By Gregor Brown
Cédric Vasseur, President of the Association of Professional Cyclists (CPA), keeps busy only two weeks following an "exciting" Tour de France with concerns of prize payments and the size of teams for 2009.
The Frenchman, a professional cyclist up until the end of last year, followed the Grand Tour to keep in contact with the riders and their concerns. "We polled the riders on their opinions – I had help from Dario Cioni, who speaks English, French and Italian. I think most riders were happy – it was an exciting tour. There were different yellow jerseys, different stage winners," said Vasseur to Cyclingnews.
Heading into the race, prize money payments from the 2007 Tour de France kept him occupied. The race organiser, Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO), kept the winnings locked up due to doping cases. Vasseur confirmed the money was paid and that 2008 payments will arrive on time.
"First the payments were delayed because of [the doping cases of] Iban Mayo, Michael Rasmussen, et cetera," he explained. "The ASO did not know if they had to put the riders of the classification or not, so they blocked the payments. The money for those guys is still blocked, but all the other money finally has been freed.
"For this year it will be the same. For all the riders that were positive – Dueñas, Fofonov, Riccò and Beltrán – the money will be blocked. Normally, the rider's bank account is paid 90 days after the Tour ends. By December, the rider's accounts should be funded, except for those four."
L'Equipe announced that Frenchman Jimmy Casper tested positive for glucocorticoids last week. Vasseur and Casper spoke and the CPA president wants to help.
"I had Casper on the phone the other day and he still had not official news of his positive, not from the AFLD [French anti-doping agency] or the FFC [French Cycling Federation]. That is a mistake, it should not happen like this – the riders should not learn by reading the paper.
"He had been using the mouth spray for the last four years for his asthma – it can't be injected. For me it is not a doping case, just an administration issue. We are in talks with Casper. His problem is that he has not had an official notification. The lawyer of the CPA will contact the AFLD."
Vasseur sited an old Therapeutic use exemptions (TUE) as the root of Casper's problem. He is upset with how Casper was informed and stated he is not 'the Tour's fifth doping case.'
"Casper will explain his problem. He had authorisation to use the product, he had it up until the end of May. He was not using the product for doping, just for his health, but he should have had a new one-year authorisation. It is a paperwork problem and a bit of a mistake on Casper's part.
"For everyone he is 'the fifth positive of the Tour,' but it is not a doping case. He had the right to use this product for the last four years. In the Tour he was terrible, out of the time on the Alpe d'Huez, it was not helping him."
Besides Casper, Vasseur is concerned about team sizes for 2009. The ProTour appears to be ending at the end of this year, a system that declared its teams had to have 25 riders. The fact that two top-tier teams have no sponsors for 2009 – Gerolsteiner and Crédit Agricole – makes matters worse for riders looking for a job.
"In the middle of September we will have a meeting with the national representatives of the CPA council. It looks like the ProTour is dead and many of teams are hiring less than 25 riders. Now the number is going down to near 19, similar to that of Pro Continental teams. I don't see how the teams can make all the races with only 20 riders. Even if you don't do all three Grand Tours, you still are racing and you need the riders.
"We have to be concerned about the jobs of riders for next year. The main point of view of the CPA is to save the job of the riders who are out of contract and looking for a team. We have to give assurance to the riders, not the guys like Tom Boonen or Paolo Bettini, but the 24th or 25th guy who are now on the ProTour teams."
Vasseur expects to hold the meeting in Brussels. He is waiting for the responses regarding representatives' availability.