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Cycling Wars Heat Up - Astana Excluded from ASO Races
By Staff
Date: 2/13/2008
Cycling Wars Heat Up - Astana Excluded from ASO Races

Cycling Wars Heat Up - Astana Excluded from ASO Races
Two Shots over the Bow of the warring ASO and UCI in communiqués from Team Astana and the Association of Pro Cyclists.

Astana Team Press Release (2/13/2008)
With surprise, disbelief, incomprehension, but dignity as well, Astana Cycling Team has been informed by the press of the non selection of the team for the races of ASO, including Tour de France 2008.

Johan Bryneel
“Since breaking with the ProTour, the Tour de France is free to issue its own invitations. After the non selection for the Tour of Italy, we knew that there would be a chance that ASO as well, could consider not to invite us”, says Team Manager Johan Bruyneel. “The Giro argument, that we do not come to the race with our best riders, is no longer valid. With Tour number one and three of last year, Alberto Contador and Levi Leiphemer, and with two times runner up Andreas Klöden, we maybe have a too strong team now?”

“That the events of last year in the Tour de France, prompted the Tour organizers to leave Astana out of the season's most important race, sounds understandable. However, the Astana Cycling Team of 2008 has nothing to do with the team of last year. We have done everything to change the dynamics of the team. New management, new riders, new philosophy. Only the name of the sponsor remained. The Kazakh authorities gave me “carte blanche” to run the team. No pressure was put on us, there was no demand for big wins. We are spending 460,000 euros on internal anti-doping efforts for 2008. What more can we do? The fact that UCI accorded us a ProTour license proved that our new system functioned well. Maybe that is a part of the problem. Is Astana this year a victim of the war between UCI and ASO?”

“ASO asked us in December for open communication. We communicated a lot but never got a reply. ASO has probably the right not to invite us”, continued the Team Manager. “They want to augment the credibility of their races after the events of the last years. Unfortunately, Tour the France will now lose much of its credibility by not allowing participation of some of world’s best riders, who were never even implied in doping scandals. The name of Alberto Contador was sometimes linked to the famous Puerto affair. A Spanish judge cleared him. Even afterwards, Alberto was always available for justice to give required information. He really has nothing to do with that sad affair.”

Alain Gallopin D.S.
Sports Director Alain Gallopin stated, “We cannot force anything. It is probably impossible to appeal against their decision. We will prove in other races that we are left at home unjustly. It is better to know early than late that we cannot participate. There are still other races on the cycling calendar. I am disappointed for Alberto. Now I need to make a new program soon for the riders and staff and go forward.”

“How strange”, said Johan Bruyneel, "ASO does not invite us because of the past of a team that had the same name. Many other teams, with a similar suspicious past, that even did not change management or structure, can participate without problems. Where is the consistency? Is Tour the France not loosing all credibility now?”

Alberto Contador
Tour de France winner Alberto Contador is deeply disappointed. After the 4th stage in te Tour of Mallorca, a stage he dominated, he declared with tears in his eyes, “The last weeks I never thought that it would be possible not to do the Tour the France. It is my race, I dream of that race. Yesterday I even did special tests at the velodrome of Palma to improve my time trial capabilities. We are not invited. What can we do?

Tonight I will look at the calendar. We have to change everything. Don’t ask me for the moment which races I will or can do. Anyway, I thank our sponsor who stays behind us, but I’m afraid other sponsors can leave cycling because of what happened today. It is a sad day for cycling.”

Cyclistes Professionnels Associés
C.P.A. Press Release (2/12/2008)

The C P A makes a point of expressing its real concern as for the future of many professional riders taking into account the recent decisions the organizers of the major Tours took concerning the teams they will invite to take part in their races.

Indeed, to weaken the teams by letting a doubt as for their selection is not likely to attract the sponsors who, for their part, need to make their investments safe.

Thus, the foreseeable defection from important sponsors which were or will be not be invited to take part in the most media competitions, will inevitably involve a job loss and unemployment as well for the riders as for the staff of several teams.

Moreover, let us not forget that the magnitude of the cycling races was and will always remain the prerogative of the riders who, thanks to their exploits, stir several millions of supporters from all horizons.

No race, even the most important one, can exist without the riders. However, some organizers’ current policy lets think that the riders’ talent is despised and that nothing else counts except the glory of the races.

However, is it not logical that the best riders, integrated in solid and structured teams, take part in the most important events? It is at least essential to clearly and definitively lay down objective and intangible rules of selection. The ProTour system has at least this advantage.

Now more than ever, what professional cycling and the riders need is stability instead of confusion.

Cycling cannot escape from modernization and must adapt itself to the surrounding economic context if it wants to survive. Other sports have understood that very well. As a consequence the organizers cannot demand the riders more and more without complying themselves with the rules which govern our sport.

To submit the riders’ future and the one of their teams to the goodwill, or even the arbitrary of a few organizers is not a sound situation. In the absence of clear rules, the riders will at the end always be the losers.

Considering the consequences of which they are and will be the victims the riders, who require nothing else that to practice their sport under good conditions, appeal to the decision-makers’ common sense.

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Le C P A tient à manifester sa vive inquiétude quant à l’avenir de nombre de coureurs professionnels compte tenu des récentes décisions prises par les organisateurs des grandes courses concernant les invitations des équipes à leurs épreuves.

En effet, fragiliser les équipes en laissant toujours planer un doute quant à leur sélection n’est pas de nature à attirer les sponsors qui, de leur côté ont besoin de sécuriser leurs investissements.

Ainsi, la défection prévisible de sponsors importants qui ont été ou seront évincés de participation aux compétitions les plus médiatiques, entraînera inévitablement une perte d’emploi et du chômage autant pour les coureurs que pour les personnels auxiliaires de plusieurs équipes.

De plus, n’oublions surtout pas que la grandeur des compétitions cyclistes a été et restera toujours l’apanage des coureurs qui font vibrer, de par leurs exploits, des millions de supporters de tous les horizons.

Sans les coureurs cyclistes, il n’est point de compétition si grande soit elle. Or, la politique actuelle de certains organisateurs laisse à penser que le talent des coureurs est méprisé au profit de l’unique gloire des épreuves.

Pourtant, n’est-il pas logique que les meilleurs coureurs, intégrés dans des équipes solides et structurées, participent aux plus grandes épreuves ? A tout le moins, il est indispensable que des règles de sélection objectives et intangibles soient clairement et définitivement établies. A ce titre, le système du Pro Tour présente au moins cet avantage.

Plus que jamais, le cyclisme professionnel et les coureurs ont besoin de stabilité et non de confusion.

Le cyclisme ne peut pas échapper à la modernisation et doit s’adapter au contexte économique environnant pour sa survie financière. D’autres sports l’ont bien compris. Aussi les organisateurs ne peuvent-ils sans cesse exiger davantage des coureurs sans se conformer eux-mêmes aux règles qui régissent notre sport.

Soumettre l’avenir des coureurs et de leurs équipes au bon vouloir, voire à l’arbitraire de quelques organisateurs ne constitue pas une situation saine. En l’absence de règles claires, ce seront toujours les coureurs qui au final seront perdants.

Au vu des conséquences dont ils sont et seront victimes, les coureurs, qui ne demandent qu’à pratiquer leur sport dans de bonnes conditions, en appellent d’urgence au bon sens des décideurs.

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