By Tim Maloney, European Editor
After a major meeting in Paris, the organizers of the three Grand Tours, A.S.O.(Tour de France), RCS (Giro d'Italia) and Unipublic have issued a strongly-worded communiqué stating their position on the ongoing negotiations with the UCI over the integration of their races with the ProTour in 2006. Perhaps provoked by a letter issued by UCI president Hein Verbruggen on July 2 that declared that the three Grand Tour organizers must conform their events to the ProTour calendar and rulebook by the end of July, the three organizers brought their top managers to the table Monday to discuss and review what they see as an ultimatum from Verbruggen. All the heavy hitters were there, including A.S.O.'s Philippe Amaury, Martin Desprez and Patrice Clerc. RCS had brought Aldo Bisio, Giacomo Catano and Angelo Zomegnan to the cycling summit meeting, with Ignacio Ayis and Victor Cordero representing Unipublic.
ASO, RCS and Unipublic declared that they still agreed with the general principle of reform for cycling, based on the concept of "the best racers of the best teams in the best races", despite the ultimatum of Verbruggen on the ProTour integration. All of the Grand Tour organizers expressed their mutual solidarity and outlined four key points to the UCI for discussion:
1) All parties should continue to work together, as they have been up until now, involving the teams in the discussions to find a way to reform cycling.
2) Find a reform that includes the legitimate concerns of all the members of the cycling family: racers, teams and organizers.
3) Protect the rights of key cycling organizations such the team's association (AIGCP), the riders' association (CPA) and the race organizers' association (AIOCC).
4) Look to find a solution in the short-term for a positive solution, based on recent meetings with all parties concerned, since the teams are already planning for the 2006 season.
Verbruggen and the UCI have not yet responded. As the polemics ratchet up another notch, at this point, no solution is in sight to bring the three Grand Tours into line with the ProTour for 2006.