By Shane Stokes
Paris-Nice may be just over a week away but the International Professional Cycling Teams (IPCT) declined to come to a quick decision at today's meeting held in Brussels. The 17 teams that comprise the IPCT decided unanimously to call on both sides to attend what it refers to a ‘last chance' meeting on Monday. All ProTour teams, with the exception of Francaise des Jeux were present, but Astana and Unibet.com have no voting rights as they are not members.
The IPCT released a strongly worded press release on Friday which, while steering clear of any statements of support for one side or another, expressed its dissatisfaction with the current situation and made it clear that the teams concerned want the UCI and ASO/RCS Sport/Unipublic to find short and medium term solutions, as well as coming up with a timeframe for a longer-term resolution to their conflict.
The IPCT statement read "At the extraordinary general meeting which was held on March 2 in Brussels, the IPCT decided today to address the UCI, on the one hand, and ASO, RCS and Unipublic, on the other, issuing a formal invitation to take part in a meeting of reconciliation, scheduled for Brussels, on March 5 next Monday."
Depending on the outcome of this invitation and the talks which will follow, the IPCT says that its members could consider not taking part in Paris-Nice or other such events to be held in the next few weeks. Quick-Step manager Patrick Lefevere told Het Nieuwsblad that the teams want a quick solution to the conflict, saying "the 17 teams have together more than 1000 people in service, the budget is enormous. A stalemate isn't good for anyone."
The IPCT statement highlighted the serious nature of the ongoing conflict, saying "The principal professional teams, which are the members of the IPCT, have let the UCI and the three above-mentioned organizers know that their conflict is causing very serious damage. At this point, the teams refuse to give an opinion as regards the question of who bears responsibility for this damage.
"Their only immediate concern is to restore without delay the conditions that enable them to carry out their work in all serenity and legality, in other words to participate in the best cycling events. This is the basis of their socio-economic survival. For this reason, the IPCT invites the UCI and the three organizers to a 'last chance' meeting."
While the UCI and ASO failed to work out their differences at a recent meeting, the IPCT believes that negotiations can have a positive outcome. It says that the outcome of this will help shape their decision vis-à-vis participation in the next ProTour races, letting both sides know that genuine efforts must be made to resolve the problems.
Lefevere said that the members didn't want to be against either side, "but nevertheless I found this to be a strong meeting", he said to Sporza.be, "because we have adopted a unanimous position." The unified stance of the teams is a positive direction, but the work is nowhere near done. United, the teams present a powerful front, and Lefevere said, "I remain optimistic. Look, the riders are paid to race - but not at any price. I honestly never thought I would see this kind of political situation."
The IPCT release suggested the possibility of boycotting races, but says that other measures may be considered in order to protect their position. "Indeed, in the absence of agreement, the members of the IPCT will have to carefully evaluate the legal consequences on all levels (UCI rules, civil responsibility, etc) of a decision taken in one direction or another.
"Moreover, in the event of failure of the attempts at conciliation evoked above, the IPCT reserves the right to protect the interests of its members by the most suitable legal means, in particular at the level of community legislation." It remains to be seen how the UCI and the three Grand Tour organisers will respond to the IPCT decision. Friday's release shows that the teams – who up until now have generally kept out of the conflict – appear be prepared to stand firm together in pushing for a solution to be found.
Cyclingnews' recent coverage of the ProTour-Grand Tours split
October 4, 2008 - New ASO chief to maintain values
September 26, 2008 - UCI declares peace, appoints new VP
August 30, 2008 - UCI re-signs five ProTour races
August 22, 2008 - ProTour: Bouncing back or lame duck?
August 19, 2008 - Stapleton analyses 'world calendar'
August 18, 2008 - Feedback on 'world calendar'
August 18, 2008 - UCI announces 'world calendar'
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