LAGOA, Portugal (VN) — There was quiet celebration inside the Katusha team bus Friday morning upon hearing good news from the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), but the Russians were not popping the champagne corks yet.
News broke just 30 minutes before the start of stage 2 of the Volta ao Algarve (Tour of the Algarve) that CAS upheld its appeal over its WorldTour status.
That should slot Katusha back into the 18-team World Tour league and guarantee its place at the top races. But everyone was cautiously waiting for the reaction from the UCI.
Sport director Dimitry Konyshev told VeloNews that there would be no celebration until the UCI confirms Katusha is back in.
“It’s still not official. Sure, CAS made its decision, but until the UCI makes it official, we will wait,” Konychev said. “CAS says yes, now we wait for the UCI. Nothing is certain. We’re waiting.”
Team staff couldn’t hide their emotions, however. Mechanics and soigneurs were shaking hands and hugging each other after news flashed across the Internet.
“Giro, here we come!” said one Katusha staffer.
Riders were more cautious. Never one to give too much away, Katusha star Denis Menchov said everyone is still in waiting mode.
“It’s a very important step, but right now we’re going to wait to see what happens,” Menchov told VeloNews. “We wait until everything is formalized. We are hopeful. Without a doubt, this was a big step.”
Alexander Kolobnev also cautiously took in the news.
“We still do not have much reaction yet,” Kolobnev said. “That is what we expected. Otherwise it has no sense to go to CAS. Things are going all right. That’s how it should be. The rules are the rules.”
The future of the Katusha team was thrown into doubt following the UCI’s surprise decision in December. Without the ProTeam license, the team was temporarily awarded a Pro Continental license, meaning it would rely upon invitations for the major races.
Both Paris-Nice and Tirreno-Adriatico, the next two upcoming World Tour events, did not invite Katusha to participate. The Giro d’Italia also overlooked the team.
Now no one knows what will happen.
The UCI has said the World Tour would remain at 18 teams regardless of how CAS ruled. One source told VeloNews that the UCI license commission would reconvene to consider all applicants anew. But if the UCI sticks to 18 teams, that means if Katusha is back in, one of the current teams would be kicked out.
That possibility is sure to create uneasiness among several teams on the World Tour bubble.
On Friday morning, the UCI said it would review the situation, releasing a short statement: “The UCI will now evaluate the consequences of this ruling and will communicate further in coming days, as soon as such evaluation has taken place.”
The uncertainty comes just as the European racing season is clicking into gear. Any decision will have major implications for upcoming WorldTour races, such as Paris-Nice and Tirreno-Adriatico.
Giro director Michele Acquarone posted on Twitter: “So (Katusha) is back. And now? What a big mess! In three weeks we are supposed to run (Tirreno-Adriatico).”
Menchov downplayed the turmoil of the past few months following the decision in early December by the UCI’s license commission to deny the Russian-backed team a ProTeam license.
“It didn’t change that much. We still had a good calendar, with good objectives. We stayed focused on our work and stayed motivated,” he said.
Several riders had escape clauses in their contracts that would have allowed them to leave Katusha if it did not have World Tour status.
World No. 1 Joaquim Rodríguez, racing this week at the Tour of Oman, has been making noises since December that he would leave Katusha.
Menchov said he would have stayed with Katusha no matter what happened in CAS.
“The most important thing was to wait and see how all this is resolved,” he said. “I never would have left. I am happy here. This would not have changed anything.”
CAS, meanwhile, delivered on its promise to hand down a quick ruling. On Friday, it released its decision publicly and will disclose its full ruling in the coming days.
Full text of the CAS announcement:
The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) has upheld the appeal filed by Katusha Management SA (Katusha) against the International Cycling Union (UCI) in relation to Katusha’s application for a license to participate in the UCI World Tour 2013 season.
Further to an investigation by the Auditor appointed by the UCI, the UCI Licensing Commission issued a decision on 10 December 2012 in which it refused Katusha’s application for the UCI World Tour 2013 season. On 20 December 2012, Katusha filed an appeal at the CAS against such decision requesting that it be set aside and that Katusha be registered as a UCI ProTeam for the 2013 season. On 14 January 2013, the UCI has granted the Continental license to the team.
A CAS hearing was held on 8 February 2013 during which the parties and their representatives were heard by the CAS Panel in charge of this matter: Professor Luigi Fumagalli (Italy), President of the Panel, Mr. Luc Argand (Switzerland) and Mr. Michele Bernasconi (Switzerland).
In its deliberations following the hearing, the CAS Panel did not reach the same conclusions as the UCI Licensing Commission and decided to uphold the appeal. According to the CAS decision, the application of Katusha Management SA to be registered as a UCI ProTeam for the season 2013 of the UCI World Tour is granted.
In view of the urgency of the matter, the Panel has issued its decision today, without the grounds, which will be issued in writing in a few weeks.