Tour, Vuelta and Giro "will never join ProTour"

Patrice Clerc, president of ASO, says the Tour de France will not be part of the ProTour in 2007 - a

Patrice Clerc, president of ASO, says the Tour de France will not be part of the ProTour in 2007 - a

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The Tour de France, along with the Giro d'Italia and the Vuelta a Espana, will not be part of the 2007 ProTour.

So says Patrice Clerc, president of ASO - the organisers of the Tour. Speaking to reporters ahead of Saturday's stage seven time trial in Rennes, Clerc said he was fed up with discussing the issue with the International Cycling Union (UCI).

"I can tell you that ASO, but also RCS [organisers of the Tour of Italy] and Unipublic [Tour of Spain], will never join the ProTour," Clerc said. "There will be no further discussions over a commercial system that is purely economic, closed and cut off from the outside world."

Apart from a meeting between UCI president Pat McQuaid and Unipublic when McQuaid was in Madrid to discuss the Operacion Puerto case with Spanish authorities in June, it was back in April that the three major race organisers last met with cycling's governing body to discuss their demands for next season's ProTour competition.

Then, the parties were said to have agreed on a number of matters, including reducing the number of ProTour teams from 20 to 18, and putting in place a promotion/relegation system - something that the major tour organisers had been especially keen to put in place. The number of races in the season-long competition was also likely to be reduced.

It now looks like the number of races in next year's ProTour will indeed be reduced - by ASO, Unipublic and RCS pulling their events - which also include such major races as Paris-Roubaix (ASO) and Milan-San Remo (RCS) - out of the competition.

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