PIC BY PETE GODING ProTour battle: ASO stands firm Tour de France organiser ASO is standing firm in its position with regard to Paris-Nice and the ProTour. ASO hasn’t invited ProTour team Unibet.com to the race, which starts on March 11, even though it has to do so under UCI rules. ASO is also determined to hold the race no matter what the UCI says. Following the meeting between the UCI and ASO on Monday, the UCI issued a communiqu calling ASO’s stance “totally unacceptable”, saying that it will “soon decide what action to take due to the deadlock created by ASO’s attitude”. The threat of a UCI ban on teams taking part in the race is now very real, unless the UCI can come up with another way of reaching an agreement with (or sanction) the powerful French organiser. ASO issued its own communiqu in response to the UCI on Tuesday night. “Taking the position of the UCI into consideration and seeing the threat that is weighing on the organisation of the race, ASO finds itself in the obligation of taking all the necessary measures allowing to safeguard an event that has a leading role in international cycling’s heritage, and confirms that “Paris-Nice” will take place as planned from the 11th to the 18th of March 2007,” it read. “In these exceptional circumstances, and wanting to guarantee the integrity and credibility of the event, ASO will organise the race according to the French law and has therefore solicited the French Cycling Federation (FFC) in order to establish an agreement insuring in particular the respect of the technical regulation.” ASO has called for a meeting between all the main players in cycling to come up with a solution to this dispute, which could seriously damage the sport. Retirement for Ullrich? Jan Ullrich will announce plans for his “future professional career” next Monday, giving rise to serious speculation that he will retire as a cyclist. After being named in Operacion Puerto, Ullrich hasn’t raced since June 2006, hasn’t got a team or even a racing licence for this season. He also faces legal investigations in Germany and Switzerland, which are trying to determine whether he committed sporting fraud via doping. And at next Monday’s press conference, he apparently won’t be answering any questions. Ullrich recently announced a deal with Swiss sports clothing manufacturer X-Technology, involving him helping test and develop their products. But whether that requires him to remain a professional cyclist is not clear. Wolfgang Strohband, Ullrich’s manager, did not want to comment on the retirement speculations. “I won’t say anything about it,” he told dpa on Wednesday. Portuguese classics warm-up The 33rd Volta ao Algarve (February 21st-25th) is the first stage race on the Portuguese calendar. It provides riders aiming at the classics with a chance to build their form in good weather in time for Het Volk and Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne on March 3rd and 4th. The race takes place mostly on the Portuguese coast, starting in Albufeira. The toughest stage is stage 4 between Vila Real de Santo Ant¢nio and Loul, over 187 km and featuring five cat. 3 climbs. The tour finishes in PortimÆo on Sunday. T-Mobile is sending some of its classics team along to the Volta ao Algarve. Key riders Andreas Klier and Servais Knaven will be accompanied by Patrik Sinkewitz, Lorenzo Bernucci, Thomas Ziegler, Scott Davis, and sprinters Bernhard Eisel and Andr Korff. “The Algarve Tour fits perfectly into our preparations,” said team director Tristan Hoffman. “The riders can test their form but are not forced beyond their limits.” Stage list Stage 1 – February 21st: Albufeira – Faro, 191.3 km Stage 2 – February 22nd: Castro Marim – Tavira, 177 km Stage 3 – February 23rd: Vila do Bispo – Lagos, 208.3 km Stage 4 – February 24th: Vila Real de Santo Ant¢nio – Loul, 187.2 km Stage 5 – February 25th: Lagoa – PortimÆo, 185.6 km Nys finishes season number one At the end of the 2006-2007 cyclo-cross season, Sven Nys (Rabobank) is the undisputed number one racer. The 30 year-old topped the UCI rankings with 3650 points, ahead of chief rivals Bart Wellens (Fidea, 2792 pts) and world champion Erwin Vervecken (Fidea, 2610 pts). Nys won 30 races this year, including seven of eleven world cups, all eight Superprestige races, and the overall classification in the Superprestige trophy. The only big race he missed out on was the world championships (again), where he and Bart Wellens crashed and lost any chance of victory. Got a comment? Discuss this in the Procycling forum. What else is new? Check out the Procycling blog.
ASO isn’t budging from its stance on the ProTour, reiterating that it will organise Paris-Nice as pl