Astana granted WorldTour license for 2016

The UCI announces the first 11 teams that will race at the WorldTour level in 2016, which includes the embattled Astana squad.

Astana’s long saga to secure its WorldTour future appears over after the UCI confirmed the team’s racing license for 2016.

Astana was among 11 teams whose WorldTour licenses were finalized Monday (see list below) after satisfying annual registration criteria in what’s an otherwise routine step if it were not for Astana’s rough and tumble ride over the past 18 months.

“After reading the conclusions of [an independent review panel], the License Commission has found that the team complied with the measures required of it,” the UCI said in a press release Monday.

In other words, the Astana-UCI battle is over.

Astana came under fire in 2014 following a pair of doping cases involving the Iglinskiy brothers at the WorldTeam and three more positives at its feeder team, Astana continental, casting doubt in some quarters about the team’s ethical underpinning and worthiness.

Last February, the UCI took the extraordinary step of requesting the suspension of the team’s WorldTour license. Astana countered, insisting the Iglinskiys were isolated cases and that the WorldTeam management had no connection to the Continental team.

Things came to a head last April when the UCI dropped its bid to deny the team’s 2015 racing license on the condition that an appointed review board monitor the team. That opened the door for Astana to race an uninterrupted 2015 season, and after complying with a four-month review period by the Institute of Sport Sciences of the University of Lausanne (ISSUL), Astana received the final stamp of approval Monday to secure its future.

“With regards to Astana Pro Team, the License Commission has rendered its decision after the team’s four-month review period,” the UCI release said.

As part of its Monday announcement, the UCI also released a link to the Reasoned Decision, released October 19. Click here to read the full report.

The review found shortfalls in the team’s monitoring process of its riders, and Astana management enacted enhanced contact between riders and staff to quell doubts about the team’s anti-doping credentials.

Astana general manager Alexandre Vinokourov expressed satisfaction for obtaining the license by the UCI for the 2016 season.

“It’s a good day for the whole team, which comes at the end of a busy period,” Vinokourov said in a statement. “All members of the team — management, riders and staff — have worked hard to improve the structure and organization.”

Other than the Astana development, Monday’s announcement was little more than a procedural step to confirm the 11 teams, which already held WorldTour licenses for 2016, met all the UCI License Commission criteria.

The UCI did reveal that seven other teams are requesting new or updated WorldTour licenses for 2016, hinting that MTN-Qhubeka (Dimension Data for 2016) could step up to cycling’s first division next season. More updates are expected later this month and in December.

The UCI also confirmed Professional Continental teams for 2016, revealing that six teams that were denied in the initial review, and were bounced back to the License Commission for further consideration.

11 WorldTour teams confirmed for 2016

Ag2r La Mondiale
BMC Racing
IAM Cycling
Team Sky
Trek Factory Racing

17 Professional Continental teams confirmed for 2016

Androni Giocattoli
Bora-Argon 18
Caja Rural-Seguros SA
Delko Marseille Provence KTM
Fortuneo-Vital Concept
Funvic Soul Cycles-Carrefour
Nippo-Vini Fantini
One Pro
Roompot Oranje
Novo Nordisk
Topsport Vlaanderen-Baloise
Verva ActiveJet
Wanty-Groupe Gobert