CYCLING: Fewer Pro Tour teams no cause for alarm
ARNAZ M. KHAIRUL
THE drop in number of Pro Tour teams competing in the 13th edition of Le Tour de Langkawi (LTdL) which starts on Saturday, has not worried the organising committee as all that has transpired within the pro cycling circles has been taken into account.
“With the differences between the International Cycling Union (UCI) and the big race organisers in Europe, the Pro Tour concept has been hard hit,” said LTdL chief operating officer Datuk Naim Mohamad (pic) at the handover ceremony of the yellow jersey for the overall individual leader which was handed over by TM Berhad intergrated marketing and Malaysia business vice-president Zainab Hashim yesterday.“For those who follow cycling, it will be a subjective matter in deciding which the pinnacle of cycling is. For most, the three Grand Tours — Tour de France, Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a Espana — are incomparable, the best of the best in stage race cycling,” added Naim, stating that in evaluating those factors a balance in the selection of teams was implemented by the invitations committee which he chairs.“Besides the committee, we considered input from contacts in Europe and dealt directly with teams which were interested. Finally, we realised that it didn’t really matter, in fact we went for the option of pursuing teams with better followings, which are those that compete in the Grand Tours.” In 2007, LTdL attracted five Pro Tour teams, but this year just three — Credit Agricole, Bouygues Telecom and Ag2r-La Mondiale — will be starting the race.“If you compare the number of Grand Tour teams, last year we had six and this year eight. It is up to the fans to decide which is better.Personally, I believe the teams with the better following from fans are those that compete in the Grand Tours,”said Datuk Naim.In 2007, the six Grand Tour teams were Crédit Agricole, Ag2r, FDJ, Bouygues Telecom, Panaria and Tinkoff. This year, the eight Grand Tour teams competing in LTdL are Crédit Agricole, Ag2r, Bouygues Telecom, CSF-Navigare, Tinkoff, NGC Medical-OTC Industria Porte, Serramenti Diquigiovanni-Androni Giocattoli and Karpin-Galicia.“At this stage, to identify the level of a team is not necessarily by which tier of the league they belong to, but by how good their teams are. And to most of us, the best teams are those who compete in the big three races. On top of that, we want the teams who come here to perform, not just be here because they are Pro Tour teams. ”