'End of the Pro Tour' as top teams to ditch license
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Tuesday, July 15, 2008

'End of the Pro Tour' as top teams to ditch license

by Agence France-Presse at 8:50 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling
 
Seventeen of the world's top cycling teams said on Tuesday they would not be seeking a Pro Tour licence for 2009, according to a statement released here at the Tour de France.

The Pro Tour was launched by the International Cycling Union (UCI) in 2004 in a bid to revamp the cycling calendar and have the best teams riding in the best races.

However, since then the Pro Tour has met with resistance on several fronts.

Recently France's top team, Cofidis, said they would not be renewing their licence for next season, and there have been murmurings from the Euskaltel and Liquigas teams that they would also pull out of the series.

Since the series was launched, there has already been opposition from the organisers of the three major three-week races of France, Spain and Italy.

After a meeting here on Tuesday, 17 of the 18 teams involved with the Pro Tour said they would leave the series in a bid to try and work towards a new cycling calendar. "It has been decided unanimously not to renew our Pro Tour licences for the 2009 season," said a statement.

"The teams are working towards developing a new way of organising professional cycling." The statement comes in the wake of several meetings held between major race organisers, including those of the Tour, the Giro d'Italia and the Tour of Spain, and the UCI.

Currently, the Tour de France and several other top races are no longer part of the Pro Tour.

Eighteen teams currently hold a Pro Tour licence, the only one missing from the Tour being Astana - who were not invited by the organisers due to a doping scandal which led to their eviction from last year's race.

The news brought an unequivocal response from Thierry Cazeneuve, who runs the respected Dauphine-Libere Pro Tour race, an eight-day stage race held a month prior to the Tour de France. "It will spell the end of the Pro Tour," Cazeneuve, one of the many race organisers who must also have a licence to stage the series of races, told AFP. "It simply makes no sense for an organiser to have a licence if there are no Pro Tour teams coming."

Although the UCI have yet to react, despite several calls by AFP, Cazeneuve said he had more or less already accepted the news as official. "I accept all such decisions as soon as they become legitimate. This one has come from the family of cycling teams, who have decided to leave the system." Cazeneuve said however he has been left wondering what system, if any, would replace the beleaguered series. "Who is going to replace the Pro Tour, and decide the calendar, the rules? Who will make the decisions and will they have backing?"
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