The UCI ProTour Council (UPTC) has met again at the offices of the Italian Cycling Federation, in Milano, Italy, on Thursday, March 16. In a press statement, the organising committee of the ProTour has announced that it "confirmed the decision taken in September 2005 to adopt a system aiming to a progressive renewal of Team licences and allowing candidates to apply each year, which corresponds to the proposals formulated more recently by the organisers of the Grands Tours."
The UPTC also announced that it would conduct an in-depth study on the distribution of wild cards "in order to avoid possible inequalities". Moreover, a "Development" work group has been appointed to study the introduction of a "Promotional Calendar".
Finally, the UPTC confirmed that for the period of 2007-2008, the ProTour calendar and participation rules would remain the same as the 'status quo' decided in Madrid in September 2005; the smallest possible consensus between the world governing body of cycling and the organisers of the three Grand Tours, who recently saw their plans to create a new "Trophy of the three Grand Tours" rejected by the UCI.
When contacted by Cyclingnews at the end of February, the president of Tour de France organiser ASO did not want to comment on the current state of affairs, saying that "there are important discussions with the sponsors now, and it would not be productive to talk to the media at this time." In its statement, the UCI ProTour Council now "noticed with satisfaction the report on the discussions launched by the Team Sponsors with the involved parties."
It would seem that the team sponsors, which are paying considerable license fees to be within the ProTour, are now exerting their influence in the power struggle between the UCI and the three Grand Tours - a clash commonly believed to be mainly about the attribution of television and image rights.