By Hedwig Kröner
The president of Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO), Patrice Clerc, organiser of the Tour de France, has expressed bewilderment at the recent statements of the head of the International Cycling Union (UCI), Pat McQuaid. In an interview with Cyclingnews' Shane Stokes, McQuaid said that the UCI had never made a statement claiming that it didn't want the three Grand Tours in the ProTour, yet Clerc was baffled when asked him about it.
"I'm utterly perplexed at this statement," Clerc told Cyclingnews earlier this week. "They have to have a minimum of consistency here! We have received a number of letters in which the UCI tells us that it was putting an end to the talks [of adherence to the much-discussed UCI ProTour series, which the organisers of the three Grand Tours have now definitely rejected - ed]. I don't understand how they can say that they wanted us in the ProTour now. They proposed to put our races into the World calendar in 2007, and we decided this would be the case already in 2006, as the continuation of the status quo seemed useless to us."
In Clerc's opinion, the creation of the "Trophy of the three Grand Tours" is an incentive for the teams to take part in all three stage races, and by no means the attempt "to buy the participation of the best teams," as it has been put in a communiqué from the world's cycling governing body. "It's a system of incentive for the teams, we are not buying them in!" Clerc pointed out. "That's exactly the point: we do not buy the teams, they are free to come or not to come! The UCI was the one who told us in one of these letters that the participation of the teams could be 'negotiated', but we are doing the exact opposite - we invite them to come."
Clerc did not refute the authority of the UCI, which has to still approve the "Trophy of the three Grand Tours", but said he wouldn't understand if the UCI refused to authorize it. "The UCI is the only thing managing global cycling, as we are organisers of racing events. But that's exactly what we ask for: to be able to do just that. The UCI had planned to put our races in the World calendar alongside the ProTour series, the World's and the Olympics, and that's where they are now. I can't see why they wouldn't like the 'Trophy of the three Grand Tours' - it's a good thing for cycling," he concluded, adding,"The former president of the UCI once said that the ProTour would go on with or without the Grand Tours. Well, that's that. I wish them good luck."
Stay tuned for the full interview with Patrice Clerc coming up soon on Cyclingnews.
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'