In the ongoing power struggle between the Grand Tour (GT) organisers, headed by French ASO, and the UCI, the organiser of the Vuelta a España, Unipublic, has reinstated its support of the Tour de France management. On Saturday, Victor Cordero, head of the Spanish Grand Tour, said that he will not consider inviting Swedish ProTour team Unibet.com to his race.
"The Vuelta will share the destiny of Paris-Nice and the Tour," he told Spanish media. "We accept the 18 (ProTour) teams and will give away four invitations. One will be for Astana, the team of the last winner (Alexandre Vinokourov), but we do not consider Unibet amongst the three remaining."
In early December 2006, the Grand Tour organisers announced that they would accept only the 18 teams that then held a ProTour licence to their races. However, Unibet.com was attributed a license a few days later - as was Astana - and now seems to be caught in the middle of the conflict between the GT organisers and the UCI.
On January 13, ASO announced that it will not let Unibet.com take the start at Paris-Nice, as the organiser preferred to invite Astana and French Pro Conti squad Agritubel to the race running from March 11-18. However, ASO did not exclude inviting the Swedish team to some of the other races organised by the company, saying that "logistical grounds" prevented them from inviting more than 20 teams to that particular event.
In a recent interview with Cyclingnews, ASO president Patrice Clerc said that more teams would be allowed to start at the one-day races (such as Paris-Roubaix, Flèche Wallonne, Liège-Bastogne-Liège) but that ASO would "take the final decision on the sporting level". Moreover, for races on French soil, Unibet.com has another problem: The sponsoring company is currently in a legal proceeding with the French state over French legislation that only allows three companies to offer sports betting via the Internet. Meaning that Unibet.com may not legally be entitled to compete in France - the European Commission has been called upon to decide on the subject, as well as on the conflict over the UCI ProTour in general.