Organisers of the world’s biggest bike race, the Tour de France, are poised to take over the three-week Tour of Spain, according to press reports in Madrid on Friday.
“Rumours of an agreement between ASO (Amaury Sports Organisation) and Unipublic have been circling for about a year,” said Marca Friday.
The Spanish sports daily said that talks between ASO, the Tour’s operation company which also own a host of other major sporting events, and Unipublic, which runs the Tour of Spain, “have been ongoing for several weeks.”
The Tour of Spain, known as the Vuelta and held in September, is considered the least prestigious of cycling’s trio of three-week races, after the Tour and the Giro d’Italia, which is held during May and June.
The Vuelta’s relative demise has gathered momentum in recent years due to a string of doping scandals involving former winners.
Spaniard Roberto Heras, a former teammate of Lance Armstrong at US Postal, won the race for a record fourth time in 2005, but then tested positive for the banned blood booster EPO (erythropoietin).
As a number of scandals elsewhere continue to leave the sport fighting for its credibility, fans in Spain have largely turned off and tuned out.
Tour de France chief Christian Prudhomme, when asked at the presentation of the 2008 Vuelta to confirm the rumours of a possible takeover, refused to make any comment.
© AFP 2008