Yesterday’s selections for the Pro Tour did not go down well in France, where at least one major tea
PICTURE BY TIM DE WAELE Yesterday’s decision by the International Cycling Union to award four of the remaining five places in next season’s Pro Tour to Euskaltel, Omega Pharma, Fassa Bortolo and Liquigas has not gone down at all well in France. Both the Bouygues Tlcom and Ag2r teams were expecting to get approval for the Pro Tour and now find themselves hoping that they still might get picked for the 18th and final place that remains open for next season’s top level competition. Brioches La Boulangre boss Jean-Ren Bernaudeau, who spent much of this season enticing Bouygues into replacing Brioches for next year was stunned by the news his team had not been selected. “I am wondering what we have to do to be admitted,” he told L’Equipe. “We have complied with all the criteria concerning ethics, team roster and financial guarantees over five years. But I am confident because we have always respected the rules of the game and there is no weak point within our dossier. I would really have liked for someone to have taken the trouble to explain to me why our team has not been included.” Ag2r team boss Vincent Lavenu was much more dispirited by yesterday’s announcement. “I have been stressed for months and not been able to sleep at night worrying about a result like this,” he commented. “It’s sad and disappointing. I’ve been doing this for 13 years, I’ve brought millions of euros into cycling. What I am wondering is whether it is just the financial aspect that really counts. Is that how cycling is going to progress now?” L’Equipe follows Lavenu’s track by asking how much ethical considerations have been taken into account, particularly, the paper says, when a decision was taken to admit Euskaltel and Liquigas, admissions which they call “troubling”. Liquigas, L’Equipe recalls, left the sport under a cloud in 2001 with serious financial problems and several of their riders implicated in a doping scandal. For their part, Euskaltel have seen two of their riders prevented from racing in recent months and a team doctor suspended after being accused of treating David Millar with EPO. But as UCI president Hein Verbruggen pointed out in L’Equipe just last month: “The Pro Tour is not a competition about ethics. There is a list of criteria of which ethics is just one and finance is another. It’s always France that insists on this one point. It is going to be said that I am lax on this issue, but that’s not a problem for me because I’m used to it.” Lavenu and Bernaudeau’s sleepness nights will continue until October 6, when the final Pro Tour place is allocated. There are 14 candidates pressing for it, with Saeco and CV-Kelme two of the favourites alongside the French squads. There does remain, however, the possibility that the UCI might follow the recommendation of the professional teams’ association and include 20 teams in next season’s Pro Tour.