By Jeff Jones
The UCI is prepared to take firm steps to force the organisers of the three grand tours to become part of the ProTour, thereby gaining more of the valuable TV rights that have caused such a big division between the two most powerful groups in cycling. The UCI's ProTour Council met on Thursday in Salzburg, and reiterated its view that the ProTour is the only way forward for cycling, as well as attacking Tour de France organiser ASO over its stance on rights.
"The most recent attacks from ASO against the UCI ProTour appear to be, as those of the last few years, totally unfounded, and clearly demonstrate that ASO has only one goal: protect its position of superiority in the distribution of the marketing and TV incomes from organizers (around 70%)," said the UPTC in a statement, noting, "As from 2009, the TV rights of all organisers with a license will be grouped and sold together with those of the UCI World Championships."
ASO, together with RCS Sport and Unipublic, wants its races off the ProTour calendar, and has requested the UCI to do so, calling the ProTour "an economic circuit to the service of a commercial brand belonging to the UCI."
The UPTC said that it "completely rejected this interpretation" and has the support of its constituents (UCI ProTeams, ProTour licensees, and riders, represented by Jens Voigt and José Luis Rubiera) to take the matter to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
The fight against doping was also on the agenda at the UPTC meeting, and wants stricter regulations that will enable faster resolutions in doping cases. "At instigation of the riders representatives, the UPTC also decided to launch a study on the possibility of establishing the obligation for riders to submit themselves to and DNA test, as well as to realize a profile of the physiological potential of every rider, on the basis of which it would be possible to evaluate their performances.
"Moreover, the UPTC has declared itself favourable to legal actions aiming to impose pecuniary penalties on behalf of all parties involved against riders or others, whose behaviour would have damaged cycling’s, an event or a teams’ interests."
In this context, the UPTC also expressed its "full support of the initiative launched by UCI President Pat McQuaid to make an audit of cycling, and deplores that the only reaction of the Grand Tours on this subject, was focused on the safety of the duration of their races."
The UCI is expected to discuss matters further on Saturday.