UCI Blasts Tour de France Organizers

Tuesday, February 20th 2007, 9:51 am
By: News On 6

AIGLE, Switzerland (AP) _ The international cycling federation has accused Tour de France organizers of attempting to seize control of the sport.

UCI president Pat McQuaid met Tour chief Patrice Clerc in Lyon to try to resolve disputes between the two sides that have threatened to further tarnish the sport as it battles multiple doping scandals.

UCI said the meeting _ which also included Tour organizer Amaury Sports Organization _ was unsuccessful.

``ASO maintained its position rejecting the UCI's function and legitimacy as an international federation, which it seems to want to take control of through its strategy to destabilize'' the body, UCI said in a statement released late Monday.

Despite the disagreement, ASO said its weeklong Paris-Nice race would proceed as planned starting March 11.

``ASO will organize the race in conformity with French law,'' it said in a statement.

The sides are at odds over UCI's 27-event ProTour and over who can issue licenses for teams to take part in the elite tours.

Organizers for the Tour and the sport's two other showcase stage events _ the Giro d'Italia and Spanish Vuelta _ insist that only they can determine which teams can ride in their races. UCI has retaliated by announcing it will file a formal complaint with the European Commission for anticompetitive practices.

UCI also has accused Tour organizers of failing to do enough to combat doping.

``ASO is in fact refusing the UCI the right to set participation rules for races,'' the Swiss-based federation said. ``On this basis, which is totally unacceptable to the UCI, no agreement or compromise could be reached. Talks between the parties were, therefore, unsuccessful.''

UCI added that it will soon decide what action to take in response to ASO's ``illegal position,'' which it said was threatening the interests of the sport.

ASO, however, said it was unfair to blame the current deadlock entirely on organizers of the different tours. It was UCI, the company said, which destroyed hopes of a compromise last year.

UCI has clashed with organizers of the three-week French event since setting up the ProTour in 2005. ASO was annoyed at having to pay for the right to host a race which dates back over 100 years.

The Tour, the Giro and the Vuelta held their events separately from UCI's calendar last year.