The ongoing row between the major Tour organisers and the UCI over the ProTour broadened yet further on Saturday when the Vuelta announced that Unibet.com will not be taking part in their race in September.
The Belgian ProTour squad had already been excluded from the start-list of Paris-Nice by organisers ASO, leading to UCI to hint strongly that the race could be cancelled.
But if the UCI had hoped to convince ASO?s allies – RCS in Italy, who organise Tirreno-Adriatico, Milan-San Remo, the Giro and the Tour of Lombardy, and Unipublic, who run the Vuelta – that it might be wise to rethink their position, instead they would appear to have acheived the opposite. The Tour of Spain have now re-stated their support for ASO. In the process the Vuelta has become the first major stage race to announce that a ProTour team is not taking part in their event.
?We will follow the same path as the Tour and Paris-Nice.? Vuelta boss Victor Cordero said on Saturday. ?We have already accepted 18 ProTour teams for this year?s race and we kept back four wild-cards. One will be for last year?s winner?s team – Astana – but Unibet.com does not figure amongst the other three.? The three other squads are, as far as CW can ascertain, almost certain to be all Spanish: Relax, led by Francisco Mancebo, Karpin-Galicia and Fuerteventura.
According to the Spanish press, this latest development will inevitably increase speculation that the three major Tours and the other races they organise could now break away completely from the UCI to form their own competition.
Pat McQuaid, UCI president, has accused the major Tour organisers of ?not following the rules, and thereby placing themselves outside the system. It?s not acceptable that race organisers try to apply their own criteria over which teams get invited to which races.?