Become a Member

Get access to more than 30 brands, premium video, exclusive content, events, mapping, and more.

Already have an account? Sign In

Become a Member

Get access to more than 30 brands, premium video, exclusive content, events, mapping, and more.

Already have an account? Sign In

Brands

Road

Top-level meeting to discuss cycling’s future

Cycling’s biggest players will meet Friday in Madrid to try to heal the division and ill will that have split the sport the past few years. Whether the meeting among members of the UCI, the organizers of the three grand tours and the top professional teams can ease the way for resolution or reopen old wounds remains to be seen.

Don't miss a moment from Paris-Roubaix and Unbound Gravel, to the Giro d’Italia, Tour de France, Vuelta a España, and everything in between when you join Outside+.

By Andrew Hood

Cycling’s biggest players will meet Friday in Madrid to try to heal the division and ill will that have split the sport the past few years.

Whether the meeting among members of the UCI, the organizers of the three grand tours and the top professional teams can ease the way for resolution or reopen old wounds remains to be seen.

“Tomorrow is an important day,” said Vuelta a España race director Victor Cordero. “We are meeting with all the race organizers, the UCI and the teams to open a new road for the future of cycling. After all we’ve been through, we need to work together.”

The power struggle between the UCI and the grand tours over the ProTour format has left the sport divided. Introduced in 2005, the ProTour calendar was met with strong opposition from major race organizers and teams and races not included in the original 20-team, 26-race calendar.

Proponents say the ProTour would help modernize the sport, create stability in the racing calendar for teams and guarantee spots in the most important races.

Opponents insisted it created a closed system, marginalized teams and events outside the calendar and threatened race organizers’ bottom lines.

In the end, no common ground could be reached. Bitterness between the grand tours and the UCI ran so deeply that officials from the Tour de France and UCI were not even on speaking terms earlier this year.

The UCI appeared to be losing momentum in the face of growing resistance from unsatisfied teams and the grand tours, led by the powerful Amaury Sports Organization (ASO), which owns the Tour, Paris-Roubaix, Paris-Nice and other events.

Last fall, the UCI agreed to remove most of the major events, such as the Giro, Tour and Vuelta, along with other major one-day and weeklong stage races, and move forward with a reduced ProTour calendar.

In July, 17 of 18 ProTour teams voted to pull out en masse from the ProTour calendar to seek a “new system for organization of professional cycling.” Cycling federations from traditional European powerhouses such as Italy and France have also fought to ditch the ProTour calendar in favor of a new system for 2009.

UCI officials, however, continue to insist that some sort of world calendar will continue. Plans to expand into Russia with the Sonchi Tour next May are already in the works.

UCI president Pat McQuaid held a press conference in August during the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games to say that a new “UCI World Calendar” will be announced for the 2009 season.

McQuaid cited that talks with Marie-Odile Amaury, widow of ASO owner Philippe Amaury, have produced encouraging new dialogue between the major players. IOC president Jacques Rogge and former ASO president Jean-Claude Killy helped groom the way for discourse between McQuaid and high-level ASO officials.

The UCI is expected to unveil a major announcement during next week’s world road cycling championships in Varese, Italy.

Friday’s meeting could give a preview of what lies ahead.