By Gregor Brown
With three weeks left before the start of the 2008 Tour de France there are still riders who have not been paid their prize money from the 2007 edition. "We are still waiting for the payments from last year's Tour," noted President of the Association of Professional Cyclists (CPA), Cédric Vasseur. The retired Frenchman, who happens to have won a stage in last year's race, plans on meeting with Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme to discuss this and the recent vote on the use of race radios.
"Today, I got three riders who sent me an SMS asking 'where is the money from the Tour'," said Vasseur from his home in France, one of the few locations in Europe at this moment enjoying sunshine.
The CPA noted in April that only prizes related to the general classification had been paid, and only to foreign racers.
"I am also in the same situation," said Vasseur. "I won a stage last year and for the moment I have not seen one Euro of Tour prize money. We need to find an agreement with ASO [Amaury Sport Organisation, owner of the Tour de France - ed.] not to have this same situation again. I think in the future it will be better if the organiser signs a contract with the riders' organisation that the money comes straight away...within 90 days after the race, because that is the rule.
"I need to get in touch with him [Prudhomme] and fix it before the start to the next Tour," he added. "For sure, if we arrive in Brest and half of the bunch does not have the money then the riders will be unhappy."
Vasseur was proud of CPA's recent successful poll that revealed riders are for the use of race radios by some 70 percent. He emphasized that despite the results the CPA would welcome non-radio trial runs in the upcoming Tour.
"They [ASO - ed.] would like to try something new in the race, like a test," he said. "I told Christian Prudhomme that we would poll the riders regarding race radios.
"Most of them [riders - ed.] became professional after the existence of race radios in the peloton and they cannot imagine them not being there," he added.
He offered a different idea for ASO, involving less communication by its official radio – Radio Tour – in the opening hour of the stages. "We can preserve the security in keeping the race radio, but give less information in the first part of the race by Radio Tour," he said. "There will of course be riders in the break that give their directors information, but [without Radio Tour] it will take longer for everybody to get information – this will give more interest to the race. We could only give out safety information [via Radio Tour], like about flats and crashes. This would be a good middle ground."
Whether or not ASO would be open to the idea is yet to be seen, however, it would certainly add to the likelihood of escape groups forming in the critical moments of the Tour de France's stages.