Sun, Oct 15, 2006 - Page 22 News List

Valverde removed from Tour after spat between organizers

AFP , MENDRISIO, SWITZERLAND

Pro Tour cycling team Caisse d'Epargne removed their star rider Alejandro Valverde from the start list of yesterday's series-ending Tour of Lombardy after a rift with organizers.

Valverde, one of the most consistent performers this season, is mathematically guaranteed to win the Pro Tour's white jersey after dominating the season-long series.

However, organizers of the one-day Italian classic refused to carry out a podium award ceremony for television purposes at Lake Como where Valverde would have been handed his white jersey prize.

The reasons appear to relate to a rift in cycling between the International Cycling Union (UCI), which created the Pro Tour, and the organizers of the Giro d'Italia, the Tour de France and the Vuelta d'Espagne.

The Tour of Lombardy is run by RCS, the same company which organizes the Giro d'Italia.

As a result of this new escalation in hostilities, the teams taking part in the race decided to boycott the pre-race and post-race ceremonies including the winners' podium.

Valverde's team feel the organizers' refusal to allow a podium ceremony for the Spaniard amounts to a loss of publicity for their sponsor.

As a result, they took the 25-year-old off the starting list having already sent a letter to the UCI complaining about the situation.

A team spokesman said a similar scenario was already witnessed at the Tour of Spain, where a podium was hastily built in order for the ceremony to be held.

But in the absence of a similar effort being made at Lake Como, he added: "Valverde is supposed to fulfil his obligations to the Pro Tour while not picking up the expected benefits."

The chief of RCS's race organizing committee Angelo Zomegnan was defiant: "The Tour of Lombardy is a historic race which has been on the go for 100 years. If Valverde pulls out, it will be his loss, not ours."

He added: "There is no way we are going to agree to promoting the Pro Tour brand next to the Tour of Lombardy brand. I've received a letter from [Caisse d'Epargne manager] Jose Miguel Echavarri in which he mentions the protocol, for television, of awarding the jersey. But this is not one of my obligations."

Zomegnan was also defiant over the teams' boycott of the pre-race protocol, which will also meant there would be no winners' podium at the end of yesterday's race.

"It's a pity. The real victims of this will be the riders, the guy who wins the trophy and his sponsor," he said.

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