Top cycling official Pat McQuaid has expressed his wish for a trouble-free Tour de France but says that it was a mistake for the event to have broken away from the International Cycling Union (UCI).
"I am saddened by this, but it is the decision of the organisers. It is sad but it has to be accepted. In terms of world cycling it is not a good decision."
Speaking to AFP four days before the Tour which starts on Saturday from the Britanny port of Brest, McQuaid said he would not be attending the race which finished on July 27 in Paris.
"It will be the first time in 24 years that I will not be coming to the race, but I will watch it on TV," he said.
For almost a year, the UCI has been locked in a feud with major race organisers including the company which organises the Tour de France, Amaury Sport Organisation, over unresolved issues arising from the doping scandals which has beset the event in recent years.
For the first time, the 2008 Tour de France is going ahead as an independent race outside the scope of the UCI. Some of this year's other French cycling classics including the Paris-Roubaix and the Paris-Nice were also staged as autonomous events in defiance of the UCI.
ASO and other organisers have ignored a new UCI sponsored organizing body, ProTour, which McQuaid hoped would be able to take over the major cycling classics. Following last year's debacle, major backers including European TV companies threatened to withdraw funding if doping was not eliminated. In response, ASO chief Patrice Clerc pledged he would root out the problem.
One point of disagreement is the UCI's failure to give French authorities details of proposed biological passports for riders. Instead, McQuaid said letters had been sent to all teams instructing them to provide full details of riders to French supervisors.
McQuaid again voiced fears that race organisers were trying to set up a rival world cycling body.
"De facto, they are attempting to establish another international federation," he said.
But the UCI president refused to be drawn into further criticism, expressing hopes that the 2008 Tour would be problem-free.
"I hope it goes well. Whenever people talk of cycling anywhere in the world, the Tour de France is always mentioned. A Tour without scandals and without problems will be a good thing for cycling."
© AFP 2008