By Jean-François Quénet in Plumelec
In a press conference scheduled on Tuesday in Paris, it will likely be announced that the Tour de France, just like Paris-Nice this year, will be organized for the first time ever under the French cycling federation (FFC) without being sanctioned by the UCI.
FFC president Jean Pitallier confirmed the news at the GP of Plumelec. "No convention has been signed as for now", he underlined. "But the minister will be at the meeting, so I presume I have to be there as well." The conference will regroup ASO, the organizer of the Tour de France, the French secretary of sport Bernard Laporte and the president of the French anti-doping agency (AFLD) Pierre Bordry.
Therefore, the fight between ASO and the FFC on one side, the UCI on the other will continue in the next few weeks, Pitallier reckoned. "I heard a new disciplinary procedure is going on against me by the UCI, but they have already cut my head and I have only one, so what else can they do?"
On Friday, both ASO and the UCI were received separately by the board of the FFC to explain their respective views on the same matter: the refusal by ASO to be imposed by the UCI that the 18 Pro Tour teams have to ride the Tour de France. Unanimously, the board voted in support of Pitallier.
"Since the UCI refuses the round table with all parties about the inscription of the Tour de France on the calendar of the historical monuments of cycling, there's no possible dialogue", Pitallier explained. "I cannot apply for the inscription of a race without the consent of its organizer. The UCI also pretends that I could refuse to sanction a race organized by ASO but I can't because it's an instruction by our Ministry of Sport. I can only respect what the French government tells me to do."
In the short term, Pitallier is not afraid of an eventual ban of the FFC by the UCI. "They cannot ban our athletes from the Olympics", he said. "They have no power for that and [IOC president] Jacques Rogge has already taken position. He doesn't want French athletes to be the victims of the war between the UCI and ASO. The UCI could only have prevented our athletes to qualify for the Beijing Olympics, had they been banned from the world championships, but it's too late now. The track and BMX World's have taken place already and our athletes have qualified."
The debate also concerns rumors about ASO's intentions to create another international federation. "Such will doesn't exist at all", Pitallier insisted. "But the UCI might pave the way to something like that, should they ban the FFC."