Patrice Clerc, president of the company which owns the Tour de France, has rejected claims by world cycling's ruling body that his ultimate aim is to set up a parallel world cycling federation.
Clerc, president of ASO (Amaury Sport Organisation), said Friday in Le Monde that recent claims by International Cycling Union (UCI) chief Pat McQuaid were wide of the mark.
McQuaid said last week that he suspected ASO, with whom the UCI has been feuding intensely in recent months, of setting up a parallel cycling federation.
That was a claim that Clerc flatly denied, adding: "I want to put paid to a certain number of untruths. ASO has no ambition to transform itself into a new world cyling federation," Clerc told the newspaper.
"On the contrary, for years we've been calling upon the UCI to do its job in a transparent, democratic and legitimate fashion - and to be a federation that can be respected by everybody. Who was the first to come up with the idea of a private league, and who is now waving it about like a fan?" added Clerc, in reference to the UCI's ProTour series.
The ProTour series, the brainchild of former UCI chief Hein Verbruggen prior to his departure, is now on shaky ground following a split with major race organisers such as ASO over unresolved issues.
The absence of such flagship races as Paris-Nice, the Tour de France, and a number of big one-day classics such as Paris-Roubaix has effectively left the ProTour racing calendar split into several categories.
Last month, ASO held Paris-Nice as a French federation event outwith the auspices of the UCI. McQuaid hit back in bizarre fashion, threatening the riders and teams with sanctions if they took part. In the end, all of the teams invited took part.
McQuaid recently suggested that Tour bosses had threatened riders with not being invited to the July race if they did not race Paris-Nice, which Clerc denied.
"ASO is not using the Tour de France as an instrument of blackmail to the riders, managers or sponsors," he added. "The Tour is the number one cycling event in the world and has always promoted stong values of equality and friendship.
"Was it not the international federation that tried to take the riders hostage before Paris-Nice by making all sorts of announcements and threats in a bid to have the race boycotted and then cancelled?"
The UCI also fell foul recently of the World Anti Doping Agency after the UCI announced plans to sue WADA over allegedly inflammatory remarks made to the UCI by its former president Dick Pound.
WADA responded by cancelling its plans to work with the UCI on an ambitious, and potentially crucial anti-doping programme dubbed the 'biological passport'.
Clerc said that was "further proof that the UCI was being marginalised".
Later Friday, meanwhile, the UCI said they intended to press on with the ProTour development.
"It's extremely satisfying to see that even in these somewhat troubled circumstances the riders as well as the teams and organisers who have licences show such commitment," said McQuaid.
"This demonstrates that the objectives of the UCI ProTour, in particular the universalisation of cycling, quality improvements across all aspects of the structure and increased visibility of events are priorities which are very much shared among those who truly want to promote the sport of cycling."
© BikeRadar & AFP 2008