By Tim Maloney, European Editor
Two recent meetings between the UCI and the Grand Tour organisers over the last weeks may have resulted in some progress towards an agreement that will bring both parties together for 2006. On July 26 in Aigle, Switzerland, and then on July 29 in Paris, meetings between Mr. Martin Desprez, Vice Chairman of Editions Amaury and Patrice Clerc, President of A.S.O., which represented Groupe Amaury, RCS and Unipublic, as well as Hein Verbruggen, President of the UCI, have resulted in the following points, which now have to be reviewed by the ProTour teams before moving forward to a final agreement. But now after a year of conflicts between the UCI and the Grand Tour organisers over the ProTour, various elements have evolved from these recent discussions that look promising.
1) From 2006 on, there will be only one calendar, for elite "UCI ProTour", and no trademark or brand will be attached to the UCI ProTour calendar. This UCI ProTour calendar will be made up of race organisers who have current ProTour licenses as established in 2004, as well as associated organisers. Grand Tour organisers will now be included in the UCI ProTour as associated organisers, as soon as an agreement is made with the ProTour teams.
2) UCI ProTour associated organisers will:
A) Allow their races to be part of the UCI ProTour and via their national federation, will enrol their races in the UCI ProTour, with the dates remaining as they are in 2005.
B) The Grand Tour organisers will be solely responsible for the organisation of their events.
C) The Grand Tour organisers retain all rights to their brands, and this encompasses the rights of the organisers to exclude any ProTour team, but within the context of the UCI’s action against doping or any UCI regulations.
D) The Grand Tour organisers will determine the brands that will appear on the four leaders jerseys in each of their races.
E) The various brands of each associated Grand Tour organiser can not just be used by anyone. The participation in a program marketing is not obligatory and no pooling of commercial and TV rights of the associated Grand Tour organisers is envisaged.
F) Grand Tour organisers have requested of the UCI to consider the need for promoting a spirit of entrepreneurship which is at the origin of cycling, and to better associate all the key players in the process.
G) ASO, RCS and UNIPUBLIC will willingly work with the UCI and the various families of cycling on the development of cycling in general and the UCI in particular, with the following elements: A gradual return to a maximum number of 18 teams having a UCI ProTour license, limited to 3 years with the creation of a system where licences can change year to year. A reorganisation of the UCI ProTour classification so that the best teams of the continental circuit can gain access the UCI ProTour (so a 19th ProTour licence could be given to the winner of the European Continental circuit).
3) The Grand Tours want to have 4 wild card teams included in their races (or 3 wild card teams if a 19th team has a one year licence).
ASO, RCS and Unipublic are ready to find an agreement before the end of 2005 with the UCI and the ProTour teams on current communiqué. Next steps are to have the ProTour teams review the proposed changes in the UCI ProTour, which may be adopted as soon as late September at the World Championships in Madrid, Spain.