By Shane Stokes
With no end in sight to the clash between the UCI and the organisers of the three Grand Tours, the governing body announced on Tuesday that it is to make a formal complaint about the matter to the European Commission. The two have been at loggerheads over the ProTour, with the Grand Tour organisers announcing on December 12th that they were taking their events out of the series and introducing their own selection criteria for races such as the Tour de France, Giro d'Italia and Vuelta a España.
At the time their joint statement rejected the ProTour on the grounds that they considered the series too restrictive. "All attempts at reconciliation with the Union Cycliste Internationale have ended due to the refusal of the latter to return to an open sporting model," said the press release. "Not wishing to see their events being part of a closed system called the 'UCI ProTour', RCS Sport, ASO and Unipublic, organisers of the three Grand Tours, had to define the conditions of participation, as from 2007, with their principal events."
The UCI has now retaliated with its own accusations of a restrictive system, stating that it will take action. "The UCI has today decided to prepare a formal complaint to the European Commission concerning the anti-competitive conduct of the organizers of the Grand Tours," said its release.
"The organizers of the Grand Tours have acted as a cartel in order to protect their own dominant position in the field of professional road cycling. In particular the organizers of the Grand Tours have deliberately tried to undermine the development of the UCI ProTour.
"This conduct is detrimental to the interest of teams, riders and the wider development of cycling in Europe and in the world as a whole."
The release stated that all attempts to negotiate had failed. "The UCI has repeatedly tried to engage the organizers of the Grand Tours in a constructive dialogue; however they have refused to cooperate in any meaningful way, leaving the UCI with no alternative other than to seek intervention by the European Commission in this matter."
The move will be seen by some as a counter-suit, of sorts, given that the association of race organizers (AIOCC) announced on November 24th that it would seek a hearing before the Commission. Ironically, the Grand Tour organisers, who are apart of this group, also spoke of a closed system, singling out the ProTour as something they said was restrictive.
At the time, UCI President Pat McQuaid told L'Equipe that the UCI were confident that an arbitration court would see things their way. "We are absolutely trustful of our vision of the ProTour and believe there is no obstruction [of fairness]. We are ready to provide the authorities of the European Commission with all the details and information which they will need. Obviously, we will comply with any decisions that are made, but we calmly await the decision."
One of the four mail roles listed on the European Commission website is: "to negotiate international agreements, mainly those relating to trade and cooperation."
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'