Valverde out of Lombardy over award ceremony rift?

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Alejandro Valverde, leader and virtual winner of this year's ProTour, reportedly will not start the Giro di Lombardia after his team pulled him from the start list in response to a snub by race organizers. Valverde, who has enough points to win the ProTour regardless of his participation in the Giro di Lombardia, was to be denied the traditional jersey award ceremony following the event. Race organisation RCS, which also organises the Giro d'Italia, refused to hold the ceremony or to promote the UCI ProTour alongside the Giro di Lombardia.

Angelo Zomegnan, the head of RCS's race organising committee, was defiant on the issue of Caisse d'Epargne's decision, "The Tour of Lombardy is a historic race which has been going on for 100 years. If Valverde pulls out, it will be his loss, not ours." Valverde had to face the same controversy last month when the organisers of the Tour of Spain refused to hold the ProTour podium ceremony.

Valverde's team is unhappy with the loss of publicity, and was quoted by AFP as saying that "Valverde is supposed to fulfil his obligations to the ProTour while not picking up the expected benefits." The Caisse d'Epargne team management has reportedly written a formal complaint about the matter to the UCI. In addition to pulling Valverde from the race, the team has reportedly refused to participate in the pre-race and post-race ceremonies, including the winners' podium, should one of their riders make the top three.

The conflict has roots in the long-running battle between Grand Tour organisers and the UCI. Earlier this week, the UCI announced that it would hold an awards gala in Como, Italy, following the Giro di Lombardia, at which the winners of all the ProTours would receive their trophies. The RCS refusal to hold the podium award ceremony for the ProTour leader after the one-day classic, appears to be a reaction to this announcement.

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