European Tour races feel the pinch as World recession bites
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Thursday, January 19, 2012

European Tour races feel the pinch as World recession bites

by Ben Atkins at 1:52 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Mallorca Challenge
Picardie, Indurain and Mallorca all under pressure in the difficult search for sponsors and the squeezing of budgets

tour de picardie,challenge mallorca,gp miguel indurainAfter the near demise of the Tour Mediterranean last month, a number of other European Tour races are under threat from the global economic situation. Thanks to problems finding, and holding, sponsors, along with regional government supporters having their budgets squeezed, even some of the biggest of the second-tier races are feeling the pinch, and are in danger of disappearing altogether.

Despite being organised by ASO – the company that runs the Tour de France, Paris-Roubaix, Liège-Bastogne-Liège, the Critérium du Dauphiné, and many more of the sport’s biggest events – the 2.1-ranked Tour de Picardie, in northern France, is under threat, according to the Courrier Picard.

The race – which was cut to three stages in 2009 – takes place in the departments of Somme, Oise and Aisne, generally with one stage finishing in each. Each of the departments makes a contribution to the race’s running costs, but the Aisne department is unwilling to pay the increased sum that ASO now wants.

The sum for the previous few years has been €28,500, but ASO has raised it to €30,000 for each of the next three editions.

"We sent a letter in early December to AS0 to explain that we agree to renew the partnership agreement, without the requested increase," Michel Lefevre, vice president in charge of Sports, in the department’s Conseil General.

The issue is one of the freezing of Aisne’s overall budget, as the president, Yves Daudigny, explained. “We are to maintain all of our sport subsidies this year, without any increase.”

“Yes, there is a small conflict,” admitted Jean-Francois Pescheux, the race’s technical director, “which is surprising because when the increase was discussed at a meeting, there was no opposition. This increase is because for four years we did not ask for any more and it's a shame to make a long story for such a sum.

“The division between the three departments of the region works quite well,” he added. “It is unique in France for a cycle race."

Assuming things can be resolved, the race will be held between May 11th and 13th; most parties are working on the assumption that an agreement can be made.

Things will work out,” Pescheux thinks. “The matter should be resolved politically. If it is not it could jeopardize the test in its current form. We would go to two departments instead of three.”

Spain also feels the strain

South of the Pyrénées there are also a number of races feeling the pinch, with Spain’s economy in a poorer state than France’s. The GP Miguel Indurain, which has been run since 1951 [although it was only naked after the local five-time Tour de France winner in 1998 – ed] is currently unable to raise the money that it needs to run this year.

"The race is in danger because we are still far from meeting the necessary budget of €130,000,” race president Ismael Martínez explained to the Diario de Navarra. “We hope that an institution will intervene to try to save this prestigious race."

The 1.HC-ranked event, held in Navarre on the first Saturday in April - although his year’s edition is scheduled for March 31st – perhaps suffers a little for its proximity to the northern classics in the calendar; although it does attract a high quality local field, which is preparing for the WorldTour Vuelta a Pais Vasco two days later.

A set of races that certainly does attract a high quality field is the Mallorca Challenge, which gets a number of top riders’ seasons under way in early February. The series of 1.1-ranked one-day races – which has an unofficial general classification for those that choose to ride all of them – will be cut from five to four events this year, with the Trofeo Inca disappearing for 2012 at least.

The race organiser points the finger squarely at the World economic situation; this, despite attracting ten of the eighteen ProTeams to the Balearic island this year, including the Giro, Tour and Vuelta winners in Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank), Cadel Evans (BMC Racing) and Juanjo Cobo (Movistar).

“This year, the XXI Iberostar Mallorca Cycling Challenge trophy will be less than in previous years,” reads a statement, “since the organization in charge of Unisport Consulting, has had to adjust its budget due to the crisis situation that exists at this time.”


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