By Gregor Brown in Digne-les-Bains
Team CSC and Columbia general managers, Bjarne Riis and Bob Stapleton, are upset that the International Cycling Union (UCI) is pushing legal action against teams not renewing their licenses for 2009 in the wake of reports of a newly forming teams' organisation. "They should try to take advantage of the fact that teams are working together – one of the few times that this happen. They should engage on solutions and not on negative comments and pushing people further apart," Stapleton said to Cyclingnews following stage 14 of the Tour de France.
The International Cycling Union (UCI) responded strongly to the announcement of ProTour teams not renewing for 2009. The UCI stated in a letter to the nine ProTour teams up for renewal (CSC not included) that they face "breach of contract" that "causes enormous material and moral damage to the UCI.
The UCI wrote that it would seek compensation from the nine teams – Astana, AG2R, Columbia, Milram, Gerolsteiner, Caisse d'Epargne, Lampre, Liquigas and Saunier Duval – for any loss of sponsor and/or television revenues.
"That is highly contentious," Stapleton said of the UCI's promise to sue. "No one likes to hear those sorts of things and it is hard not to react personally to those things. I am looking past it because I believe there are people in the UCI who want to do good things."
The new teams' organisation would like to have the UCI involved in the new system, and Stapleton agreed. "I believe there has to be an international body with international rules and law, and an international anti-doping programme that covers everybody," he said. "I think there is a real role and I would like to see them there. We have to get the groups together on governance, a uniform stance on anti-doping and a structure to the sport that fans are enthusiastic about."
Riis disagrees with the UCI's hardline tactic, although his team would not face legal action. "That is not the way to do it. It will be very difficult for them," Riis said to Cyclingnews. "I think the UCI has to come to the same table as us and discuss solutions instead of just problems."
Riis added his support to getting the UCI on board. "I would like to have the UCI involved," he said. "I am favour of everyone finding solutions, which is what the sport needs. The ProTour does not matter, it is just important that everyone is finding solutions."
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'