By Shane Stokes
Speaking prior to the announcement of the AIGCP that the various teams would indeed go ahead and ride Paris-Nice, UCI President Pat McQuaid stated that these teams themselves could, if acting in a united fashion, set themselves up as major players.
"These organisers, and ASO in particular, have power because they have money and they have an event that the teams want to ride," he told Cyclingnews on Wednesday afternoon. "So that is power. The UCI doesn't have power as such – we have authority and we regulate, but we don't have power over the teams.
"In actual fact, the people with all of the power are the teams themselves, because they could turn around to the organisers and say that unless they put their race on the UCI calendar, they will not be riding it. Even if 10 or 12 teams decided to do that, they could force things."
Ultimately the teams decided to act otherwise. The move is predicable as a short-term one, but in siding with ASO it creates an uneasy situation in the sport. The race and others later in the year will be organised outside the aegis of the UCI, with the governing body have no say over the rules and regulations, nor which teams can take part. It appears to further move the sport into a civil war situation, and also gives organisers far more control in determining which teams can or can not take part in events such as the Tour de France.
McQuaid said that there was no logical reason for Paris-Nice not to have been put on the UCI calendar, save for ASO aiming to deliberately create conflict. "Prior to last year's Paris-Nice they were fighting [with the UCI] because they didn't want to be in the ProTour. That was the argument 12 months ago, but this year they have no such argument; there was no reason why Paris-Nice could not go on the calendar. It was not like we are fighting over Astana riding because there was free participation in Paris-Nice. There was no reason, they have just done it to cause a showdown."
"It is going far too far to think that an organiser can come along and dictate things, not respect the regulations and put serious pressure on teams that they themselves don't respect those regulations. The UCI cannot accept that my management committees are completely behind me on this and indeed are the federations as well. I have had a lot of letters of support from Federation presidents around the world in the last week or so... every one of them has the same message, saying that we cannot allow our regulations and our constitution to be undermined by an organiser."
In the end, that is what happened. The UCI is yet to react to the developments, but the teams' decision to side with ASO will create further tensions and uncertainties in the sport.
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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