By Jean-François Quénet in Stuttgart
Following UCI president Pat McQuaid's announcement that France could face penalties up to a ban from taking part in the Olympic Games in Beijing next year if the French cycling federation steps in to sanction the Tour de France rather than the UCI, French riders selected for the World's in Stuttgart protested firmly. "Is the UCI saying that mountain biker Julien Absalon or our track riders would be excluded from the Olympics because of their fight with ASO? It's a total nonsense," Thomas Voeckler stated.
"As bike riders, we are totally helpless in front of all these political controversies," the winner of GP Plouay added. "I don't have in mind an episode when bike riders have been questioned or associated with the debate over the conflict between ASO and the UCI. We don't want to say who is right and who isn't. We just want to be able to take part in the best races. We want to go to the Tour Down Under in Australia, we also want to go to Le Tour de Langkawi in Malaysia, no matter who organizes these beautiful races."
The president of the French cycling federation Jean Pitallier confirmed that "a split is in the making" with the other powerful national federations in Europe. "These problems occur because [former UCI president] Hein Verbruggen is pulling the strings," he told the French radio reporters.
In the face of these protests, McQuaid backed down from the threat to ban the French cyclists from the Olympics. "It's a complicated question," he said. "If the French federation goes against the UCI rules, we'll have to take action but I can't tell you what kind of action. I'm not a lawyer and we have to speak with our lawyers to figure out how far we can go."