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UCI to hold fast to ProTour rules excluding Continental teams

Continental teams value the chance to race alongside the ProTour teams in the Tour of California.

Continental teams value the chance to race alongside the ProTour teams in the Tour of California. (Image credit: Jon Devich)

The globalization of the UCI's ProTour may be helping to bring the top teams to more locations outside of Europe, but a policy of strict adherence to the rules excluding Continental teams from the races have North American teams concerned.

UCI president Pat McQuaid told Cyclingnews that those teams will have to step up to the Professional Continental ranks if they wish to compete in the ProTour races in Canada or in the Tour of California should it be elevated to the sport's top tier.

The issue first hit home in Canada, where two ProTour races will take place in September in Quebec and Montreal. The country's only professional team, SpiderTech p/b Planet Energy, had appealed to be allowed into the races only to be turned down because of the rules allowing only ProTour or Professional Continental teams in the race.

"No Continental team will be riding the two ProTour races in Canada," said McQuaid, clarifying that, as was done for the Tour Down Under, the Canadian national team will be allowed in.

"Like at the Tour Down under, the National Federation of the country that hosts the race can put in a team. If the national team select SpiderTech riders that's up to them. It's a pity for the SpiderTech team but they're only a Continental team and so they're not allowed to ride ProTour races. That's the rules."

The organizers of the Amgen Tour of California are currently in discussions with the UCI to see if a jump to ProTour status will go forward for 2011 or some other point in the future. This would impact all of the top US Continental teams, who would be unable to compete in the country's biggest race or, if they jumped to Pro Continental would be excluded from the big elite national races.

McQuaid was undeterred, citing the higher level teams' obligations to adhere to the costs and rules of the Biological Passport programme as the main motivation for sticking to the rules.

"It might be a problem for the teams but US cycling has to progress too," McQuaid said. "If the Tour of California becomes a ProTour race, it might motivate some of the team to go Professional Continental. At the moment a lot of the US Continental teams have the budgets of Pro Continental teams but there are no controls over them, neither the Biological Passport or anything, as there with the Pro Continental teams in Europe. They've got to progress as well."