sent out to all riders a couple of days ago. In it, McQuaid stated that he completely understood the dilemma they were in about whether to ride Paris-Nice or not, but just in case they were thinking of riding there he's threatened them with a massive fine, a six-month suspension and exclusion from the World's. Which is very understanding of him.
In his letter McQuaid says: "I believe that ASO wishes to completely do away with the rules for cycling so that they can manipulate the situation for their benefit."
Come on, Pat. Do you really believe this? Do you really believe Christian Prudhomme is the cowboy you're trying to paint him as? If so, all cycling fans should have serious doubts about your leadership of the UCI.
As for Prudhomme and ASO, they have said the current fiasco all stems from their desire to select whatever teams they want for their races based on ethical and other factors rather than being tied to ProTour system of pre-determined team selection. This seems a reasonable topic for debate, but where is the debate? At the moment all we are seeing are press releases and a unilateral line that doesn't seem to include negotiation with McQuaid and co.
The one thing both sides have in common is their professed love for the sport, respect for riders and commitment to sponsors. Perhaps it's just me, but neither McQuaid's letter nor ASO's stubborn stance show any understanding for riders, sponsors nor, most importantly, the sport.
Based on letters I'm receiving, comments on message boards and statements I've seen from teams, riders and sponsors, we're all fed up with hearing about McQuaid, Prudhomme, the UCI and ASO. But there seems about as much chance of us being able to focus on the racing when Paris-Nice kicks off on Sunday as there does of a Frenchman winning the Tour de France. But maybe that's Prudhomme and McQuaid's cunning plan after all...