UCI President says nothing is decided yet; ProTour fight not the issue
By Shane Stokes
Following Tuesdays news that the UCI has informed Vuelta a España chief race organiser Victor Cordero that the governing body is considering a possible shortening of the Grand Tour, President Pat McQuaid gave his thoughts on the subject. The Irishman has said that a full re-evaluation of the autumn calendar would be carried out before any decision would be made, and he also played down any speculation that this simply represented the latest round in the ongoing row between the UCI and the Grand Tour organisers.
"I have just spoken to [UCI ProTour manager] Alain Rumpf about this situation," said McQuaid, speaking to Cyclingnews by phone from Switzerland. He told Victor Cordero that the Tour of Germany is requesting to move into September, and the [Pro] teams are obviously interested in it because it means that they can do the Tour of Poland and then three or four days later, do Germany.
"Alain Rumpf also informed Victor Cordero that the length of the Vuelta is not unanimously supported by all the teams and the cycling world, and that the calendar working group will be taking this into account within their deliberations. Basically, he was saying to Mr. Cordero to be aware that there isn't a huge support for the Vuelta amongst the teams in its current format, as regards its length."
Judging by these comments, it seems that much more discussion will take place before any change. But if it is ultimately agreed that the Tour of Spain should be truncated, the obvious question is just how short would it be? After all, it is one of the three major stage races and has a long history as a three-week event.
When asked if it would be two weeks or two and a half weeks long, McQuaid however declined to be drawn on any specifics. "I don't know, he responded. Until such time as this is completely studied, a decision like that won't be made. It will be taken in the light of all sorts of things, including the [current anti-doping] audit, which is not going to be finished until six or nine month's time."
Given the ongoing tensions between the organisers of cyclings three Grand Tours and the UCI, some have speculated that the latters letter is part of this battle. McQuaid rejects this outright. "No, it is not," he states, appearing frustrated by such a suggestion. "Anyone who suggests that is doing it as an excuse to suit their own interests. Any decisions that the ProTour Council or the UCI takes are decisions taken objectively for the betterment of the sport."
"Look, the Tour of Germany has a big problem in August and German television has dictated that they want it to be outside of the period that it is currently in. So they [the organisers] have looked at September and that suits them better, and it also suits German television. You also have to remember that the Olympic Games in 2008 are in August. "
"In addition, it could benefit from the fact that that you would have the Tour of Poland and then the Tour of Germany after it, allowing teams to go from one race to the other."
McQuaid sees logic in a proposed move. "There are lots of practical reasons why it would be more suitable for the Tour of Germany to be in September rather than in August. I mean, as things currently stand, the Tour of Poland goes up against the Vuelta. So if there is another race on which clashes with the Tour of Spain it doesn't make a difference, because the riders that take part in the Tour of Poland currently do not ride the Vuelta anyway."
"This is not part of any fight between the Grand Tours and the UCI," he reiterated. "All we are trying to do is to try and create a balanced calendar for everybody and take everybody's interests into account."