UCI President Pat McQuaid will be forced to defend the ProTour in Belgium today with event organisers there calling for cycling's head honcho to either listen to their suggestions or face the threat of a rival European series. The Irishman is traveling to the Belgian Cycling Federation's (BWB) 125th anniversary celebrations, which will consist of a an academic sitting in Oudenaarde, where former Tour de France boss Jean-Marie Leblanc will also be in attendance.
Leading into today's discussions, Tour of Flanders chairman and BWB treasurer Louis de Laet called for McQuaid to start listening to the European organisers' calls to respect the sport's roots in the region. "If the Tour of Flanders wants to align itself with the three Grand Tours, what will remain of the ProTour after the ASO bought the Tour of Germany and the race in Hamburg?" de Laet said to HLN.be. "It's about time that Pat McQuaid listened to our suggestions. The UCI is killing cycling in Europe so that other continents, where they have few riders, can benefit. This is something that we can't allow to happen."
De Laet's calls follow years of fighting between the Grand Tour organisers and the world governing body. "We have had many meetings already with representatives from the three Grand Tours as well as the federations from Spain, France, Italy, Austria and Luxembourg," De Laet continued. "Great Britain wants to join as well but is reluctant out of respect for McQuaid. Also Switzerland will join soon. Slowly we are becoming strong enough to tear Europe away from the UCI. If they don't want to listen to us in Aigle it may go that far. I hope that we can convince McQuaid to drastically change the ProTour."