An interview with Patrice Clerc
Amid the flurry of planning that goes on this time of year, one important bit of negotiating for the 2008 season has stalled out completely, and it's perhaps the most important one facing the sport: the relations between the UCI and the Tour de France organisers, Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO). Cyclingnews' Hedwig Kröner caught up with ASO president Patrice Clerc about the UCI/ASO battle and found that the only thing going on between the two organisations is tension.
2007 has been a turbulent season for professional cycling: from the ongoing Operación Puerto fall-out bringing down stars like Jan Ullrich and Ivan Basso, to the battle over Alejandro Valverde's participation at the World Championships, to doping confessions and tell-all accounts by current and former professionals, to doping positives and 'non-negatives' springing up throughout the season, and the whole Unibet.com debacle - it's been a rough year. But perhaps equally as dangerous to the future of the sport is the dissolving relationship between the Grand Tour (GT) organisers and the sport's governing body, the UCI.
The UCI and Grand Tour organisers came into conflict with the conception of the ProTour, and the tensions have only risen with this three year old series. The GT's complained about being forced into having their races as part of a series and told which teams they could invite, while the UCI struggled to maintain control over the fledgling concept. After two years of polemics, the battle came to a head before the first ProTour race of the season, Paris-Nice, nearly stopping the ProTour in its tracks when the ASO threatened to run the race under sanctioning of the French Cycling Federation.
The ASO had refused to formally invite UCI president Pat McQuaid to the Tour even before it sat in shock while watching its crowning glory, the Tour de France, be tainted by several unheard-of scandals, but the sequence of events during the Tour only served to make matters worse. After all, the bearer of the maillot jaune was expelled from the race for whereabouts discrepancies which the UCI was well aware of, and the doping positive of Patrik Sinkewitz would have become public while he was racing the Tour had he not crashed out first. The resulting withdrawal by German television of its live broadcast was another slap in the face for the ASO, which values its television contracts quite highly.
To read the full interview with ASO President Patrice Clerc, click here.