Riders worried at possible Paris-Nice comeback

Waters become increasingly muddied

The Association of professional riders (CPA) has expressed concern at the possibility of International Cycling Union (UCI) sanctions being imposed on those who choose to compete in the upcoming Paris-Nice race.

The CPA, chaired by Frenchman Cedric Vasseur, late Thursday called on the International Association of Professional Cycling Teams (AIGCP) to respond by Monday to growing concerns about potential UCI sanctions after UCI chief Pat McQuaid asked all teams to boycott the race under threat of possible sanctions.

Twenty teams have entered for the March 9-16 race under the stewardship of organisers ASO (Amaury Sport Organisation) despite the UCI boycott call.

Following the recent departure of ASO, and fellow organisers RCS (Italy) and Unipublic (Spain) from the UCI's Pro Tour series, ASO had announced Paris-Nice would be held under the auspices of the French Cycling Federation (FFC),  prompting McQuaid's reaction.

The CPA said racers have called on their teams to provide a written commitment "to assume the integrality of the terms of their contracts" with regard to salaries and potential fines which may ultimately arise from their participation in the face of UCI disapproval.

The CPA wants to know if insurance agreements relating to UCI-sanctioned races would be valid for races not recognised by the governing body and the AIGCP is additionally concerned about budgets.

"Will sponsors assume the totality of budgets in the case of a team's suspension?" the riders' association asked in a letter to AIGCP chairman Eric Boyer and to team principals.

UCI has warned teams aiming to take part in races run by ASO about the 'unjust' conditions set out in the breakaway race organisers' contract.

ASO runs a number of top events including the Tour de France and Paris-Nice, the latter becoming the latest bone of contention in the ongoing feud between the International Cycling Union (UCI) and powerful race organisers. At this stage, the Paris-Nice event will go ahead as a non UCI-sanctioned event.

The UCI is concerned at ASO conditions with one stipulation the organisation has laid down being for teams to "immediately pull out of the race any rider or staff member whose presence could damage the reputation of the event, or the organiser."

That move is in direct response to the numerous doping scandals which have marred the Tour de France, including last year's edition when riders from Astana, Cofidis and Rabobank further discredited the event.

McQuaid has warned that "the signing of this (ASO) contract would mean that your team would put itself completely outside the UCI. You would be abandoning the protection afforded by rules of the UCI which are designed to give teams and riders rights and not simply protect the interests of organisers."

© AFP 2008

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