PIC BY TDWSPORT.COM The sport of cycling is facing its biggest challenge in recent history, perhaps even greater than the doping problem: to resolve the dispute between the UCI and the grand tour organisers. The controversy surrounding Paris-Nice is pushing professional cycling towards a major split. And if the two organisations can’t reach an agreement soon, then the teams will be forced to take sides. The International Professional Cycling Teams (IPCT) group will meet next Friday, March 2nd, to discuss a course of action. Up until now, the teams have always supported the UCI and the ProTour. But after the UCI asked all the ProTour teams not to take part in Paris-Nice because it breaks ProTour rules, the teams must now decide whether to stay loyal to the ProTour, or follow the media exposure and race in the prestigious classics and grand tours. There are plenty of teams willing to take their place if they decline to race. A number of ProTour teams were asked about their allegiance, and although many didn’t want to take sides until after the March 2nd meeting, the French teams in particular leaned towards doing Paris-Nice. “We would like to go to Paris-Nice,” said Ag2r team manager Vincent Lavenu to L’Equipe, and his comments were echoed by Franaise des Jeux manager Marc Madiot. Cofidis team manager Eric Boyer was also clear: “Our teams, our sponsor, and above all, our riders want to be there to race. We will not let ourselves be taken hostage in a conflict between the UCI and the organisers.” Boyer added that he did not interpret the letter from the UCI that was circulated to the teams on Wednesday as a “formal order” not to race. “If a team that races Paris-Nice will lose its licence, then that would be the end of the ProTour,” said Boyer. The Belgians were undecided, but did not come out in overwhelming support of the UCI. IPCT president and Quick.Step team manager Patrick Lefvre was quoted by Sporza as saying, “What I think of the attitude of the UCI, I’ll keep to myself for the time being. After the meeting, I will say more.” Johan Bruyneel (Discovery Channel manager) said, “Hopefully, we will work out something during the meeting. ASO and the UCI have every reason to negotiate like this, but of course this doesn’t create a nice situation.” “We don’t want to take a position with the team yet,” said Predictor-Lotto’s spokesman Filip Demyttenaere. “Let’s wait for next week’s meeting.” Unibet.com’s team manager Koen Terryn has no reason to side with the organisers, as his team has not been invited to any of their races. “After the meeting, we will see how great the solidarity is in the cycling world,” he said. “The future of cycling is at stake. “If people want to completely destroy the ProTour, we will turn the clock back 20 years. Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater, but keep it, so that everyone will benefit from it. The UCI is showing its colours now. It’s a bit late, but it’s better than nothing.” Rabobank’s Theo De Rooij told Tuttobiciweb, “We do not want to boycott Paris-Nice or other races … An important point is that the UCI is the trustee of the regulations and has the task of managing bicycle racing. At this stage, the team managers can’t wait for the next move between the UCI and ASO. We are starting to feel the need for a common strategy.” In Germany, T-Mobile’s Rolf Aldag was one of the few to align with the ProTour: “we support the ProTour and the UCI as the neutral authority of cycling” but his Gerolsteiner-counterpart, Hans-Michael Holczer, wasn’t so sure. “I’m amazed at the intensity with which both sides are fighting each other,” Holczer was quoted by Radsport-news.com as saying. “Yesterday evening, my colleagues and I met [in California] and we talked about the situation for a long time. We are helpless as to what happens. Previously it was given that this type of ‘Berlin-Status’ was the status quo. But now the fuse has been lit under the dynamite.” National federations could tip balance A breakaway league led by the national federations is one possibility if the dispute fails to resolve itself. The French federation is cooperating with the Paris-Nice organisers to ensure that the race is run according to proper rules. But it also doesn’t want this to be an ongoing problem. The Spanish, Belgian and Italian federations may soon be asked by the organisers to run the major races as national events, la the FFC. Belgian cycling federation boss Tom Van Damme told Het Nieuwsblad, “The UCI is playing a dangerous game. Instead of stubbornly holding firm, all the concerned parties would be better off seeking a compromise. As the BWB, we offered to mediate in a debate between the UCI, ASO and the teams. That didn’t happen. It’s disappointing, because such a discussion is necessary now more than ever.” But if ASO asked the Belgian federation to assist in the running of Lige-Bastogne-Lige, what would Van Damme do? “As national federations, we are obliged to protect our organisations. I am not saying that we would say yes. We would examine the question, together with our colleagues from France, Italy and Spain.” Track world cup as warm-up for world’s The Manchester track world cup, which takes place between Friday, February 23rd and Sunday, February 25th, will be an important form tester for riders aiming at the world track championships in Mallorca at the end of the March. Four reigning Olympic champions – Chris Hoy, Bradley Wiggins, Ryan Bayley and Anna Meares – gave their thoughts on the event at a pre-race press conference in Manchester on Thursday. Britain’s Chris Hoy said, “It’s quite a big weekend for me in terms of the volume of racing with the kilo on Friday, the sprint on Saturday and the team sprint and Japanese Keirin on Sunday. The results are important but it is also a sort of dress rehearsal for the world championships.” Hoy’s compatriot Bradley Wiggins was sporting a black eye and seven stitches after having an accident on the rollers last week. “I was training last Thursday and the towel got caught in the front wheel and it catapulted backwards at quite a speed,” he said. “There was a danger that I might not be able to ride this weekend as I had quite a nasty gash at the time but things seemed to heal quite quickly over the weekend … It would have been a shame to miss the world cup in Manchester.” Wiggins will race in the men’s 4000m individual and team pursuits. Double Olympic medallist Ryan Bayley wants to secure his spot on the Australian team for the world’s. “I am pretty sure that we have got enough spots but I would rather do it on my own merits,” he said. “I will be riding the sprint and the team sprint and then the JKA Keirin on Sunday. All of the best sprinters in the world are here for that and I am looking forward to it. It’s always a hard race.” Finally, Anna Meares has a change of partner in the women’s team sprint and won’t be riding with her sister Kerrie. “Kerrie is at home in Adelaide,” said Anna. “I will be riding the team sprint with Kristine Bayley. Kerrie hasn’t done a qualifying time to ride for the Australian team at the world championships yet and she has until Sunday to do it, and then it will be between Kerrie and Kristine who rides at the world’s in the team sprint.” The current 500m time trial record holder had considered a new record attempt on the super-fast Manchester track. “I am tempted,” she said. “But I just feel that there is no need for me to ride another 500 until the world champs. I am chasing the rainbow jersey this year for that event particularly. I just don’t think it is necessary to really push myself after some tough competitions and a thirty-hour flight because I can write myself off after two laps. I don’t want to do that with four weeks to go to the world championships.” More information: www.worldtrackcycling.com Got a comment? Discuss this in the Procycling forum. What else is new? Check out the Procycling blog.
The ProTeams will decide next week on their course of action in the UCI vs. organisers dispute, as P