By Hedwig Kröner
The battle between the Grand Tour organisers, the national federations and the International Cycling Union (UCI) is moving into the next round. In a letter dated November 28, 2007, from the six most important European cycling federations (Austria, Belgium, Spain, Italy, France and Luxemburg) to the head of the UCI, Pat McQuaid, the national federations have made known their plans to let the 11 races owned by the Grand Tour organisers ASO, RCS Sport and Unipublic take place "simply on the basis of a convention acting in liaison with the Federation having territorial authority." The national federations would therefore collaborate with the Grand Tour organisers, effectively taking their side in the conflict, following a meeting with them on November 22.
At the end of September, the UCI decided to put all of these events except the Tour de France (Giro d'Italia, Vuelta a España, Milano-Sanremo, Paris-Roubaix, Liège-Bastogne-Liège, Giro di Lombardia, Flèche Wallonne, Paris-Nice, Tirreno-Adriatico and Paris-Tours) on the UCI Europe Tour calendar, which was perceived as a downgrade by the organisers, even though they were the ones that wanted to organise their races outside of the ProTour. (Read more about the decision's details in our Cycling News of September 28.)
In his response letter dated December 7, Pat McQuaid has refuted claims by the national federations. They stated that "the surprising combination which consists in maintaining a regulatory link between the Tour de France and the UCI Pro Tour, while at the same time downgrading the ten other events at European level, does not provide an appropriate or even a comprehensible solution to the conflict," noting that the present situation was of "extreme gravity".
"You must admit that the rights granted for example to the Giro, to the Vuelta and Liège- Bastogne-Liège, together with the obligations by which they will in future be governed in the UCI Europe Tour, in no way diminish their prestige and do not render their organization more difficult," McQuaid stated in his response letter. "These events will in fact be able to admit the teams of their own choice (UCI ProTeams, professional continental teams with the Wild Card Label and Continental Teams from the country concerned). There is therefore no reason to fear the consequences of what you regard as a downgrading. This fear, which seems to be more in the nature of a symbolic statement, leaves us perplexed when we consider your own intention of favouring the organization of these races at the national level."
Furthermore, the UCI president urged the national federations to respect the rules and regulations of the federative framework and not "favour the wishes of the organizers who refuse to respect the regulation. ... That attitude might indeed create a situation of extreme gravity in which the risk of a split would be very real because that would be its logical consequence."
McQuaid also noted that the six federations did not inform the UCI about their plans at the Congress held during the World Championships in Stuttgart, and finished, "The other federations, and the confederations, beginning with the European Cycling Union, will certainly be interested to learn that six of their colleagues have concluded a cooperation agreement to oppose the UCI, to organize a breach of its regulations, to renounce their obligations and loyalty laid down in the constitution for the benefit of private economic interests, to put part of the cycling heritage outside the family and finally to place the entire family under the guardianship of the ASO."
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'