And so does the Giro d'Italia and the Vuelta a Espana. The absence of the three 'Grand Tours' means any running of the UCI's ProTour would be pointless, although the UCI will no doubt try to tough it out as usual. The tours want to run a Grand Tour Trophy in competition with any running of the ProTour. The three organisers of the Grand Tours have also withdrawn Paris-Nice, Tirreno-Adriatico, Milan-San Remo, Paris-Roubaix, la Flèche Wallonne, Liège-Bastogne-Liège, Paris-Tours and Giro di Lombardia.

Tour de France pulls out of UCI ProTour

Here’s the official joint press release from the Grand Tours:

Organizers of the three major Tours (Giro d’Italia, Tour de France, Vuelta a Espana) met in Paris on December 8, 2005 to take a stance following UCI’s latest decisions concerning the professional road cycling calendar.

After months of fruitless discussions, which UCI chose not to pursue after the summer, and following a one-week ultimatum for the events which they stage (in chronological order: Paris-Nice, Tirreno-Adriatico, Milan-SanRemo, Paris-Roubaix, la Flèche Wallonne, Liège-Bastogne-Liège, Giro d’Italia, Tour de France, Vuelta a Espana, Paris-Tours and Giro di Lombardia) to join the Pro Tour under terms which it set, UCI has indeed decided:

To break off discussions on ways to include in the Pro Tour the races staged by RCS Sport, A.S.O. and Unipublic;

To create for these events, in 2007, what UCI itself terms a “separate” calendar within the World Calendar;

That participation in these events would be negotiated with teams, without any obligation either for teams to take part or for organizers to admit any particular team;

To extend for the 2006 season the provisional agreement concluded late in 2004 for the 2005 season, which stipulated that the twenty teams having acquired a Pro Tour license were required to take part in the 11 events of the World Calendar staged by RCS Sport, A.S.O. and Unipublic, who in turn were bound to accept all of them.

Taking these decisions into account, and surprised by this ultimatum, organizers of the three major Tours take the following stance

1. Maintaining in 2006 the provisional settlement concluded for 2005, in effect a status quo, has no sense as this compromise was intended to permit reaching a general agreement on the Pro Tour, which UCI states it no longer seeks.

2. Thereby, questions arise as the 2006 season looms for the 11 events concerned, which are in no way part of any “separate” calendar: in fact, the World Calendar will include, at given dates, the Olympics, the World Championships, the Pro Tour and the 11 events staged by RCS Sport, A.S.O. and Unipublic. One of the questions which arises is that of the participation of teams in these events, and notably the criteria for selecting them.

Answers to these questions must be based on principles to which are greatly attached the organizers of the three major Tours, and which they’ve always promoted:

Selection must be based on both performance and ethical criteria: taking part in an event cannot be the result of negotiations.

Team selection must ensure open access to the events; to this effect organizers must retain a sufficient number of wildcard entries, enabling them notably to take into account good results obtained by “professional” teams on the various “continental” circuits.

Teams should have the option whether to take part in an event, with incentives to do so rather than mandatory measures.

With these principles in mind, organizers of the three major Tours have come up with the following measures:

1. In accordance with UCI rules before the inception of the Pro Tour and to restore an open system, 14 teams selected on the basis of a ranking system will have the right and not the obligation to take part in non-Pro Tour events, whilst organizers for each event will retain a number of wildcard entries – with a maximum of 8 for the major Tours.

2. The Three major Tours being very special events, of uncommon stakes, length and difficulty, calling for a wide range of efforts and special organization within the teams, the sporting criteria for selection will be based on how teams performed in these tours, in full or in part, the previous year. A points system, taking into account the various rankings in place for the three tours, will soon be set up to this effect in cooperation with a panel of experts, as will be defined the obligation for teams to uphold the greatest ethical standards – concrete proposals will also be made on this matter.

3. In order to encourage teams to take part in the three major tours and to reward those who contribute to their sporting success, two measures will go into effect right from 2006.

a. As taking part in the three major tours the same year puts great financial burden on teams, a supplemental 100,000 euros will be awarded to any team taking part in the three major tours the same year, in addition to sums paid by each tour according to existing agreements with AIGCP.

b. The Trophy of the Three major Tours, launched in the mid 80’s, will get a new lease of life. A total purse of two million euros – including 600,000 for the winner – will go to teams having fared the best in the three major tours, on the basis of standings in the various rankings of the three events. Seven teams will thus be rewarded.

4. Exclusively for the 2006 season and so as not to implement a selection process based on hindsight and results which participants were not aware of, the fourteen teams given the right and not the obligation to take part in events will take into account the only team rankings available for 2005, that of the Pro Tour, although it is:

• neither credible from a competitive viewpoint, all 2005 Pro Tour events, whether held over a single day or three weeks, procuring the same number of points,

• neither fair, as teams benefiting from a wildcard, the likes of Comunidad Valenciana winner of the Vuelta or Panaria which won Tirreno-Adriatico, were stripped of their points for not having a Pro Tour license.

5. To make up for the shortcomings of these standings, and so as not to jeopardize teams and their sponsors who will fail to make the top fourteen but had, on the basis of UCI wrongly claiming the provisional agreement for 2005 would be extended in 2006, set themselves to take part in all the events on the 2006 calendar, organizers of the three major tours have decided to offer wildcards in priority to teams with a Pro Tour license – although having nothing to do with the said licenses – for the events on the World calendar which they organize and in which they wish to take part.

Organizers of the three major tours have thereby laid down, on the basis of principles which they see as essential, the framework for the system within which they will keep organizing their World calendar events.

Imposed by the necessity to adapt these principles, the competitive measures applicable in 2006, taken in urgency after recent UCI decisions, are thus of a transitional nature.

In other news...

Muc-Off partners with Bikebook, the bike servicing finder platform

Muc-Off, the bicycle care and performance brand, has announced its partnership with Bikebook, a platform …