Positive progress on Pro Tour

Representatives from the UCI and the major tours met yesterday in Geneva to iron out their differenc

Representatives from the UCI and the major tours met yesterday in Geneva to iron out their differenc
PICTURE BY TIM DE WAELE Representatives of the International Cycling Union and the three major tours met in Geneva yesterday to discuss their differences over next season's proposed Pro Tour circuit. A three-hour meeting at the city's airport ended with both sides saying little but agreeing at least on a brief statement, saying: "Each party exposed its respective positions and agreed to carry on a constructive dialogue in order to succeed in an acceptable agreement for all." Present at the meeting were UCI president Hein Verbruggen, the UCI's manager of pro cycling Alain Rumpf, Professional Cycling Council president Vittorio Adorni, Patrice Clerc from Tour de France organisers ASO, Angelo Zomegnan from Giro organisation RCS, and Enrique Franco from the Vuelta organisers Unipublic. Lawyers representing both sides were also in attendance, and to them now falls the task of trying to reconcile the differing points of view. The major tours are determined to avoid being in a situation where they have to apply to the UCI for a licence to do what they have already been doing for decades, namely organising races. They also want written confirmation that their commercial and television rights will not be compromised by the introduction of the Pro Tour in any way. There have been indications that the UCI was considering selling the rights to all of the Pro Tour events as a package, but this now appears unlikely to happen. The major tours' concerns about what they see as a lack of priority in assuring ethical considerations within the Pro Tour may be assuaged by the establishment of a code of conduct by the Association of Professional Cycling Teams. According to this morning's L'Equipe, a working group made up of representatives from the Cofidis, Fdjeux.com, Illes Balears, Quick Step and Liquigas teams is meeting in Milan today to continue discussions on this code. Another topic likely to have been under discussion in Geneva yesterday is the guarantee that a team can remain in the Pro Tour for the next four seasons because there is no system of relegation and promotion. The race organisers fear that such a guarantee could lead to the teams becoming a unified and rival power bloc within the sport. There are also concerns about riders on the Continental circuit not having the chance to break through at the biggest races, thereby choking the emergence of some talent. According to L'Equipe, the race organisers have also suggested reducing the number of riders per team in the major tours from nine to eight, thereby allowing them to invite as many as four teams from the Continental circuit to their races rather than the two that the system currently stipulates. Clearly, there is some distance to be covered before all sides feel happy with all aspects of the Pro Tour. Assuming general agreement is reached in the coming weeks, the 2005 season will surely prove to be a test bed for the new circuit that could lead to later adjustments as unforeseen problems are corrected.
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