By Shane Stokes in Cholet
Since taking up his new role as President of the CPA (Association of Professional Cyclists), former French pro Cédric Vasseur has had a busy time in the job. Non-payment by ASO of some of the prize money from last year's Tour de France plus the ongoing political struggles between the organisers and the UCI are two of the big issues, and he spoke about both to Cyclingnews this week at the Tour de France.
Vasseur said that the issue of prize money has more or less been resolved, but was complicated by the removal of several riders from the race who tested positive or were removed from the Tour. "I think most of the prizes have been given to the riders," he stated. "The situation was a little bit bad because there were five guys who were not in the classification, and so there was trouble.
"I think in the future there is going to be something better," he added. "I hope there will not be a positive like in the past years. We will try to set up a new system which will pay the riders within 90 days, which is the rules. Everything is in order now."
A bigger issue this year has been the UCI/ASO struggle, which has seen the riders threatened with sanctions if they rode Paris-Nice. The situation then grew worse when the organiser announced that it would run the Tour de France outside the aegis of the UCI.
Vasseur's stance is that this is something for others to worry about, not those he represents. "The situation is complex, but as far as I am concerned in relation to the riders, we don't need to go in this kind of discussion," he said. "What is important for the riders is to have races that are really well organised, with good prize money and with security. The rest - politics, organisation, is not really the problem of the riders.
"I know it is a problem for the teams who would like to have a kind of stability," he added. "For example, in the next years, nobody is sure to do this race or that. They are not really concerned about this kind of thing.
"ASO is organising the best of the year," he continued. "The UCI is also trying to organise good races in countries like Russia or Asia. So what would be really good for the riders is to do races like the Tour de France in all the countries. It doesn't matter if it they are from the UCI or ASO. I think it is also really good for cycling that the level is going up."
Vasseur does however see one benefit of the ProTour, namely the guarantee that teams know beforehand where they will be racing and can say this to their backers. "The situation now is not a problem for the [individual] riders," he said. "For cycling it is a bit of a problem, and I think it is really more of a problem for the sponsors and also for the teams. You know, when a team asks for eight million Euros, you want to be sure that this team is going to do the Tour de France, the most important event in the world.
"But at this moment this is not set up, so now we have to fix a system with ASO and the UCI on the other end," he added. "We need to make a guarantee for the sponsors giving money for the teams that they are going to be in the Tour, they are going to be in Russia, they are be everywhere... so we can have an international circuit.
"That is really concerning the teams, though. As regards the riders, as soon as there is security, prize money and lots of people like here, it is a pleasure to race."
Some observers have said that until the riders themselves get involved and demand a resolution to the problem, that it will persist. They are the stars of this particular show, after all, yet they haven't yet used that leverage to demand a lasting solution.
Vasseur isn't convinced that they should exercise this power. "I think that is something that is going too far for the riders," he said. "The riders have really enough problems with the roads and the battle in the races. We saw today [Saturday] that there was a really nice race. They are really focussed on this kind of race, and I think the rest of the other issues are not really interesting them.
"I mean, you cannot take care of everybody in life," he added. "What the rider has to do is take care about is his race, and try to get the best results as possible there. The rest is the business of the teams, the organiser and the UCI."