In face of team defiance, UCI president stands firm

Updated: March 29, 2008, 3:04 PM ET
Reuters

MANCHESTER, England -- Pat McQuaid vowed to fight on as president of cycling's governing body on Saturday despite losing the support of leading professional teams in a power struggle with major race organizers.

"I've no intention of resigning," the International Cycling Union (UCI) head told Reuters at the track cycling world championships.

The teams decided to ride the Paris-Nice stage race, organized by Amaury Sport Organization in March even though it was not a UCI-sanctioned race, and are set to defy UCI rules again and ride the Paris-Roubaix one-day race, also organized by ASO, on April 13.

"There are 169 other national federations in the UCI that want to develop the sport of cycling and who are willing to follow the rules," said McQuaid.

"The teams and riders have decided to go with ASO. We're worried about that but if ASO create another body to manage professional cycling and if sponsors and teams go with them, we'll let them go.

"We'll work with the sponsors and teams who wish to stay within the UCI framework."

Hein Verbruggen, vice-president to McQuaid at the International Cycling Union, had earlier conceded defeat to ASO, which operates the Tour de France.

"I lost, but it's less my defeat than the defeat of cycling," he told French daily Liberation.

"We're completely isolated and ASO demonstrated the extent of their power in the world of cycling. They had the backing of the French sports minister and the French presidency. It was a lost cause."

The Dutch member of the International Olympic Committee was the leading force behind the ProTour series imposed by the body before he was replaced by McQuaid in 2005.

ASO has been critical of the 20-team formula and its dispute with UCI over television and marketing rights has deteriorated steadily.

The ASO has been backed in its struggle against the governing body by the organizers of the other major tours, the Giro d'Italia and the Spanish Vuelta.

ASO also runs the Criterium international and one-day races such as Liege-Bastogne-Liege, the Fleche Wallonne and Paris-Tours.

McQuaid, who had threatened to sanction riders and teams taking part in the Paris-Nice race, said dissidents cannot be tolerated and the rules must be respected.

"Some people might not like the rules but there's a way of changing them without putting a gun to our head. They don't want to follow democratic process," he said.

"We have to ask ourselves why ASO refuse to follow the UCI rules. The answer is that they're setting up another international federation, it's obvious," he added.

"They've got the framework for it. They've got the races, they've got their own officials and they've got the French Cycling Federation and the French sports ministry on their side."

"Other people can break the rules but as the governing body of the sport we have to uphold our own rules. It's not pleasant and it's not a good time for me or the UCI but we've got no options."

Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme told Reuters: "I am stunned [by Verbruggen's comments]. It is striking, however, these comments on a battle UCI lost are being made by its former president and not by the current boss, Pat McQuaid.

"ASO never had the intention of seizing power, only to run its races. It was never our intention not to respect the international federation.

"If there is, as Verbruggen says, a defeat, it is not UCI's, it is that of the officials who confiscated power."

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