In what may been seen as a further attempt to distance themselves from the UCI ProTour, the three Grand Tour organisers have released a new selection criteria for their eleven principal races that are currently part of the ProTour calendar.
The joint statement from ASO, RCS Sport and Unipublic, released Tuesday, begins: "All attempts at reconciliation with the Union Cycliste Internationale have ended due to the refusal of the latter to return to an open sporting model, and not wishing to see their events being part of a closed system called the 'UCI ProTour', RCS Sport, ASO and Unipublic, organisers of the three Grand Tours, had to define the conditions of participation, as from 2007, with their principal events."
The eleven races concerned are Paris-Nice, Tirreno-Adriatico, Milano-San Remo, Paris-Roubaix, Flèche Wallonne, Liège-Bastogne-Liège, Giro d'Italia, Tour de France, Vuelta a España, Paris-Tours and Giro di Lombardia.
Instead of the current system where all 20 ProTour teams qualify automatically, the Grand Tour organisers are proposing the following:
- From 2008, 16 teams will qualify automatically, based on criteria still under development, but mainly performances over the previous two seasons. The details of these criteria will be announced before March 1, 2007, after consultation with the teams and riders.
- For the 2007 season, the 18 teams currently holding ProTour licences will qualify automatically.
- It will not be compulsory for teams to compete in all eleven races, provided they inform the organiser before December 31 of the previous year.
- Each race organiser reserves the right to refuse participation to any rider or team staff member who may harm the image of the race.
- The organiser of each race will be able to invite wildcards. For each Grand Tour, they must be allocated at least three months prior to the start, while the total number of teams must not exceed 22 in 2007 and 20 from 2008 onwards.
It's possible the 'right to refuse participation' could see the Grand Tour organisers join the growing movement of events refusing to allow riders implicated in the Operación Puerto investigations to compete in their events.