By Duncan Mackay

Ponferrada 2014_logoSeptember 22 - Spain's financial crisis could force the International Cycling Union (UCI) to take away the 2014 World Road Cycling Championships from Ponferrada, which could have serious repercussions for Madrid's bid to host the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics.

The UCI have granted the historic city in north-western Spain 30 days to "meet contractual commitments, after which time if these had not been met the event would be withdrawn from them". 

It is understood that Spanish officials are struggling to raise the €5 million (£4 million/$6.5 million) necessary to underwrite the event, the biggest and most prestigious competition in the UCI's portfolio of championships, which has a total budget of €15 million (£12 million/$19.5 million).

The Spanish economy has been badly hit by the financial crisis and there is continuing speculation that the Government will request a bailout from its European partners. 

"We are committed to the Worlds, but with the [Federal Government] threatening to cut funding, there could be last-minute funding shortages," said Juan Carlos Castaño, President of the Spanish Cycling Federation.

"It could difficult, if not impossible to count on the public money.

"The only way to assure solid funding is to look for private businesses to step up and help pay the costs."

The UCI awarded Ponferrada, which lies in the Way of St. James, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the World Championships in Copenhagen last year and it is due to be held between September 13 and 21 in 2014.

The city's Mayor Carlos Lopez Riesco has promised to come up with a solution that ensures Ponferrada will be able to host the Championships.

Mayor Carlos_Lopez_RiescoPonferrada's Mayor Carlos Lopez Riesco has warned that the creditability of Spain is at stake and that they will host the 2014 World Road Cycling Championships

"I can assure you that the funding will be in place," said Lopez Riesco.

"We will find the money from private funding.

"We will do everything we have promised to make the event a success."

But Lopez Riesco admitted that the UCI ultimatum has damaged them - and jeopardised Madrid's bid for the Olympics and Paralympics.

"The recent comments have created a situation of uncertainty that is hurting us not only to us, but are even jeopardising the credibility of Spain in the world of international sport," he said.

"A country like ours can not go back on commitments already signed. 

"It would be lethal to the image of our country and the interests of sport in Spain."

Pat McQuaid, the President of the UCI, is also a member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and was recently chosen to be a member of their Evaluation Commission which will inspect the cities bidding for 2020, which also include Istanbul and Tokyo.

Ponferrada city_viewPonferrada is one of the most historic cities in Spain

"The UCI's support for Ponferrada is total," said Lopez Riesco.

"So I think we should be able to fix this issue."

Next year's World Championships are due to be held in Florence while the 2015 event is set to take place in Richmond, Virginia, with the races being held in the United States for only the second time.

Earlier this week the UCI awarded the 2016 event to Doha, the first time they will have been staged in the Middle East.

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