UCI awards WorldTour licenses: Argos-Shimano and Saxo Bank in, Katusha out
MILAN (VN) — The UCI announced today the remaining 2013 first-division teams, renewing the top-tier license of Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank, pulling Argos-Shimano up out of the Pro Continental ranks and into the WorldTour, and axing Katusha. Its license commission paved the way for the new team to have its chance after Katusha’s inclusion for the last four years.
The UCI stated in a press release: “The request from the team Katusha for registration in first division has been rejected.”
Just over a month ago, the license commission confirmed the first-division (ProTeam) licenses, for eight teams. The license allows teams to race in all WorldTour races, which includes most major classics and all three grand tours. Today, it announced the remaining 10 licenses by renewing some teams, welcoming Argos, and letting go of Katusha.
Katusha’s exclusion means the Joaquim Rodriguez-led Russian outfit will have to rely on invitations from organizers to take part in the grand tours, one-day classics and other principal events.
The Dutch Argos team has slowly worked its way to the top. In 2009, racing as Skil-Shimano, it debuted in the Tour de France with a wildcard invite. This year, it returned after inking a deal with a new sponsor, Dutch petroleum company Argos Oil.
Though sprinter Marcel Kittel became sick and abandoned the Tour, he and fellow German John Degenkolb contributed to Argos’ promotion. This year, out of the team’s 30 wins, Kittel won 13 races, and Degenkolb won 12 times. Degenkolb, 23 — one year younger than Kittel — won five stages in the Vuelta a España alone.
The UCI overlooked the team when it applied last year, but this year it was unable to do so again. After speculation about the future of Saxo Bank in the WorldTour, the UCI confirmed the Danish squad’s inclusion through 2014.
Saxo Bank renewed
Many thought the commission would axe Saxo Bank after recent scandals. Alberto Contador tested positive for the banned drug clenbuterol on the way to winning the 2010 Tour de France. He argued against the results all the way up to the sport’s high court, the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), and continued to win races along the way.
CAS ruled against him, banned him for six months, and stripped him of his victories in the 2010 Tour, 2011 Giro d’Italia and other events. Partly due to the lack of points from Contador, Saxo Bank placed dead-last, 20th, when the UCI ranked teams on October 29 for its 2013 licenses.
Given the sport’s current climate with the Lance Armstrong scandal, the license commission could have easily left out Saxo Bank in favor of Katusha. Instead, it issued the team a license for 2013 and 2014.
Russia’s Katusha team placed in the top 15 when the commission issued its list in October. However, the commission summonsed team officials for a meeting last month for what could have been a discussion of financial or administrative problems. The UCI did not comment further in its statement, but stated that the team’s application has been forwarded to the UCI administration so that it could potentially register in the second division for a Pro Continental license.
Besides deciding to promote Argos-Shimano, the commission renewed the first-division licenses for teams AG2R La Mondiale, Euskaltel, Garmin-Sharp and Rabobank.
WorldTour license holders:
BMC Racing (2011-2014)
Lotto Belisol Team (2012-2015)
Omega Pharma-Quick Step (2012-2014)
WorldTour license renewals:
AG2R La Mondiale (2013-2016)
Rabobank white label (2013-2014)
Agence France-Presse contributed to this report.