Sandy Casar has admitted that FDJ’s absence from the WorldTour has made it difficult for the team’s riders to draw up their race programme. The triple Tour de France stage winner was also critical of the UCI’s failure to outline clearly their criteria for awarding ProTeam licences.
“It’s a big problem for us,” Casar told Cyclingnews. “Our sponsor signed on for another four years and put more money in and gave us a bigger budget in order to be at ProTour level, but as of today, I only know my programme as far as Paris-Nice. It’s making it a bit complicated for us riders to have a proper programme established for the rest of the season.”
As expected, FDJ successfully secured a wildcard berth at the Tour de France, but they are still not guaranteed a place at a number of the spring’s biggest events.
“We know that we’re doing certain Classics, but we don’t know if we’re doing the Tour of the Basque Country for instance,” Casar said. “So with all that and a roster of 27 riders because we were set up to do ProTour, it’s a bit complicated to find races for all the riders.”
One of the teams that secured a ProTeam licence ahead of FDJ was Vacansoleil-DCM, which includes Riccardò Riccò and Ezequiel Mosquera in its line-up. Riccò is alleged to have confessed to blood doping after being hospitalised with kidney problems, while Mosquera returned a positive test for hydroxyethyl starch at last year’s Vuelta a España and is awaiting to hear if he will be sanctioned.
Casar is critical of the fact that the criteria used by the UCI to draw up its ranking of ProTeam applicants has not been made public and that FDJ have no way of knowing how precisely they can win back their place at cycling’s top table ahead of the 2012 season.
“We don’t know how they drew up the classification, there didn’t seem to be any rules,” Casar said. “Even now we don’t know the rules or what we have to do to get back into the ProTour next year.
“It’s not normal. The season has already started, so we should know all the regulations. In any other sport or activity there are rules that you are made aware of before participating. I think that’s a big, big problem in cycling.”
Casar believes that the current impasse over the use of radio earpieces in the professional peloton is another reflection of the UCI’s failure to communicate its policies clearly to riders and teams.
“They don’t listen to all of the parties involved and then they decide as it suits them,” Casar said.
Paris-Nice and Tour de France stages
While Casar and his FDJ teammates must wait a little longer before drawing up detailed programmes for the latter stages of the year, the Frenchman has one overriding objective in the opening weeks of the season, Paris-Nice. He finished second behind Alexandre Vinokourov in 2002, and began his build-up to the race by clocking up the miles at the Tour of Qatar. He will also take part in the Tour of Oman, beginning on Tuesday.
“The main objective for me is Paris-Nice for the moment,” Casar told Cyclingnews. “I didn’t have any particular objectives for Qatar, as it’s a race for the sprinters and the rouleurs. But it’s useful as a way of getting in the kilometres and also as training for riding in echelons, which is a bit of a weakness for me.”
Casar is always a redoubtable performer in the white heat of July, and the Tour de France will once again be the centrepiece of his summer. Rather than attempting to better his highest overall placing of 11th (obtained in 2009), Casar will seek to add to his tally of three stage victories.
“The main aim at the Tour will again be to try and win stages and do something special,” he said. “Afterwards, if the circumstances of the race and team allow it, we’ll see where we are in the general classification, but for now I’m only thinking about stage wins.”