paris-nice and the UCI

March 7, 2007

this weekend sees the start of the racing season proper in europe with the paris-nice stage race. and there are problems. big problems.

ASO (who run the paris-nice, the tour de france, paris-roubaix, etc) are refusing to allow unibet.com from taking their place at the start line. this goes against the ideas of the protour which is managed by the UCI.

the protour was set up to get the best teams in the cycling world guaranteed places in the biggest races. everything seems ok with that concept? well, not really. the ASO and other organisers usually invite some teams to their races on top of those with guaranteed places. but the UCI recently upped the membership limit of the protour to 20 teams from 18 the year previous. this means less guest places.

the organisers do not like the way the UCI is saying who can, and cannot ride in their races and feel that the UCI wishes to further control their races and seeks too much power.

the UCI is refusing to back down and the paris-nice is the first protour event on the calender. the UCI had told its protour teams not to start at the race if the situation hadn’t been resolved. but on monday (5th march) a deal was reached. however, this looks like a fudge and unibet may still not be able to ride as french law prohibits the advertising of gambling:

To advertise, directly or indirectly, an activity assimilated to illegal lottery is against the law. I won’t risk putting ASO in conflict with the law.

– ASO president, Patrice Clerc

unibet are obviously not pleased and are threatening legal action.

so, what have we got –

an international federation trying to consolidate its power and establish a premier selection of international races with set teams taking part,

a group of race organisers fighting for control over their own events and who can be invited (mainly the ever-expanding ASO who are looking to take over the vuelta as well as the tour),

a team stopped from taking part due to french law which is ready to take every race organiser and his dog to court,

other teams warned not to start, and then told they can,

riders not knowing if they will be able to race at the top level.

basically – a mess.

it will be interesting to see if cycling can hold back from tearing itself apart for another season.

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