Tour de France chief Christian Prudhomme has welcomed an end to a four-year conflict with cycling's world ruling body the UCI (International Cycling Union), but has insisted that the Tour reserves the right to enforce strict anti-doping rules.
"This agreement allows us to look forward to working together in a positive fashion in the future, but there is still a lot of work to do," Prudhomme said today. "For the Tour, there's no question of letting our guard down."
UCI announced at the world road race championships yesterday that it had buried the hatchet with the 'renegade' organisers of the three major Tours of Italy,
"This agreement marks the start of a new, postive era for the whole cycling family," commented UCI chief Pat McQuaid. He said the UCI would now be proceeding with proposals to re-organise an elite cycling calendar.
With 2011 earmarked as the likely date for a real, new beginning for all parties, there will be no Pro Tour ranking next season. Instead there will be a ranking system that takes into account the results of all UCI races.
Prudhomme and the Tour's owning company ASO (Amaury Sports Organisation) have been among those at loggerheads with the UCI in recent years. While the UCI wanted all of its Pro Tour teams automatically invited to the race, Tour organisers insisted on the right to 'invite' teams.
Tour de France chiefs dug their heels in earlier this year by not inviting the Astana team of Spaniard Alberto Contador, who won the 2007 race while riding for the Discovery Channel team. The dispute led to the race being controversially held under the aegis of the French Cycling Federation (FFC).
Snubbed by the world's biggest race, McQuaid then went above the heads of the Tour organisers, going straight to the owner of ASO in a bid to bring the damaging feud to an end. The result appears to be an agreement that could set cycling on a new, less shaky path.
Prudhomme said no measures or decisions had yet been taken regarding next year's Tour de France, where seven-time champion Lance Armstrong is planning to race after a three-year absence.
© AFP 2008