Restates importance of ProTour
By Shane Stokes
UCI President Pat McQuaid has insisted that cycling needs to take a global view if the long-term success of the sport is to be guaranteed. The Irishman was reacting to the news earlier this week that the national federations of Austria, Belgium, Spain, France, Italy and Luxembourg had rejected the UCI ProTour while also expressing what they termed their "profound disagreement with the working methods of the UCI". They also called for the creation of a round table assembling all parties involved in the sport (UCI, AIOCC, CPA, AIGCP) in order to "find solutions which suit all, and not only a small core of persons at the UCI."
McQuaid played down the significance of their action when contacted by Cyclingnews late on Friday. "I am aware of what they said, but cycling is a global sport and if we don't take global attitude towards this sport it is a real problem," he argued. "Cycling cannot any longer just be dependent upon four or five countries, it must take a global attitude. The UCI is working globally with the sport and has to treat all federations with the same importance."
In recent months, relations between the UCI and the organisers of the Grand Tours of France, Spain and Italy have deteriorated. He said that he was convinced that this political battle is a large part of what is motivating the federations. "It is obvious that they are being driven and controlled by the organisers of the three Grand Tours. That is clear, because there are several references to their support of AIOCC’s position in the press communiqué that they put out.
"After all, the president of AIOCC [association of race organisers] is the organiser of the Vuelta and the two vice presidents are the organisers of the Tour de France and the Tour of Italy. It is a voice for the three Grand Tours, so to a large extent that takes away the credibility of AIOCC. And these federations are being controlled by them.
"The UCI is working ahead and going forward, dealing with the governance and regulation of the sport worldwide. We can't jump to the tune of self-appointed quasi groups such as this, even though they are important federations. Make no mistake about it, some of these federations are very important within the UCI. But this is a self-appointed group - so who do they represent? Each one is looking after their own interests, yet the UCI has to take the global interests of the whole sport into account."
Whilst the organisers of the three Grand Tours said that they wish to take their events out of the calendar, McQuaid insisted that the ProTour was both valid and crucial for the future success of the sport. He argued that the best way to ensure that cycling keeps pace with other global sports is to follow this path, and said that there was understanding within the cycling world of this.
"The UCI was recently visited by Bob Stapleton [T-Mobile general manager] and I was quite impressed by him. Here is a guy with a very strong business background, someone who sold a telecommunication company a few years back and made billions. He is very down to earth but is definitely a guy with a vision, and is someone who has a clear understanding of what we are trying to achieve with the ProTour.
"He has experience of these kind of things from seeing sport in the States, with the National Basketball Association and other setups there. He knows what the ProTour could do for cycling."
McQuaid said that the two also talked about another matter. "Myself and Bob Stapleton spoke about the future of the anti-doping fight, discussing with him what the T-Mobile team’s plans are and how it might link in with what the UCI is planning. We discussed the idea of trying to find a common anti-doping policy, which would be brought in and agreed upon by all of the teams. This would once again be leading the world in terms of anti-doping measures."