By Gregor Brown in Nîmes
Following the news that all 18 member teams of the UCI's ProTour system will not renew their licenses next season, Gerolsteiner team manager Hans-Michael Holczer has said that whatever new model is formed in place of the ProTour must have the UCI on board. After the teams made their announcement on the Tour de France's first rest day in Pau, there were suggestions that the new group would be an alliance between the teams and the three Grand Tour organisers, leaving the UCI out in the cold.
Tuesday's meeting in the Pyrenees was the fourth of its kind in the past two months, following three others in June before the Tour began. The teams initially met in Frankfurt on June 4, followed by two further meetings in Brussels on June 18 and June 30.
"I gave a presentation about the situation and tried to find a common position," said Holczer of the Frankfurt meeting. "I am not a chairman, I am not the one who is pushing it, I am just the one who brought the 18 [ProTour] teams together in Frankfurt.
"We found out that we could have a common position and we came up with a model for continuing the ProTour," he added. "We invited the ASO [Tour de France organisers Amaury Sport Organisation] and ProTour to a meeting on the 18th in Brussels. We wanted to have them both, but it did not work. However, we gave the UCI the same presentation on the 30th.
"We found an agreement with the organisers and we are working on finding a common position with the UCI, because all the teams are 100 percent convinced that the UCI has to be in the system and that we need a federation in the system - we need a federal element in the system. No one is leaving the UCI, but the only thing is that we did inform the UCI that the 18 teams are not applying for ProTour licenses next year."
The group attending the Pau meeting sent a letter to the UCI making clear its collective decision to abandon the ProTour. The UCI has replied to this letter, but its official response has not been made public.
A "working group" will likely meet in Cuneo, Italy, on the Tour's second rest day consiting of five members: Holczer, Eva Parera of Euskaltel-Euskadi, Carsten Jeppesen of CSC-Saxo Bank, Vincent Lavenu of AG2R La Mondiale and Geert Coeman of Silence-Lotto. "We are not representatives, we are just a 'working group'," said Holczer. "We will present this information to everyone else."
Holczer pointed out that time is critical for the working group and the teams. They need to know what their racing schedules will look like for 2009, whether or not they have automatic invites for Grand Tours, how many riders they can have in their teams and many other details.
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'