News feature, November 26, 2005
Following an interview conducted in La Provence earlier this week, UCI president Pat McQuaid clarified on Friday the governing body's position regarding the future of the ProTour series. Speaking to Cyclingnews' Shane Stokes, McQuaid corrected suggestions that two rival circuits could be in place in 2007.
"There is a bit of confusion in one or two articles [since the La Provence interview] as they mention a separate circuit will be put in place," he stated. "To clarify, there is not going to be a separate circuit, there is going to be a separate world calendar. There will only be one circuit, so to speak, which will be the ProTour."
McQuaid had made the headlines in recent days when he suggested that the ongoing standoff between cycling's world governing body and the organisers of the three Grand Tours could result in the ProTour continuing without their events in 2007. When the Irishman took office two months ago he was hopeful that the fresh start would enable the difficulties surrounding the new series to be resolved, but after some initially positive discussions, the UCI was known to have been deeply frustrated by ASO's stance during the launch of the 2006 Tour de France route.
"It has proven to be a success and we will continue to work on it." - UCI president Pat McQuaid will continue to develop the ProTour, with or without the support of ASO
ASO and the other Grand Tour organisers have expressed their dissatisfaction with several aspects of the ProTour as it currently stands. Two of the issues thought to be concerned are the lack of a system of promotion and relegation which would enable teams to move up from cycling's first division, and also the small number of wildcard places available.
McQuaid said that the UCI is still willing to sit down and discuss the ProTour with the Grand Tour organisers, but that greater flexibility would need to be shown on their part. "They are going to have to get off the fence. At the moment they are not prepared to budge an inch," he stated, pointing out that ASO president Patrice Clerc had said at the Tour presentation that they would refuse to be part of the ProTour as it currently stands.
With hope fading that a compromise can be worked out between all concerned, the possibility is growing that the UCI will run the ProTour without these events in 2007. McQuaid concedes that the series would lose a bit of its lustre without high profile races such as the Tour de France, Giro d'Italia, the Vuelta and Paris-Roubaix. However he feels that, in time, this would become less of an issue. "There is a lot of potential to develop the ProTour. There is a lot of very positive enthusiasm for the ProTour amongst the teams and amongst the riders. If the ProTour has to develop in a certain direction, we have got the support to do so," he insisted.
Cyclingnews: What is the current situation in the talks with ASO, the other Grand Tour organisers, and the ProTour?
Pat McQuaid: Well, the talks stopped after the Tour de France presentation because, during that presentation, Patrice Clerc stated that he doesn't agree with the ProTour concept and that he will never enter into the ProTour as it is currently set up. There is not much point in talking when you are up against a rigid attitude like that. So I called a meeting of the ProTour Council, and the council has discussed this and are very angry with the way that things have developed. They are very annoyed and are prepared to move on... As I said in the La Provence article, the UCI is now starting to work on a separate calendar.
There is a bit of confusion in one or two articles as they mention a separate circuit will be put in place. To clarify, there is not going to be a separate circuit, there is going to be a separate world calendar. There will only be one circuit, so to speak, which will be the ProTour circuit.
CN: Is the problem just with ASO-run events, or with each of the Grand Tour organisers?
PMcQ: No, it is all three.
CN: I think it is fair to say that the ProTour won't have the same lustre without those events?
PMcQ: Initially, no. But there is a lot of potential to develop the ProTour and there is a lot of very positive enthusiasm for the ProTour amongst the teams and amongst the riders. If the ProTour has to develop in a certain direction, we have got the support to do so. They would still ride the other events, but in that situation they wouldn't be obligated to ride the other events. They all want to ride the Tour de France anyway, but they wouldn't be obliged to ride the Tour of Italy or the Tour of Spain, or any of ASO's one-day events.
It is just something we have to work on. We will work on that, and we will work on the ProTour as a concept. It has proven to be a success and we will continue to work on it.
CN: While the Tour de France is the biggest event in cycling, it seems quite possible that events such as the Tour of Italy and the Tour of Spain would potentially lose out by not being part of the ProTour. After all, if they were not part of it, there would be no obligation for all the big teams to ride...
PMcQ: Yes, that would be my assumption. They would lose out... I think they [Giro and Vuelta] need the ProTour, in actual fact.
CN: So what happens next year?
PMcQ: There is a status quo next year, things continue like they did this season. As I said in the La Provence article, in order to work out a new calendar and a new structure, it will take time. It is not something that you could to do in a week or a month or anything like that. You have got to consider qualifying for the Olympic games, qualifying for the world championships - in fact, the IOC are currently waiting for our qualification system for the Beijing Olympics. So those things all have to be considered, along with what would be a ProTour calendar and a world calendar.
We have to work out how they all fit in, the points ranking and things like that. The UCI has to revamp all of that; it is not something you can do in a couple of weeks. So we are looking at 2007, if that situation does indeed come about.
CN: Is there a chance that things might yet be resolved?
PMcQ: There is always a chance. I would always have hope that it could be done, but at this stage it would take movement from the three organisers to sort it out. They are going to have to get off the fence; at the moment they are not prepared to budge an inch. I would like to think that there would be a possibility of it being sorted, but we will see.
CN: You have been UCI president for two months now. What other things have you been concentrating on?
PMcQ: Well, the ProTour has been the biggest issue. The other stuff that I have been working on is the Continental calendars and the likes of the National Training Centres that the UCI are opening up in places like the Ukraine and Moldavia. But most of my work has been getting to grips with the administration. I am putting in 11 hour days in the office and much of that is purely administration. It is the whole administration of dealing with WADA and so forth, so there is quite a bit involved.
Cyclingnews' recent coverage of the ProTour-Grand Tours split
October 4, 2008 - New ASO chief to maintain values
September 26, 2008 - UCI declares peace, appoints new VP
August 30, 2008 - UCI re-signs five ProTour races
August 22, 2008 - ProTour: Bouncing back or lame duck?
August 19, 2008 - Stapleton analyses 'world calendar'
August 18, 2008 - Feedback on 'world calendar'
August 18, 2008 - UCI announces 'world calendar'