Other Sport Features
ASO without UCI amid hopes for a new Tour de France era
Jul 4, 2008, 14:06 GMT
Brest, France - The Tour de France is run for the first time without the ruling cycling body UCI and race organizers have also barred defending champion Alberto Contador from competing in the most visible sign of clean-up effort in the sport.
French institutions such as the nation's cycling federation and anti-doping agency are involved at the 95th edition of the Tour which starts on Saturday and runs until July 27.
The UCI and the Tour organizers, the Amaury Sports Organization (ASO), have been at odds over team entries and doping over the past years.
Last year the ASO accused the UCI of withholding information about Dane Mikael Rasmussen, who was eventually kicked out of the Tour in the final week while leading the race. The French have often accused the UCI of not cleaning up the sport.
Earlier this year, UCI boss Pat McQuaid threatened to ban and fine all teams and riders who competed in the Paris-Nice race, but that never became reality.
After all, the ASO controls most of the big French races such as the Tour, Paris-Nice, Paris-Roubaix, but also events in other countries such as the Fleche Wallone and Liege-Bastogne-Liege in Belgium.
It has links to Giro d'Italia organizers and to the US as well.
ASO is taking no chances and has acted tougher than ever before when it invited the teams for the 2008 edition.
Despite undergoing a large-scale overhaul of riders and management, ASO decided to not invite the team, which deprives the Tour of the 2007 winner Contador of Spain, American Levi Leipheimer (third overall in 2007) and Andreas Kloeden of Germany (a two-time Tour runner-up).
Other big-name riders not present in connection with illegal substances are the disqualified 2006 winner Floyd Landis of the US, former Astana rider Alexandre Vinokourov, Belgian Tom Boonen, Italy's Alessandro Petacchi and Iban Mayo of Spain.
A cleaner image of the Tour - this edition comes 10 years after the massive doping scandal around the Festina team - top of the agenda for ASO which wants sports and not drugs to finally make the headlines again.
'It is without doubt an important year for the image of cycling. There is a big chance that teams and riders will ensure that credibility is won back again,' said Tour director Christian Prudhomme.
'May the race once again take centre stage,' he said.
A scandal-free race also desired for financial reasons as the ASO is making a healthy profit out of the Tour and other events.
French journalist Pierre Ballester, in his book 'Storms over the Tour,' named the 2005 Tour turnover at 135 million euros (214 million dollars). He gave the profit at 27.6 million euros.