The Tour Méditerranéen made headlines in France before even getting underway on February 9. Marc Madiot, manager the FDJ team and president of the French Cycling Ligue (LNC), accused the organiser of the stage race, Lucien Aimar, of breaking a contract by not having invited all of the French teams.
In a line-up of 16 squads, three French teams (Big Mat, Roubaix, Saur-Sojasun) were sidelined to give race entries to foreign squads. Madiot claimed that the Tour Med sealed a three-year deal with the LNC in January 2009, in which the organiser committed to inviting all of the French teams to his race, after receiving financial support when the race was in peril.
"When the Tour Med was in a difficult situation, it was able to count on the support of the League," Madiot told AFP. "I was one of those who defended it. Today, I feel cheated.
"BigMat-Auber 93 team manager Stéphane Javalet has been fighting for his team for 20 years, but what can he do if the organisers won't allow him to enter competitions? It is time for greater transparency in the sport. In France, French teams must be protected."
On the other side, race co-organiser Claude Escalon said that the deal did exist, but not for 2011. A meeting on January 6 between the opposed parties did not bear any fruit. "We had an agreement with the Ligue these past three years to invite all French teams but nothing obliged us to it this year," said Escalon. "We received over 50 team candidacies, so there will always be disappointment."
The UCI Cat. 2.1 race, whose regular highlight is the ascent of the Mont Faron above Toulon, is a traditional and popular race in the cycling world but has been in financial troubles these last few years.
The invited teams for the 2011 event are: Sky, FDJ, Bretagne Schuller, Ag2r, Katusha, Skil-Shimano, Europcar, Garmin-Cervélo, Miche, Cofidis, Acqua & Sapone, Movistar, Saxo Bank, Endura Racing, Vacansoleil and VC La Pomme Marseille.