The head of the teams association is caught in the middle of the political battle on the ProTour
By Hedwig Kröner
The conflict surrounding the ProTour, the International Cycling Union's (UCI) reform of the road cycling calendar, started in the beginning of 2004. Four years ago, when the sport's world governing body announced its plans for the Formula 1 of cycling, the French race organiser Amaury Sports Organisation (ASO) already protested against the series, and it was not alone to do so. The project created polemics within all sides involved in pro cycling: race organisers, national federations, sponsors and, last but not least, the teams.
The most important representative of the ProTour teams at the moment is Frenchman Eric Boyer, Cofidis' team manager and head of the Association Internationale des Groupes Cyclistes Professionnels (AIGCP), who admitted to Cyclingnews' Hedwig Kröner that his job in the teams association hasn't been easy since he took the reins at the beginning of this year. Especially, since the power struggle between UCI and ASO escalated prior to Paris-Nice, with UCI president Pat McQuaid threatening the teams and riders with suspensions, should they take part in the race, which was sanctioned by the French cycling federation (FFC).
"I'm going to lose my health over this, if it continues in this way," Boyer told Cyclingnews in Nice. "I don't want to take sides in this battle. I don't want to judge the parties involved – I want to be completely independent. I want the UCI and the organisers to understand that we [the teams] exist, and that we're not a ping pong ball between the two sides."
Boyer, a former team-mate of Greg Lemond at Team Z in the early nineties, was firm to address the main objective of the teams, and the biggest reason they did not give in to the pressure exerted by the UCI, but chose to take the start line of the event organised by ASO: "We want to race. We have our employers, the sponsors; we have employees, the riders. We exist to race, nothing else..."
But although this sounds as if it was self-evident, it is actually the bottom line of a "very complicated, and very difficult" attempt to unite all of the 17 ProTour teams (out of 20) the AIGCP represents. On one hand, team managers bought a ProTour license which was to guarantee them automatic entry to the most important races – something the Grand Tour organisers are adamant about – and on the other, they have to explain this standoff situation to their sponsors, who pay them to produce high-valued media exposure. According to their target audiences in different countries, the interests of the teams can be quite different to one another.
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