UCI sticking with Pro TourClose
Are we on the verge of civil war in cycling? It is certainly starting to look that way as the UCI anPICTURE BY TIM DE WAELE An irresistible force seems to have met an immovable object as the International Cycling Union (UCI) and the organisers of many of the sport's biggest races continue to trade blows over the introduction of the Pro Tour circuit next year. Following the announcement by the organisers of the three major tours over the weekend that they would not participate in the Pro Tour in its current guise, the UCI has responded with a statement declaring that they will be sticking to the course they are on. In the statement, the UCI declared: "After the change of opinion voiced by the organisers of the three major tours, the UCI's management committee has unanimously confirmed that the Pro Tour perfectly reflects the future direction of professional cycling and that these potential desertions will not put in any danger the implementation of the Pro Tour on January 1, 2005. "The unconditional support of the teams, as well as the enthusiasm demonstrated by the numerous sponsors who have shared in this innovative vision and the significant increase in the number of races included on the different continental calendars represent a guarantee of success for the Pro Tour." UCI president Hein Verbruggen said over the weekend that "the Pro Tour will go ahead either with or without the Tour de France." Decisive words for sure, but on the other side the major tours and some other race organisers have reiterated their worries about the new structure. The organisers of the Tour, Giro and Vuelta have met in Madrid in the past couple of days and released a statement of their own asking for "a delay in the implementation of the reform of professional cycling so that all parties concerned can agree on a plan with total unanimity." The statement went on to condemn the speed with which the UCI is acting and restated the major tours organisers' decision not to cooperate unless changes are made. As well as the speed of implementation of the Pro Tour, the organisers are also concerned that they have not received "any satisfactory response from the UCI to the legitimate and repeated questions about the ethical and sporting aspects of the plan." The race organisers are also concerned about suffering a significant loss of control over their events to the UCI. With neither side apparently willing to budge, the Belgian cycling federation have taken steps to defend the presence on the Pro Tour calendar of the two Belgian Classics run by Tour organisers ASO. Belgian federation president Laurent Debacker has written to ASO boss Patrice Clerc asking him to reconsider his opposition to the Pro Tour, because this "could lead to Lige-Bastogne-Lige and Flche Wallonne being replaced by two other events in the Pro Tour."