By Shane Stokes
UCI President Pat McQuaid has chosen to play down today's announcement by Patrice Clerc that the organisers of cycling's three major Tours would never join the ProTour. Clerc spoke to reporters prior to Saturday's time trial at the Tour de France, saying that there would be no further discussions with the UCI on the matter.
"My primary reaction would be that I do not wish to get into a war of words over the airwaves with Patrice Clerc," McQuaid told Cyclingnews on Saturday evening. "I think that he has enough on his plate at the moment, given that people like Dick Pound have come out recently and said that his event is in the toilet. I feel that Patrice Clerc should be dealing with that issue rather than worrying about the ProTour and the discussions on it."
The Irishman was keen to clear up talk about a lack of recent communication on the subject. "I've heard suggestions that the last time I had discussions on the ProTour was when I was down to see the Spanish authorities back in May. That is completely incorrect," he asserts. "We actually spoke the Monday before the Tour, myself and Patrice Clerc sitting down for three hours in a meeting in Brussels. That was prior to another meeting I had that afternoon with Christian Prudhomme and Patrick Lefevere, about what we would do if and when the list of names [relating to Operación Puerto] came to us. So it's totally wrong to say that there hasn't been talks of late."
McQuaid said that the tone of that ProTour-themed meeting last Monday week was amicable but that no solution was met. However, he suggested that Clerc should be thankful for at least one element of the new system.
"I think he can be grateful to the UCI ProTour as it was because of the ProTour and the Code of Ethics that the decision was able to taken last Friday to exclude the riders implicated in the doping affair," he continued. "Under UCI rules and also under the rules of every other Federation out there, we cannot sanction a rider unless he has been proven guilty. Neither can the Tour de France. At the end of the day, the UCI ProTour teams' Code of Ethics meant that the teams were the only ones who were in a position to do it. They met their responsibility and did just that. Therefore I think he can be thankful to the UCI ProTour that that happened."
As regards the future, McQuaid didn't want to be drawn just yet on what direction the ProTour will head now. However his concluding comment seems to suggest that this matter may be far from closed. "The final point I would like to make is that the UCI is the governance of cycling. It regulates the calendar. And it will continue to do so in the future."
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'