By Cyclingnews staff
The UCI showed its frustration publicly today with the ongoing conflict involving the ASO in a two-part press release, one of which explained in a matter-of-fact way the consequences of Paris-Nice becoming a national calendar event while the other outlined detailed circumstances of the dispute in no less than 2,600 words. In that latter portion, the UCI had nothing but harsh words for ASO.
With a handful of vitriolic statements in the release, the UCI accused ASO conducting a "guerrilla war" against them with the "aim being not only to sabotage the UCI ProTour through every possible means, but also to undermine the UCI's legitimacy."
"The UCI must now accept that all attempts to negotiate have failed," said the press release. It accuses ASO of ignoring and deliberately acting outside of UCI rules to the detriment of all. "The UCI cannot accept this irresponsible behaviour, which is leading straight towards a state of anarchy...This situation is causing great harm to all those involved in cycling: riders, teams and especially sponsors."
The release outlines the history of the conflict, pointing out that the Tour de France organizers once supported the idea of the ProTour, even agreeing to take part in September 2004. Around the same time RCS, organizers of the Giro and other Italian events, and Unipublic, organizers of the Vuelta a Espana, also supported the ProTour.
The UCI explained how it has been constantly negotiating with ASO over the past few years, but said its efforts had been futile given that its every compromise made by the UCI brought more demands by ASO. "This manner of behaving is evidently unacceptable and is more like a fool's game than fair negotiations," said the release. "Talks cannot be held if one of the parties is demanding concessions without granting any itself."
The UCI goes on to dispute point by point the complaints that have been lodged by ASO against the UCI's ProTour over time. They summarized, "It is now clear that ASO's aim is to bring about the failure of the UCI ProTour in order to take its share of the power in cycling. ASO wants to get rid of the UCI, whose authority it does not recognise. This situation is dangerous and immediately leads to a state of anarchy."
The UCI points out that "ASO does not hesitate to oppose cycling's development when it believes that it is against its own interests, stating that it is against the general interest. That again is unjust. This measure involves a deliberate weakening of teams, for example by excluding them (ASO wants to exclude two teams from the UCI ProTour) and by reducing the duration of their right to take part in the UCI ProTour (three years instead of four)."
The statement also said, "To oppose the UCI is the same as opposing the outcome of a democratic debate of all parties involved in cycling. Nobody is allowed to do this, unless they advocate anarchy, where each one decides to follow the rules which serve its interests (even if that has consequences which are harmful for everyone)." The UCI then points to a complaint filed by ASO in December against the UCI to the European Commission and declares, "It therefore appears that ASO's objective is to destroy the UCI using all possible means, and by producing a new argument each time that the previous one has not been effective." The UCI filed a counter complaint with the European Commission in early January.
Highlighting the UCI's successes in reforming road cycling over the past few years, the release said, "Two years after the launch of the UCI ProTour, no organiser holding a licence nor any other UCI ProTeam has complained using the excuse that their trademark has been damaged. National Federations, apart from a handful of European Federations, all support the UCI ProTour. At the same time, continental calendars are continuing to develop. All indications show that the reform of Road cycling is a success. Only ASO and a few of its allies are against it."
Stay tuned to Cyclingnews for more news as the story unfolds.
UCI divorces itself from Paris-Nice
The UCI formalized its position following the change in status of Paris-Nice to a national-level event under the auspices of the French Cycling Federation. It also outlined several consequences of the race's downgrade from the international calendar to a national event.
First, the UCI confirmed that "teams holding a UCI ProTour licence and UCI professional continental teams will not be allowed to take part in this race. The rules in fact stipulate that these two types of teams cannot participate in a national race." Earlier this week, the UCI sent out letters to this effect to all ProTour teams.
The UCI also said it will play no role in drug testing or officiating. "International anti-doping bodies will not be able to test riders in this race. According to the rules, only national anti-doping bodies are allowed to carry out such tests at national races. UCI International Commissaires will not be able to officiate at Paris-Nice. The mission of an UCI International Commissaire is to ensure that UCI rules are respected. He/she cannot therefore support a race where the organiser is blatantly violating the international cycling rules." The French federation has said it will step up and handle anti-doping testing and officiating for the race.
The press release ended with an apology and a stab at race organizer ASO. "The UCI is sorry that teams and riders have been taken hostage by an organiser wanting to flout the rules that all parties in cycling are obliged to respect."
Yet six ProTour teams will still race
In defiance of UCI rules prohibiting ProTour teams from competing in non-ProTour events, six teams will race Paris Nice. According to Reuters, Rabobank, Gerolsteiner, T-Mobile, and Cofidis, Bouygues Telecom, and Francaise des Jeux have said they will start Paris-Nice on March 11.
Their announcement follows the letter from the UCI sent to all 20 ProTour teams saying participation in Paris Nice violated ProTour rules. The UCI has not stated what consequences will result if teams break the rule and race. The participation of T-mobile also contradicts what Cyclingnews reported yesterday based on comments by Rolf Aldag, the team's directeur sportif.
Paris-Nice is a popular race used by teams preparing for the upcoming Spring Classics.