FDJ.fr manager Marc Madiot has warned that French races below WorldTour level are in danger of disappearing from the calendar and he has called for the structures of cycling in what he termed its “four historic countries” – France, Belgium, Spain and Italy – to be safeguarded.
In a strongly-worded interview with L’Équipe, Madiot cited the example of the Châteauroux Classic de l’Indre, which will not be held next year. He said that the organiser has the budget but has opted to stop the race as he was “tired of being taken for a fool.” Madiot added that foreign teams were not treating Coupe de France races with due respect.
“When Omega Pharma-QuickStep promises to come with [Mark] Cavendish and he isn’t there, it’s proof that the teams don’t give a damn. One thing interests them: dough,” Madiot said. “There’s also a form of French bashing. Because something is French, it’s shit. Take Maxime Bouet for example. He’s leaving Ag2r-La Mondiale to go to Lefevere [QuickStep] and he has the impression that he’s signing for Barça.
“Does he know what he’s going to find over there? I’ve just taken on Steve Morabito [from BMC]. We’ve chatted and I maintain that BMC doesn’t do any more than us, perhaps even less. We need to preserve and promote what we have here: our teams, our riders, our races.”
Madiot pointed to the example of Spain, where the gradual devastation of the local racing calendar has led to a drain of sponsors – Movistar is the only remaining WorldTour team – and he expressed concern that a similar process might take place in France. He also gave short shrift to the proposed changes to the UCI calendar that are slated for 2017, which would prevent WorldTour teams from participating in lower-level races.
“That project should be forgotten. From what I know about it, everything will be reviewed,” Madiot said. “National protectionism should be enacted. We can find an arrangement that would allow greater participation from foreign teams in French races.”
Madiot believes that foreign teams who wish to ride in the Tour de France should earn their ticket by participating in smaller French races throughout the year. “For example, a few years ago, Skil-Shimano, who weren’t in the WorldTour, wanted to get an invitation to the Tour so they did all of the races in France. Once they were well ensconced, we didn’t see them again. That’s not good.”
In an equally forthright interview with Pédale! magazine earlier this year, Madiot had already decried the fact that English was now being used in directeurs sportifs meetings held in French town halls on the eve of Coupe de France races, and he returned to that linguistic bugbear in L’Équipe on Friday.
“Whether you like it or not, France is the centre of the cycling world,” he said. “So one, you speak French because it’s the official language of the UCI, and two, you come and race on the French circuit.
“The four historic countries of cycling are France, Italy, Spain and Belgium. They need to be respected. Our bedrock needs to be protected. I’m a provocateur but that’s because I have to sound the alarm.”
Worlds team time trial
Madiot criticised UCI president Brian Cookson and his predecessor Pat McQuaid for their attitude to non-WorldTour races in Europe, and complained about the costs he will incur in sending an FDJ.fr sextet the team time trial at next year’s Worlds in Richmond.
“I’m scared stiff when I see that I have to hand over €70,000 to go and do a World Championships Team Time Trial next year in the United States. All of that to clown around on the telly for ten seconds! But we’re obliged to go because we’re in the WorldTour. And these same Ricains [Yanks – ed.] are the first to come and complain when they don’t hit €2,500 for participating in a race in France.”
New races organised beyond cycling’s traditional heartland were also the subject of Madiot’s ire, in particular the now-defunct Tour of Beijing, although he had words of praise for the Tour Down Under and the WorldTour races in Canada.
“I’ve been in cycling for 35, 40 years and I’ve realised one thing: anything that’s artificial doesn’t last, even if you put dough behind it,” Madiot said. “China [the Tour of Beijing] is dead. The Leeds Classic [the 1990s World Cup race] is dead. To last, you need to have local roots. Canada and Australia, they work because there’s an identity. There’s public interest and the locals participate.”
Madiot, who is president of France’s Ligue nationale du cyclisme, told L’Équipe that he plans to speak on the matter at a UCI seminar in December, although he acknowledged that his words might have little effect: “I know they won’t give a damn.” He also noted that France’s riders themselves have a role to play in protecting their races.
“We’re going to organise a meeting with their union and talk to them about their responsibilities. And their attitude too,” Madiot said. “At the presentation of the Tour, [Marcel] Kittel turned up in a suit. What class! We, the French, looked like nothing."