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In face of team defiance, UCI president stands firm

3/29/2008

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."