UCI: Paris-Nice plans "utterly irregular"

War escalates between governing body & race organisers

The ongoing war between the International Cycling Union (UCI) and major race organisers took a significant new twist on Monday with threats that Paris-Nice could become a 'persona non grata' of cycling stage races.

The European calendar's first major race of the season, held March 9-16 and the first major rendez-vous for the peloton's big guns, is owned by ASO (Amaury Sports Organisation), which also runs the Tour de France.

Following a long-running dispute, and subsequent split, between the UCI and major race organisers, ASO aim to run Paris-Nice under the auspices of the French cycling federation (FFC), with backing from the French government.

However that "far-reaching" move, according to a UCI statement released on Monday, could lead Paris-Nice into even muddier waters.

In a letter to all teams and officials on Monday, UCI chief Pat McQuaid warned that the race will have no regulatory UCI backing.

He has called on the French Sports Ministry to have a re-think, and warned any teams aiming to participate to think again.

"This measure is utterly irregular and will have far-reaching consequences for all parties involved," McQuaid said in a UCI statement.

"... under the chosen format the UCI rules do not permit Paris-Nice to be considered an event on the French national calendar. Consequently, if the FFC insists on maintaining this position, the race will take place entirely outside the regulatory and organisational structure of the UCI.

"Responsibility for this breach of the rules would therefore lie in the first place with the FFC, which would be contributing to the organisation of a purely private event, with no links to organised sport or to the Olympic movement, of which the UCI is the sole organ of reference for all disciplines of cycling.

"The UCI therefore wishes to make it clear that it will not be involved in any way in the organisation of Paris-Nice under the above-mentioned conditions.

"As far as the International Federation is concerned, this event will have no classification and no winner, and no points will be awarded for it.

"Moreover, no anti-doping controls will be carried out by the UCI, nor will it be involved in the management of any tests which may be carried out under national law.

"Finally, no international or national commissaires will be authorised to work at the event, which will not be governed by UCI rules.

"The UCI trusts that, recognising the seriousness of the situation, the teams will refuse to take part in Paris-Nice, as, regardless of the sanctions to which they would be subject, such participation would compromise the image and stability of cycling."

Paris-Nice fell victim to similar power struggles last year, when ASO refused to invite former Pro Tour team Unibet.com.

An eleventh hour compromise was reached and the peloton set off, however in the past year relations between ASO and the UCI - already delicate due to disagreements over Pro Tour issues - have worsened.

Most recently, ASO controversially decided not to invite Astana - a Pro Tour team - to this year's Tour de France on the premise that the doping scandal which led to its exit from the 2007 Tour had done lasting damage to the race's image.

That decision enraged the UCI, who highlighted the fact that other teams - such as French outfit Cofidis - were thrown off the race after a rider tested positive.

McQuaid feels strongly that Astana, which features Tour de France champion Alberto Contador and third placed finisher Levi Leipheimer, should be allowed to race in July.

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