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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion
Wednesday, November 26, 2014

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Velon Alliance of Cycling Teams, some contrary views

Eleven Pro Tour teams have formed an alliance (for lack of a better word until things become clearer) called "Velon". All three French Pro Tour teams (FDJ, Ag2r, and Europcar) plus Katusha and Movistar have so far decided not to join the group. So far as I can see, neither Astana nor Katusha have made any comments about the new organization.

Interestingly, Astana has not been invited to join. Probably because the team has suffered several drug positives (Artur Fedosseyev just became the team's fifth positive). Perhaps the Velon organization is awaiting news as to whether or not Astana will have Pro Tour status in 2015. Given the team's troubled drug history, that doesn't seem to be a sure thing.

Tour de France owner ASO has so far refused to comment on the new organization. It must see in Velon a threat to the traditional way of organizing races. Also, if the Velon groups solidifies, surely there will be an attempt on the part of the teams to wrest TV race royalties from the race promoters and give them to the teams.

FDJ boss Marc Madiot told Reuters, "FDJ does not reject the project, but the outlines are still too fuzzy. We are observing, many things will change from 2016. We wait." FDJ also said that although Madiot is not against the new organization, he needs more information. Also, because the team is sponsored by the French lottery, there are complications involved with joining Velon, which is a British corporation.

Europcar manager Jean-René Bernaudeau told l'Equipe, "There is always the will to create a NBA style professional league and I'm against it." He fears a closed group sitting at the top of professional cycle racing.

The Spanish Movistar team has kept close to the Velon discussions, but its title sponsor just needs time to decide if the new alliance with its plans for shared media rights is in the Movistar team's and its sponsor's best interests.

As the Velon story develops, the UCI is keeping a low profile, with nothing posted on its website as of Tuesday night. Only a bland statement has been released, saying that the UCI has been in contact with Velon and looks forward to continuing its constructive dialogue....blah, blah...

But interestingly, the Italian RCS Sport organization (which is owned by the RCS Media Group which also owns La Gazzetta dello Sport), which owns the Giro d'Italia and Milano-San Remo, among other important races, has been surprisingly positive about the new organization. Giro boss Mauro Vegni said, “If done right, it can increase the value and enhance the product we have.”

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