Di Rocco "happy" with meetings
By Gregor Brown and Brecht Decaluwé in Treviso
The UCI and five national federations met Saturday morning in Treviso to address the issues regarding races organised by ASO, RCS Sport and Unipublic, which the federations threatened to hold outside the aegis of the UCI. The groups came away from the meeting with a decision to place the most prestigious events run by those three groups on a calendar separate from the UCI's European calendar.
The represented national federations agreed that the Grand Tours and four (of five) 'monuments' will comprise the new calendar: Tour de France, Giro d'Italia, Vuelta a España, Milano-Sanremo, Paris-Roubaix, Liège-Bastogne-Liège and Giro di Lombardia.
The International Cycling Union (UCI) Management Committee and UCI President Pat McQuaid met the presidents of the Belgian, French, Italian, Spanish and Luxembourg national federations to discuss the matter. Italian cycling federation (FCI) President Renato Di Rocco expressed his support for the creation of a 'special calendar' dedicated to races that make up cycling's heritage. "I'm happy," confirmed FCI President Di Rocco. "It was a good meeting. We're not in a war with the UCI. We didn't plan to step away from UCI. We're searching for the best possible solution.)
(Also read UCI seeks solution to federations row for more from the UCI.)
The heads of the national federations of Italy, France and Spain still need to meet with their respective Grand Tours to obtain their support for the calendar. While making this concession to the federations, McQuaid did not change his stance on his firm opinion that all ProTour teams should gain an automatic invitation to the Tour de France.
"All 18 ProTour teams have to take part in the Tour de France, the ASO can then add wildcard teams from the list of 12 who are using the biological passport system," McQuaid stated. "Only the Tour has to take the 18 ProTour teams, the other races on this new calendar can choose any team out of the 30 available teams," McQuaid continued, referring to the list of ProTour and Professional Continental teams which earned the special 'wild card' status by agreeing to the UCI's biological passport system.
The French Federation will speak with the organiser of the Tour de France, ASO. "There's no indication if ASO will accept this or not," McQuaid conceded.
Di Rocco said that the calendar will need some new terminology. "We asked that the races... remain at the first level, they are not ProTour. We have to decide on a name for these races, we said 'monuments' but this is like talking about a cemetery."
Di Rocco was content with the agreement as a step forward, but still shied away from the ProTour system. "You are not able to say that the UCI ProTour is the only is the only instrument to globalise cycling. There are other events, like the Tour de France, which has a huge media impact in the world... also the Giro d'Italia and the Vuelta a España.
"In Italy there are five nations that live all year here, including England and Australia," he continued. "I also believe that we are a part of this globalisation. We should not only think of the UCI as the marketing arm of cycling, even though we see growth in Australia [Tour Down Under] and [the Tour of] California – this is only a commercial activity of the UCI."
McQuaid remained optimistic about the future of the series, which is in its fourth year, "Yes, there is a future for the ProTour, it will keep developing. All races in the ProTour are important. There is a reason for the ProTour to stay. Robbie McEwen recently said at the Tour Down Under that 'there are no mokes in the ProTour. Every rider in the ProTour is a valuable rider.'"
He confirmed the calendar and his organisation's continued expansion outside of Europe. "The big races are the history of cycling and they help to develop the sport as well, even outside of Europe. With races like the Tour of China it is not our objective to fight the Vuelta, for example. We take these races in the ProTour from a marketing and commercial point of view."
The presidents of the national federations expressed hope that the race organisers would, for their part, respect the UCI ProTour and that today's 'special calendar' would help end the differences that followed from last fall's race reorganisation.
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'