By Shane Stokes
The UCI has been pushing the ProTour series since its introduction in 2005, but that finally unravelled when all 17 teams said they would not continue with ProTour licences.
It was clear for quite some time that the battle between the UCI and Tour de France organisers ASO - and, to a lesser extend, the other two Grand Tour organisers - was reaching the point of no return. However Tuesday's news came as a shock to many and, according to UCI President Pat McQuaid, sets things up for a very worrying time ahead.
"It is not a particular surprise to us that this has happened, following the meeting we had with the teams in Brussels two weeks ago," he told Cyclingnews. "It proves once again that what we have been saying about ASO's strategy is correct.
"First of all, they take their own races out of the UCI, and now they are encouraging or forcing the teams to go outside the UCI as well," he added. "I think that these teams have a responsibility to the sport and to the future of the sport, and not just themselves at the moment. However they are only thinking purely of their own situation today, and that is a very short-sighted approach."
McQuaid feels that chaos could ensue following the team's decision. "There are big possible ramifications of this," he said. "They [the teams] say that they have done a deal with ASO and the other two big organisers. The thing is, if they pull down the ProTour, they then become Pro Continental teams next year. All the events that are currently in the ProTour will go into the Europe Tour, and they have a responsibility to those events. Some of those events will obviously disappear because their profile will go, those events will disappear off the calendar altogether.
"These teams need to think of the responsibilities they have to those organisers, rather than just thinking of themselves," he added. "They have a responsibility to the rest of the sport, and they are not doing that. The ramifications in a year or two is that ASO will be selecting the teams for the Tour de France out of a possible 30 or 40 Pro Continental teams. So where are half of these teams gone then?"
McQuaid said that it was too soon for the UCI to respond. However, he said that if teams go outside the national federations and ride unsanctioned events, that they could find themselves excluded from all the races on the UCI calendar. This would include World Championships and Olympic Games, although it would not start until 2009 meaning participation in August's Olympic Games in Beijing, China won't be upset.