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Seventeen of the world’s top cycling teams said on Tuesday they would not be seeking ProTour licenses for 2009, according to a statement released at Pau during the first rest day of the Tour de France.
The UCI launched the ProTour in 2004 in a bid to revamp the cycling calendar and have the best teams riding in the best races. However, since then the series has met with resistance on several fronts.
Recently France’s top team, Cofidis, said it would not be renewing its license for next season, and there have been murmurings from the Euskaltel and Liquigas teams that they would also pull out of the series.
The organizers of the three major three-week tours of France, Spain and Italy also have had their problems with the series.
After a meeting here on Tuesday, 17 of the 18 teams involved with the ProTour issued a statement reading: “It has been decided unanimously not to renew our ProTour licenses for the 2009 season. The teams are working towards developing a new way of organizing professional cycling.”
The statement comes in the wake of several meetings held among major race organizers, including those of the Tour, the Giro d’Italia and the Vuelta a España, and the UCI.
The Tour de France and several other top races are no longer part of the ProTour.
Eighteen teams hold ProTour licenses. The only one missing from the Tour was Astana, which was not invited by the organizers due to a doping scandal that led to their eviction from last year’s race.
The news brought an unequivocal response from Thierry Cazeneuve, who runs the respected Dauphiné Libéré ProTour race, an eight-day stage race held a month prior to the Tour de France.
“It will spell the end of the ProTour,” Cazeneuve, one of the many race organizers who must also have a license to stage the series of races, told AFP. “It simply makes no sense for an organizer to have a license if there are no ProTour teams coming.”
Although the UCI have yet to react, despite several calls by AFP, Cazeneuve said he had more or less already accepted the news as official.
“I accept all such decisions as soon as they become legitimate. This one has come from the family of cycling teams, who have decided to leave the system.”
Cazeneuve said, however, he has been left wondering what system, if any, would replace the beleaguered series.
“Who is going to replace the ProTour, and decide the calendar, the rules? Who will make the decisions and will they have backing?” he asked.