By Agence France Presse
Tour de France chief Christian Prudhomme has welcomed an end to a four-year long conflict with cycling’s world ruling body the UCI.
The Frenchman, however, said Friday the world’s biggest race would reserve the right to enforce strict anti-doping rules.
“This agreement allows us to look forward to working together in a positive fashion in the future, but there is still a lot of work to do,” Prudhomme told AFP Friday. “For the Tour, there’s no question of letting our guard down.”
At the world road race championships late Thursday the UCI announced it had buried the hatchet with the ‘renegade’ organizers of the three major tours, those of Italy, France and Spain.
McQuaid said the UCI would now be proceeding with recently made proposals to reorganize an elite cycling calendar which, as the Pro Tour, had been left without much credibility due to the absence of such flagship races as Paris-Nice, the Tour de France, and a number of big one-day classics.
“This agreement marks the start of a new, positive era for the whole cycling family,” said UCI chief Pat McQuaid.
In theory, it brings to an end the dispute which began with the UCI’s introduction of the Pro Tour series four years ago but which has seen other issues come between the UCI and organisers of cycling’s major races.
Prudhomme and the Tour’s owning company ASO (Amaury Sports Organisation) have been among those at loggerheads with the UCI in recent years.
While the UCI wanted all of its Pro Tour teams automatically invited to the race, Tour organizers insisted on the right to ‘invite’ teams.
Tour chiefs dug their collective heels in earlier this year by not inviting the Astana team of Spaniard Alberto Contador, who won the 2007 race while riding for the Discovery Channel team.
Tour bosses said it was related to the drugs scandal which led to the team’s eviction in 2007.
It led to the race being controversially held under the aegis of the French Cycling Federation (FFC).
But, snubbed by the world’s biggest race, McQuaid then went above the heads of the Tour organizers – going straight to the owner of ASO – in a bid to bring the damaging feud to an end.
The result appears to be an agreement which could set cycling on a new, less shaky path. However Prudhomme, who after the July race said it was one of the best held in years, remains vigilant.
“There is a real willingness for reconciliation. We need to have peace if we are to go forward,” he said. “Now, we have to sit down and iron things out.”
Prudhomme said no measures or decisions had yet been taken regarding next year’s Tour de France, where controversial seven-time champion Lance Armstrong is hoping to race after a three-year absence.
However he said they would retain the right not to invite, or to evict teams, if strict anti-doping rules that are already in place are infringed.