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IAM Cycling set to join WorldTour

Swiss team poised to take the 18th and final spot on the WorldTour circuit, guaranteeing starts in all of the major races in 2015

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MILAN (VN) — IAM Cycling will take up the 18th spot in the UCI’s top WorldTour series if all the license applications are confirmed for 2015. The Swiss team with Sylvain Chavanel should take the spot left vacant with the closure of Italian team Cannondale.

The UCI confirmed to VeloNews that it opened the door for IAM Cycling when it only had 17 teams asking for a license in its first division. Cannondale left a spot free when it pulled sponsorship for its Italian team and agreed to take over the title spot of Jonathan Vaughters’ Garmin-Sharp team for 2015.

Michel Thétaz began the Swiss team in 2013 and intended to keep racing in the second-division professional continental ranks. Receiving wildcard invitations, it raced in the Tour de France and Vuelta a España in 2014 alongside the 18 first-division WorldTour teams.

The UCI told Velonews that IAM Cycling passed its sporting standard with flying colors thanks to its results — which included Chavanel’s GP Ouest France-Plouay win — but needs to check the other boxes. Its license commission will judge the team’s financial, administrative, and ethical standing before agreeing to a license. The UCI will confirm the licenses in the last week of November or in the first days of December.

With a first-division license, it would no longer have to stand in line to race in cycling’s top events. The WorldTour calendar features 27 races for 2015, from January to October, including all three grand tours and classics like Paris-Roubaix and the Ronde van Vlaanderen. IAM Cycling would have the right, and obligation, to participate in all the races.

For 2015, the blue and white team added several riders including Frenchman Jérôme Coppel, Colombian Jarlinson Pantano Gomez, and Dutchman Stef Clement. It already includes Frenchman Sylvain Chavanel, Austrian Matthias Brändle, and Italian Matteo Pelucchi.

The current WorldTour list includes U.S. teams BMC Racing, Cannondale, and Trek Factory Racing alongside foreign formations Ag2r La Mondiale, Astana, Europcar, FDJ.fr, Giant-Alpecin, Katusha, Lampre-Merida, LottoNL-Jumbo, Lotto-Soudal, Movistar, Omega Pharma-Quick Step, Orica-GreenEDGE, Sky, and Tinkoff-Saxo.

Dutch team Vacansoleil-DCM closed its doors last year and France’s Europcar stepped up from the second division to join the WorldTour for 2014. Making the step requires more money and staff, however. Teams in the first division at times race up to three consecutive race programs, occasionally on separate continents.

The cost is too much for some teams. Cofidis and MTN-Qhubeka were considered as possible second-division teams to make the leap to the WorldTour, but neither team showed interest.

“It’s always our dream to take an African team to the WorldTour and to have more opportunities for African riders,” MTN’s team principal, Doug Ryder told VeloNews.

“That’s the dream, for sure, but for next year? Do we have the funding? We have not even crossed that bridge, at this point no, not for next year.”

IAM’s General Manger, Michel Thétaz, said last month that the team had no interest in joining the WorldTour for 2015, but that he was looking for new sponsors that could have persuaded him to take the step into the first division.

His attention over the last week was on Brändle, who broke the hour record at the UCI’s velodrome in Aigle, Switzerland. Brändle, one of the young stars in Thétaz’s stable, surpassed Jens Voigt’s 51.11-kilometer mark and rode to 51.852.