Road

Thursday’s Eurofile: Negotiations frantic as ProTour debut nears; ’05 world’s plans unveiled

UCI officials are set to present the ProTour to the world’s press in a lavish press conference Friday, but sources close to cycling’s governing body say negotiations are still franticly underway to try to bring renegade grand tours into the fold. Last week, race organizers from the Tour de France, the Giro d’Italia and the Vuelta a España wrote a letter to the UCI saying they don’t want to be part of cycling’s redesign as the much-vaunted ProTour stands now. While UCI president Hein Verbruggen has publicly said the ProTour will go on “with or without” the grand tours, others have kept the

By Andrew Hood

UCI officials are set to present the ProTour to the world’s press in a lavish press conference Friday, but sources close to cycling’s governing body say negotiations are still franticly underway to try to bring renegade grand tours into the fold.

Last week, race organizers from the Tour de France, the Giro d’Italia and the Vuelta a España wrote a letter to the UCI saying they don’t want to be part of cycling’s redesign as the much-vaunted ProTour stands now.

While UCI president Hein Verbruggen has publicly said the ProTour will go on “with or without” the grand tours, others have kept the door open. In an interview with the French sports daily L’Equipe, Patrice Clerc said his Tour organizer ASO will listen in good faith.

“Reform of cycling is not necessarily a bad thing,” he said. “We can reach a consensus if we all negotiate with an open mind. If we can reach a consensus, then the (ProTour) can work.”

Clerc was seen to be in deep discussions with Manolo Saiz, the Liberty Seguros team manager who also acts as president of the Association of Professional Cycling Teams. The pair was seen talking for almost an hour in a hotel hallway. Race organizers are worried about lose of control of their events, their right to choose and select teams as well as other issues over TV rights and contracts.

While Verbruggen is insisting on going full-steam ahead, there’s no real consensus yet. All sides are scheduled to meet again Saturday, a day after Verbruggen’s press conference.

2005 world’s details unveiled
Madrid is hoping to use the 2005 world cycling championships as a springboard to securing the 2012 Summer Olympic Games for the Spanish capital.

Officials presented the 2005 world championships in a press conference Wednesday morning before the elite men’s time trial and served up plenty of Rioja wine, jamón íberico and morcilla to whet everyone’s appetite.

The road races will start and finish at the Santiago Bernabeu soccer stadium, the Spanish equivalent of Yankee Stadium. Home to the Real Madrid soccer team, the Bernabeu stadium was the setting of the finish of the 2002 Vuelta a España.

While the races won’t finish inside the stadium, officials said the course will be in the heart of the city and open to fans arriving by subways and other public transportation.

The road course will favor sprinters as the 21.3km course doesn’t feature any major climbs. While the loop hits some minor humps throughout the city, there’s nothing as imposing as what the road races will climb this weekend in Verona. The elite men are penciled in to ride 13 laps for a total of 276.9km while the other course lengths have yet to be set.

The time trial courses, meanwhile, will be held at the expansive Casa de Campo park just west of downtown. The men will ride two 22km loops over the undulating course while juniors and women will ride on 17.5km loops.

Ferrari ruling could come Friday
A sentencing hearing is expected Friday in the long-going legal process of controversial Italian trainer Dr. Michele Ferrari. Prosecutors against the trainer of six-time Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong are asking for penalties up to 14 months of prison, a fine of 900 euros and a loss of medical license for at least one year.

Ferrari is being charged by an Italian court in Bologna of administering banned doping products and other charges.