I won't rehash the arguments about whether the Pro Tour is in good shape or not as a race series; clearly it's lost nearly all its luster. But when I read the carping from some team managers, I wonder what exactly the problem is? I mean, to read Patrick Lefevre's comments, rife with the measured style that's become his trademark, you'd think the problem isn't the race series, it's money:
Hm... so are they double-paying to get invited to Paris-Roubaix? If so, that's bad. If not, then they're being marketed to the non-Pro Tour races just as they were last year, only without the illusion that those races had no choice. Also, the UCI's expenses are way up thanks to the Biological Passports, so maybe it comes out in the wash?
The article also cites unnamed teams grumbling that they liked the assured invites to all the big races. I can understand that, but last year there were more than a few teams grumbling about the fact that they had to attend so many races, including those which their sponsors, fans and riders didn't care about. I know it's not quite the same, but isn't this just a tad inconsistent?
Finally, the story quotes the eminently reasonable Scott Sunderland on the calendar:
Translation: apart from the team points race, which CSC owned and almost nobody else seemed to care about, teams prep for the biggest races whether they're organized in a series or not. Moreover, the 17 Pro Tour teams are all in line for invitations to somewhere between most and all of the same races regardless, simply because the Pro Tour as a vehicle for marketing the top teams is still effective. I'm sure there will be a few exclusions, but I suspect these will be foreign teams with either a history of token interest/effort at the particular race, or teams harboring a rider under suspicion. Not exactly matters worth fighting over. There's no Unibet in 2008.
So yeah, the race series has lost its luster, but when the show's over, will any team have lost out on its goals? And if the globalization doubles investment in the sport, will people like Lefevre remember whose idea it was?