WorldTour Licenses 2012: Drama!

Today it was announced by the UCI that eight teams – Astana, BMC, Garmin-Cervélo, Lampre-ISD, Liquigas-Cannondale, Movistar, Rabobank, and Sky – have been confirmed for cycling’s top tier, the UCI WorldTour, next season. Also confirmed by the UCI were fifteen of the teams who will ride at Professional Contintal level in 2012. They are Accent Jobs-Willems Veranda’s, Androni Giocattoli, Acqua & Sapone, Bretagne-Schuller, Caja Rural, Cofidis le Credit en Ligne, Colnago-CSF Inox, Colombia-Coldeportes, Landbouwkrediet, Project 1t4i, Saur – Sojasun, Spidertech, Team Netapp, Topsport Vlaanderen-Mercator and UnitedHealthCare.

This is just a preliminary announcement which confirms what we already knew or suspected, with two new faces in cycling’s second division – the former Skil-Shimano team Project 1t4i and the new Colombian team Colombia-Coldeportes. Looking through the press release, the new teams Lotto-Ridley and GreenEdge will, as expected, be called before the UCI licensing commission. Joining them will be the teams seeking a WorldTour license renewal (namely Saxo Bank, Omega Pharma-Quick Step, and Katusha), along with AG2R La Mondiale and Euskaltel-Euskadi, who are not in the top 15 of the UCI’s magical points ranking, and also FDJ, Europcar, and the seemingly not-yet-dead Geox-TMC.

Now, these teams added to the eight already confirmed would make up the full quota of 18 for next year’s WorldTour. However, there has been something of a surprise as Vacansoleil-DCM and Team Radioshack-Nissan-Leopard-Trek-etc  have had their requests for WorldTour licenses rejected “in accordance with article 2.15.071 of the regulations”, and they too will have to go cap in hand to the UCI licensing commission in order to stay in the WorldTour next year. There has been no official word on why they’ve been rejected as yet, but one would assume that the two teams have failed of one of the UCI’s four WorldTour license criteria – sporting, financial, ethical and administrative. We know, however that they both passed the sporting criteria last month.

The UCI ruling that Vacansoleil and RadioShack are in violation of does not give us any clues as to why the two teams have had their license rejected, but simply states that “If the UCI administration decides that it is unable to register the UCI ProTeam, it will notify the
licence holder and the paying agent” before going into detail about the next steps of the process. It also says that “The licence commission shall apply the assessment criteria set out in article 2.15.011a ff”, those criteria being the sporting, financial, ethical and administrative already referred to. Article 2.15.071 in it’s entirety is available here on page 96.

It is hard to make any predictions at this point, but, barring any major discrepancies regarding the four criteria, it would be hard to see the 2012 WorldTour without either of those teams included. The continued inclusion of Geox-TMC is another interesting factor in this latest press release. With the team seemingly finished just a few weeks ago, it looks possible that new financial backing may have been found. As of yesterday, Josean Fernández Matxín, the team’s sporting director, stated that he had not found a new sponsor yet, so it is anyone’s guess as to why they are still involved in this process.

One bright side of all this drama is that we have some drama to look forward to over the road cycling close season.

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