GRAND TOURS OUT OF PROTOUR?
Union Cycliste Internationale president Pat McQuaid has said that he is ready to "give in to demands" of the three Grand Tour organisers who no longer wish to be a part of the UCI's season-long ProTour, according to news agency AFP.
Speaking on Wednesday, McQuaid said that he would no longer resist pressure from the organisers of the Tour de France (ASO), Giro d'Italia (RCS) and Vuelta a Espana (Unipublic) to be removed from the ProTour.
The UCI and Grand Tour organisers had previously set a deadline of tomorrow (Friday, September 21) to resolve their long-running dispute.
"We've sent proposals to the organisers of the three three-week Tours," McQuaid told AFP. "We have agreed to meet their demands which consist of no longer being part of the Pro Tour. We've been at loggerheads for the past three years, it can't go on."
With the Grand Tours gone from the ProTour calendar, McQuaid and the UCI have the ideal opportunity to reform the series and learn from mistakes made. It is likely that the series will become more global, utilising minor stage races outside of cycling's traditional European base to augment the remaining events.
What isn't clear at this stage is whether the Grand Tour organisers' other races will also be withdrawn from the ProTour. For example, Tour de France organiser ASO also runs Paris-Nice, Paris-Roubaix, Fleche Wallonne, Paris-Tours and other major events currently included in the ProTour. If all events are withdrawn, it will leave the UCI with very slim pickings.
The ProTour was introduced by McQuaid's predecessor, Hein Verbruggen, in 2005 as an expanded replacement for the old World Cup series of one day races. It has proved to be very controversial and not entirely popular with teams, fans or sponsors. Many teams have found it hard to stretch their resources to be competitive in all the events included in the ProTour.
Race organisers have found the ProTour restricting - they do not like being dictated to when it comes to which teams take part in their events. This indirectly led to ProTour squad Unibet.com being excluded from several events this season, turning the ProTour into a farce.
Twenty teams are supposed to be ranked as ProTour-level squads, with licences issued for a four-year period to each team. However, several teams have pulled out due to sponsorship difficulties and/or drug scandals. Those that have fallen by the wayside include Liberty Seguros, Phonak and Fassa Bortolo. Unibet.com and Discovery Channel will also disband at the end of 2007 due to lack of sponsorship.
March 5, 2007: Brussels meeting to decide ProTour future
February 23, 2007: Team bosses discuss future of ProTour
February 23, 2007: McQuaid refuses to back down over ProTour war
February 12, 2007: Giro organiser excludes Unibet.com from all its events
February 3, 2007: Vuelta confirms support for ASO in ProTour row
January 18, 2007: T-Mobile boss calls for ProTour unity
July 8, 2006: Major Tours say no to ProTour
UCI ProTour: www.uciprotour.com.