Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme wants the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) to solve the problem of motorised cheating before making plans to put ASO’s races back in the WorldTour series for 2017.
Tour organiser ASO said in December it would pull all seven of its races from the UCI’s WorldTour calendar – including the Tour, Paris-Roubaix and the Vuelta a España – and let them be classified as HC for 2017. Since then, top brass from the ASO and the UCI have not talked and they show no sign of dealing with the matter any time soon.
“Motor controls are more pressing,” Prudhomme told journalists including Cycling Weekly at the Tour of Qatar today.
“If that problem is not sorted, then what is the point of talking about anything else? That’s the priority, to have systematic checks on motors.”
After years of controls, the UCI found its first motor in the women’s under-23 Cyclo-cross World Championship on January 30. With a tablet that reportedly sensed motors with electromagnetic frequencies, it caught 19-year-old Femke Van den Driessche.
The UCI as governing body should continue to carry out controls as it does with anti-doping, but the ASO is concerned enough now that it is scrapping any thought of saving cycling’s top series.
In December, the French organiser said it did not agree with the UCI’s planned 2017 reforms that allow team’s three-year licences and give more space for new races to join the top WorldTour series. ASO called it “a closed sport system” and said it wants a European model that is an “open system giving first priority to the sporting criterion.”
If ASO keeps its seven races out then it would seriously devalue the WorldTour series, which now counts 27 races including classics like the Tour of Flanders and the Giro d’Italia stage race.
“Are we going to negotiate? I don’t know,” Prudhomme said. “What I want is that we insist on having methodical controls for motors. [UCI President] Brian Cookson wants that, and that’s a good thing. That’s the main issue facing us now.
“Only 15 days ago I wouldn’t have talked about such checks, but things have radically changed with the motor that was found. This has become our priority and cycling has to understand that. We have to get rid of the cheating and the suspicion before talking about any other subject. We have to sort this problem out.”
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Prudhomme arrived in Qatar hours after Cookson visited for stage two on the 2016 Doha World Championships course. A previous opportunity to meet with Cookson was missed after he cancelled his flight for the Tour Down Under in Australia at the last minute. “Of course,” Prudhomme said, “I’m not doing it on purpose.”
On Tuesday, Cookson said that he wanted to sort out the issue with ASO so that they would continue to have their races in the WorldTour. “Our door is open,” said Cookson. “I’m ready to talk with anyone at ASO, from Madame Amaury downwards.”