Last week the Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO) announced it had acquired a 49 percent share of Unipublic, the organiser of the Vuelta a España, and speaking in Madrid on Friday, ASO general manager Patrice Clerc outlined some of the changes which may unfold as a result of the partnership.
Clerc promised that the Vuelta would keep its character, but said he wanted to elevate the status of the Vuelta. "For ASO, the Tour is a monument. We do not want a Tour de France in Spain. The Tour has its own personality, richness and specificity. We want the Vuelta achieve international recognition it deserves," said Clerc., according to Europa Press.
Vuelta director Victor Cordero did not rule out a change in the race's position on the calendar, although he did say that any change would not occur before 2011. "We are open to a reconsideration of the calendar. It is one of the main problems of cycling," he said.
The cycling calendar has fallen into "complete chaos," according to Clerc. The ASO and Unipublic, together with Giro d'Italia organiser RCS Sport have long rallied against the UCI's ProTour, objecting to rules which forced them to invite all of the ProTour teams - especially when the number of teams grew to 20.
After three long years of fighting, the UCI capitulated and removed the Grand Tours from the UCI ProTour calendar, proposing instead a special calendar which would consist of the three organisations' events.
The UCI would not, however, back down on insisting that all 18 ProTour teams be invited to the Tour de France, and indeed, the ASO went so far as to exclude the team of last year's winner, Astana. That same requirement was not imposed upon the Giro or Vuelta.
"The UCI has wanted to impose a particular system and we have requested that since the Giro and the Vuelta are in their calendar, that they have the same conditions," Clerc explained. "The international calendar is a complete chaos. There will be a day when the right wins the battle over madness and, at that time, it may reconsider the issue," Clerc continued.
Clerc said that the two sides have been close to an agreement several times, and that the fight with the UCI should have ended long ago. "If these energies had been designed to promote cycling, it would be the top sport on this planet," he said.
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'