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As the Fat Approaches the Fire...

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I'll try to break down the latest version of Pro Tour vs. Grand Tours saga, FWIW. Sure, this story has as many repetitive sequels as the Rocky series, only with press releases instead of unintelligible Sly Stallone rants. Also, I'm doing this with the handicap of bad samurai drama playing in the background and the threat of my wife going into labor imminently. So take this all with the usual skepticism...

The highlights:

  • The GTs are saying they will only accept 18 teams from the Pro Tour this year and 16 next year. This is a way of forcing one of their main "reforms" down the throat of the UCI. 20 Pro Tour teams is too many, they say. And frankly, I agree: what difference is there between the bottom 4-5 Pro Tour teams and the top 4-5 Continental teams? In terms of talent and ability to staff every event, there is no obvious cutoff point, and going with more like 15 teams instead of 20 gives the races the flexibility they want, while still ensuring the best of the best will all be there.
  • Of the 11 events controlled by the GTs (the big three plus six classics and the two March stage races), no team would be required to start any in particular. They can vacate their spot by the first of the year with no repercussions. Clever maneuver, I suppose, since this will win them friends among the lesser Pro Tour teams who don't want to do Poland or the Eindhoven TTT. But I'm not fond of this reversion to the old days... remember how many non-Italian teams showed up to the Giro in the late 90s and early 2000s? I liked seeing the best foreign teams obliged to field teams in Spain and Italy.
  • The organizers reserve the right to exclude anyone who could "threaten the reputation of the race." Ugh... here we go. This is the same bile the Prudhommes have been serving us all year. "That guy... he just looks like a doper. He's out." Just as McCarthyism wasn't really an effective check against communism, so too is this standard-less pronunciation of guilt no way to address an otherwise very serious problem. What is it with these people? Why do they have such contempt for due process? Reserving the right to exclude someone on a legitimate, previously declared basis will fly -- we all know the sport needs to root out doping. But reserving the right to do so arbitrarily just makes everyone look silly.