Yesterday, the Grand Tour organizers released a statement that is set to split them from the UCI ProTour. They established a set of rules that will determine which teams could participate in their races. The organizers, ASO, RCS Sport and Unipublic, control most of cycling's big races and the move will definitely cause a stir at UCI headquarters.
The 11 races that the three organizers manage are Paris-Nice, Tirreno-Adriatico, Milano-Sanremo, Paris-Roubaix, Flèche Wallonne, Liège-Bastogne-Liège, Giro d'Italia, Tour de France, Vuelta a España, Paris-Tours and Giro di Lombardia.
"The statement has yet to arrive to me, I want to wait before I comment," said UCI President Pat McQuaid on Tuesday to La Gazzetta dello Sport. "On the face of it I understand, it is what the organizers were more or less saying one year ago. Tomorrow [Wednesday] there will be a meeting of the UCI commission to finalize the 2008 calendar."
The ProTour's main opponents are the ASO (owners of the Tour, Paris-Nice, Roubaix, Flèche, Liege and Paris-Tours) and RCS Sport (Sanremo, Giro and Lombardia). The organizers, along with Unipublic, could collapse the relatively new ProTour (started in 2005) by pulling out their races.
"We are not in the ProTour," said Christian Prudhomme, director of the Tour de France, to La Gazzetta dello Sport. "We have said this before and repeatedly. Thus we want to stabilize the conditions for participation in our races."
Angelo Zomegnan, head of the Giro d'Italia, agreed with the Frenchman. "We are pulling away from the system in which there are licenses acquired that give the right to participate in our races," said the Italian. "On the other hand, we want that the criteria to consist of sporting merits and ethics."
More on this row is expected to come out of Madrid today, where there is the presentation of the 2007 Vuelta a España parcours. Cyclingnews will be in Madrid to bring you details of the parcours and further coverage of the grand tour organizers' decision.