Anti-doping collaboration on Race To The Sun may lead to Tour de France partnership

Signs of the recent rapprochement between world cycling’s governing body, the UCI, and the French anti-doping agency, the AFLD, have been highlighted by the news that the two organisations will be co-operating on the Paris-Nice race, which began this morning in the town of Houdan, some 40 miles west of the French capital.

The ‘Race To The Sun,’ which unfolds in eight stages including an individual time trial next Saturday, is owned by ASO, who also organise the Tour de France, and although that latter race is not covered by the protocol agreement signed by the two parties yesterday, a successful collaboration on Paris-Nice is likely to result on the pair co-operating in July’s race.

In a press release, the UCI said that “the agreement states that AFLD will provide the UCI with sample collection and analysis services in accordance with the UCI Anti-doping Regulation.

“The number of tests carried out between the 6th and 13th March 2011 will equal that of 2009, in other words around 70.

“The UCI itself will take around 50 blood samples under the Biological Passport. The blood profiles pertaining to these will be used for targeting.

“The Tour de France is not included in the agreement signed today: after an evaluation that will be carried out following Paris-Nice, the UCI and AFLD may renew or modify the agreement as necessary for the July race.”

UCI president Pat McQuaid underlined “the importance of this understanding, which revives the collaboration on the best possible terms between the two organisations for the effectiveness and therefore the success of the anti-doping fight.

“The misunderstandings which had troubled relations between the UCI and AFLD are now in the past,” he insisted. “We are extremely happy to be able to work alongside AFLD once again, in a calm atmosphere where we have restored confidence in each other.”

AFLD President, Mr Bruno Genevois, added: “I am very pleased with this agreement for anti-doping tests and analyses at Paris-Nice. This understanding opens new possibilities for cooperation between the UCI and AFLD.”

Today’s opening stage of Paris-Nice starts and finishes in Houdan, covering 154.5km including a two-lap closing circuit, and features a strong field although defending champion Alberto Contador, currently riding the Vuelta Murcia in which he won the second stage yesterday, is missing.

Garmin-Cervelo’s line-up for the race features the Canadian Ryder Hesjedal and Australia’s Heinrich Haussler, but team manager Jonathan Vaughters has perhaps surprisingly singled out one of his former charges, Team Sky’s Bradley Wiggins, as the man to watch this week, saying on his Twitter stream, “I'll make a bold prediction: I think Wiggo is going to win Paris-Nice.”

Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.