Talks continue over Pro Tour

The latest discussions on the future of the Pro Tour have taken place in a Bardolino hotel corridor,

The latest discussions on the future of the Pro Tour have taken place in a Bardolino hotel corridor,
PICTURE BY TIM DE WAELE While the rest of us are busy watching the world's best riders competing for rainbow jerseys, the sport's administrators are spending much of their time at Bardolino trying to iron out the many disputes that still hang over next season's introduction of the Pro Tour. After last week's announcement by the organisers of the three major tours that they would not take part in the Pro Tour in its current guise and International Cycling Union (UCI) president Hein Verbruggen's response that the Pro Tour will take place "either with or without the Tour de France", it is good to report that all sides are negotiating. Patrice Clerc, president of Tour organisers ASO, insists that the position he adopted last week in line with the Giro and Vuelta remains unchanged, but admitted he is happy to negotiate. He told told L'Equipe: "Studying the reform of professional road racing is a good thing. If everyone is acting in good faith then there is no reason why we can't reach a consensus on the issue. If there is a consensus, then the scheme will be durable." One of those who Clerc attempted to reach a consensus with yesterday at an impromptu hour-long meeting in a hotel corridor is the president of the Association of Professional Cycling Teams, Manolo Saiz, who was enraged by the announcement made by the major tours last week. "I told him that it did not seem ethical to me to release a communiqu without having had a meeting with the people with whom you have been working on this project for some considerable time," Saiz said of his discussions with Clerc. Saiz continued: "I also told him that it did not seem ethical for the three major tours to have a meeting in Madrid last Monday at which they decided to pull out of the project without speaking to me afterwards, particularly as I was in the same city. That seemed like both an attack on and a demonstration of a lack of respect in the Professional Cycling Council, which represents the interests of those races." Saiz added that the ongoing disputes were less about concerns over ethical issues or the length of contracts awarded to Pro Tour teams and more about the balance of power in the sport. One of the concerns voiced by the major tours is an apparent loss of control over image and other rights at their events. UCI president Hein Verbruggen was not in the Bardolino hotel corridor meeting, but is due to present his vision of the Pro Tour tomorrow. However, this may turn out to be premature as Saiz, Clerc and other notables are not due to meet again to try to iron out their differences of opinion until Saturday.
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