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By Agence France Presse
Organizers of cycling’s three grand tours, of France, Italy, and Spain appear to be standing firm against a perceived “ultimatum” delivered by the sport’s governing body over their adhesion to the UCI’s ProTour calendar.
The ProTour, the brainchild of UCI president Hein Verbruggen, was introduced in the autumn of 2004 to help modernize and better organize the often-hectic professional cycling calendar – and its global image.
The UCI has throughout the reforms met with resistance from the respective organizers of the Tour de France, Giro d’ Italia and Vuelta a España, who felt the far-reaching reforms were being rushed in too quickly and without their input.
After a meeting in Paris on Monday, the race organizers appeared to react angrily to what they see as a UCI “ultimatum” which says they must adhere unreservedly to the Pro Tour – or face being excluded from its official calendar.
“We’ve been confronted with a surprising ultimatum over whether or not we are fully committed to the UCI ProTour, but we’re standing firm against the UCI’s latest actions,” said a statement issued on behalf of the race organizers (ASO for the Tour, RCS for the Giro and Unipublic for the Vuelta).
On July 2, Verbruggen announced that the race organizers had until the end of the month to confirm their compliance with the ProTour calendar and rulebook.
One of the bases of the UCI ProTour was to encourage the participation of the best teams in the best races – something which certain races, such as the Giro, has suffered from in the past.
The reforms have reaped some benefits this season already, and in the Giro in June the level of the competition was in general to the race’s benefit.
Organizers of all three grand tours have continuously affirmed support for reforms that encourage the best riders and teams in the best races, and for any reform that might help develop a sport which, as Verbruggen sees it, is all too often dominated by the three grand tours.
However organizers are vexed by what they see as an ultimatum, and said they will now hold talks with all relevant cycling bodies – such as the team’s association (AIGCP), the riders’ association (CPA) and the race organizers’ association (AIOCC).
Talks have already been held, and the race organizers of the world’s biggest three-week races hope to answer the cycling bodies’ concerns over exactly how next season’s calendar will unfold.