Governing body comes out fighting, rejects new proposals
By Shane Stokes
A day after seventeen teams at the Tour de France announced that they no longer wanted to be part of the ProTour series, the UCI has said that it will consider seeking compensation from those who it feels have breached a contract.
The governing body has contacted several different people and organisations affected by the turn of events. One letter obtained by Cyclingnews and sent to the ProTour teams points out that nine of them - Astana, AG2R, Columbia, Milram, Gerolsteiner, Caisse d'Epargne, Lampre, Liquigas and Saunier Duval all have licences for 2009 and are thus still considered part of the series.
As participation in the ProTour requires the teams to take part in each one of the races concerned, the UCI points out that this is a contract. It also states that the races concerned face serious losses if the ProTour teams do not participate, due to a loss of sponsor and/or television revenues.
The UCI says that it will pass on these costs to the teams concerned. In addition to that, it states that it will also seek its own compensation.
"If you no longer participate in the UCI ProTour in 2009, you break the commitment you have vis-à-vis the UCI, organizers and riders.
"A breach of contract was the last thing we could expect from a team that expressed the ambition to belong to the elite.
"In addition, this breach of contract causes enormous material and moral damage to the UCI and the UCI will seek compensation for the harm caused to the UCI ProTour in which it invested heavily for years."
The communiqués also point out what it describes as the instability of the new system, saying that teams have a responsibility towards their riders. "By declaring out of the UCI ProTour, you'll cause the loss of jobs for many riders as well as the loss of protection offered by cycling managed by the UCI for riders: minimum wage, bank guarantee, joint agreement, contract type.
Another letter sent to Gerolsteiner manager Hans Michael Holczer who was heavily involved in negotiations for the proposed new system rejects the calls for the UCI to be part of a revised governance of the sport. "Your proposals are totally unacceptable," it reads. "You should also realize that these proposals aim at institutionalizing conflicts of interests and a rat race among teams and organizers, with ASO as spectator and arbitrator.
"There will be continuous disputes between the directly interested parties in order to determine which teams and which races shall have access to or leave the elite level, which races shall be in which category, which teams shall participate in which races. Teams will be opposed against teams, organizers against organizers, teams against organizers, and only an outcome that is acceptable to ASO will be implemented.
"The purpose is to reduce elite teams and organizers to a small number that is tied to the actor with the dominant position. You bring serfdom back into cycling."
The UCI has also written to the organisers of the ProTour races, expressing frustration with the decision, acknowledging that they face potential financial loss and pledging its support where possible.
Cyclingnews will have more on this story soon.